Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Mixed Messages of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

They do have some excellent MoCap though.
This week on PopMatters, I jump back into the politics of the Call of Duty franchise.

I actually did this once before when discussing Black Ops 2 and the ways it addresses specifically American fears. Every Call of Duty seems to me a push-pull battle between developers who genuinely care about addressing interesting and important themes in their games and developers who just want to make a hardcore bro-shooter. Apparently in the latest entry in the franchise, those who genuinely care have lost ground.

There are of course really interesting themes in the game, especially in regards to international corporations and their lack of accountability on the world stage. But Call of Duty pulls its punches. It fails to embrace the theme and actually hammer it home. Instead of a puppet-threat that actually represents some of the middle-class disenchantment that many Americans feel in particular towards the power of corporations in society, we have a vague indescribable Chechen terrorist organization. Instead of fully criticizing Atlas and their nefarious ways, we see a world genuinely better off than it was because of their wise use of capital.

How does Atlas get all their money? When the UN turns against them, are we meant to assume they are self-operating now? Do they collect taxes from their employees? Why do the majority of soldiers fighting for them do so? The game has no interest in exploring these themes because it relies on Kevin Spacey hamming it up in a caricature of greed-infused villainy.

At the end of the game, the bland soldiers walk away saying it's "only the beginning." Why? What is meant to happen next? Irons represents a singular corporate interest, one managed by an individual not stakeholders or a board of directors. Who is carrying on his lineage and what philosophical ideas drive the remaining employees? We have no answer because, surprisingly, the newest Call of Duty game is also the most conservative thematically.

Listen to our EXP Debrief here.


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