Thursday, December 6, 2012

Black Ops 2 and American Fears

My latest PopMatters article is now live: Black Ops 2 and American Fears.

Last week Scott wrote a great piece about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 that serves as a great companion for my article this week. Both look at the political and historical realities of the game and, I think, help illuminate some really rewarding content that you can find in the games.

I have always been of two minds on this series. On one side the series has pretty consistently levied interesting and compelling criticisms of US foreign policy, the military industrial complex, the war on terror specifically, and more. But it has also glorified some truly atrocious behavior and funneled players through set pieces that are more style than substance. I keep getting the sense that half the team working on these games are brilliant and the other half, well, less so.

For example, I love how oddly personal Black Ops 2 is. Menendez is driven almost entirely by revenge, mostly towards Woods and Mason at that. Meanwhile, Mason junior and the team are focused primarily on taking out Menendez, just one man. Meanwhile, in the background, huge political machinations are taking place. Whether or not players kill Menendez or imprison him at the end, Cordis Die still exists. Which, by the way, is the vaguest terrorist "organization" in video game history, if you can call it organized. You can read this as a critique of the military's inability to affect meaningful diplomatic change or win hearts and minds. Or this could just be an accident. Honestly, I don't know.

The political themes in the game, particularly those that tap into modern American fears of vulnerability, are absolutely fascinating. How much of are intentional and how much are implemented as clever lead-ins for Blacks Ops 3 I couldn't tell you.

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