The student news site of St. Stephen's School

The Aventina

Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

Stefano Scotto, Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Just a short time ago you were dropped from a military aircraft into a raging war-zone. With gun in hand, you walk into a dark forest, in search of the secret bunker that harbours your enemy. You can feel the tension growing in every muscle fibre, fearing that at any moment an unseen bullet may bring your mission, and your life, to a premature end…

Call Of Duty is a popular “first-person shooter” video game franchise that dates back to 2003. Since then, it has gone on to become one of the most successful such franchises in history, selling tens of millions of copies with every new release. Apart from top-tier production and development, the success of the series can be partially attributed to the psychological and educational effects it has had on its players. The reason I’m analyzing this topic is that unfortunately in recent years, the game strayed from its original premise, on a constant search for shock through the modernization of the series. This ultimately failed as players were introduced to a Halo- type game with very little space for realism, characters and plot development. However, luckily, they finally learned from their mistakes as the upcoming call of duty will focus on World War II. In this article I will analyze the older Call of Duty games and why they decided to hold fast to their roots for this year.

The creators usually set a mood of heightened reality that allows the players to more immediately immerse themselves in the narrative. As the players increase their level of engagement, they are struck by evocative and sometimes gruesome scenes that bring to light the atrocities that exist in war. One scene, in the fifth Call of Duty game, has the player’s character and his squadmate captured by enemy Japanese soldiers and interrogated for information. The squadmate gets beaten up and has a cigarette put out in his eye, before finally having his throat slit.

This scene is not an exception; there are many graphic and gory sequences in the games that explicitly show savage torture being inflicted on soldiers and civilians alike. Some are tortured by the antagonists that the player fights against, and some are tortured by the protagonists that he or she fights with. But all of it is perpetrated against human beings, and the terrible inhumanity is always honestly presented.

Another interesting aspect of most of the Call of Duty video games is that when the player dies is then returned to a loading screen before being returned to the game. On the loading screen are numerous famous quotations, some of which are anti-war and anti-patriotic. These quotations succeed in echoing the themes set forth in the games’ narratives, which likewise often caution against the consequences of war and unthinking patriotism. One such quotation is: “There’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.” This quotation, by Abraham Lincoln, very clearly takes the position that war is atrocious under any circumstances, even when it is absolutely necessary. Another quote by Francois Fenelon runs: “All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers”. This provokes us to sympathy even with those whom we must fight against. Lastly, “If we don’t end war, war will end us” is a quotation from H. G. Wells, affirming that war will ultimately lead to the complete destruction of humanity. These quotations certainly enrich the player’s knowledge of war poetry and literature, which is a great educational experience.

As the series continues, the creators developed stronger and stronger narratives to induce powerful emotions from the player. This works to form a real connection between player and character, bringing the game to life and more thoroughly immersing the player in the action. This tendency for players to immerse themselves in the game is called escapism. Due to the engrossing content of the Call of Duty games, this can be a powerful experience. Players, who may view their own lives as dull and inconsequential in comparison, may for a time escape into one that is richly defined by its consequence, albeit consequences often filled with terror.

Of course, there have been various similar wargames comparable in many ways to Call of Duty. But the reason why it is such an iconic series, whereas other similar franchises such as Battlefield and Wolfenstein have failed to make the same mark, is that the latter place too much emphasis on action at the expense of realism, with little background story and character development. In Call of Duty on the other hand, the immersive, horrifying scenes, countless chilling deaths, and underlying theme of the pointlessness of war, effectively enrich people’s (indirect) experience of warfare and violent conflict in an honest manner. Instead of the glory of battle being championed, the folly of war is made all too clear.

The combination of escapism and authenticity has delivered an important and worthwhile experience. I very much look forward to seeing how the creators finally learned from their mistakes. They will hopefully avoid any plot exaggeration just for the sake of making it more spectacular.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    The NBA Is Back: First Weeks

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Arts

    A Weekend of Modern Art: Picasso and Monet

  • Opinion

    Labels

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    Shanghai Masters 2017: Highlights of the semifinals

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    Gaeta Fall Trip 2017

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Opinion

    Say Yes to Gun Control

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    Harvey Weinstein: Decades of Abuse Revealed

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    Highlights of Shanghai Masters 2017

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Showcase

    Romics

  • Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology

    Opinion

    Oh, F**k! On the Nature of Swearing

The student news site of St. Stephen's School
Call of Duty – Escapism and Ideology