Call of Duty Game Visual Rhetoric

In 2003, computer game developers from Infinity Ward were responsible for the creation of Call of Duty, a video game franchise of the first-shooter genre. During its start, the series began first on Microsoft Windows, then later went on to handheld devices and consoles. The game has also seen the release of other spin-off games going by the same title(Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2). Some of the earliest games in this series had World War II as their base (Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, also including Call of Duty 3). The producers later saw it prudent to change the epoch of the game and set it in modern times, subsequently shifting focus away from its signature World War II backdrop.

After Call of Duty (Modern Warfare) was brought into the gaming community in 2007, the modern setting is quite prominent. Those following this edition, The World at War, Modern Warfare 2. Black Ops were in a Cold War setting, Black Ops 2(November 2012) with a near-future setting, Black Ops 2 in a 2025 setting, Advanced Warfare(May 2014), Infinite Warfare(November 2016) and Call of Duty: WWII which is scheduled for release during the first week of November 2017.  It is important to note that the publishing rights for all these games are under the ownership of Activision. Infinity Ward is responsible for developing the game, with other titles falling under the production of Sledgehammer Games and Treyarch whose studios are just next door.

                                    Call of Duty Game Rhetoric

Call of Duty games uses an assortment of engines; id Tech 3, IW engine and Treyarch NLG. It is these engines that have been the source of the game’s success, with the series selling over 250 million copies of the game by February 2016 and sales topping US$ 15 BILLION. The Call of Duty has also surprisingly been thought to elicit the green light for the wars that the United States and its allies have been waging abroad. Digital games are more than simply a “kid’s game”. Their sophistication the manner in which they disseminate specific ideologies and narratives which reinforce a certain tabloid imaginary reality is a common occurrence. Moreover, the game’s notoriety particularly lies in the manner in which it glorifies military might and in a way elicits permission for the notion that wars and state violence are inevitable.

Our myopia has undergone a sense of encouragement by digital games such as Call of Duty through their ability to sanitize a depiction of war in a sense that downplays all negative consequences that state violence brings. A discourse on the visual and game rhetoric in the Call of Duty series reveals a link between militarism (especially in the United States) and this digital game. Mathew Thomas Payne and Nina B Huntemann are researchers that offer information about the connection between militarism and games with military themes. It is these very game that the military uses in simulations to train personnel to have a feel of combat. The games also force the players to make gaming decisions that later have political and social implications.

Gamers are aware that making the games as realistic as possible in creating a digital war game that posts an impressive economic success. Jason west, the project leader of the Call of Duty franchise, notes in an interview that his favorite vehicle in the fourth edition of Call of Duty is the AC-130 Spectre Gunship. His reason solely lies in the fact that the experience feels like “the real thing” and for him, being able to shoot a cannon that annihilates anything its path is quite exciting(Call of Duty 25). In the spirit of making these games as authentic as possible, developers of this series interview combatants who are fresh from conflict hotspots to hear what it feels like to be in a situation of conflict(Farkas). Additionally, they have also sought interviews with military advisors and been in actual military camps, sometimes standing next to tanks as they fire at targets. They are of the opinion that putting these things in the game, puts the players there.

Creators of Call of Duty are also guilty of reinforcing ideas that are similar to that of foreign policy hawks that gave support to President George. W Bush’s apparent response to the 9/11 terrorist attack. The game creates a psyche in citizens, particularly those in the United States that the only instrument of foreign policy is conceiving war and preparing for it. Boggs and Pollard refer to this as “fetishizing”, “cherishing” the ethos of an armed power. Call of Duty also seeks to rewrite the theme of militarism in the United States where an idea is put in the games to show that the United States is facing ruthless enemies, post-9/11(Marcus, et al. 45). To protects its freedom and the liberty of its people, the United States is expected to completely obliterate these enemies.

Analyzing a Call of Duty game leads one to a sudden conclusion, that developers of this game have been able to feed fears, insecurities, and fears of the American people done by reinforcing a “tabloid imagery” of the geopolitics surrounding a post-9/11 world.  “Tabloid geopolitics” is a system that makes individuals visualize the word using cartographical depictions. In essence, the game ultimately makes spectacular and sensationalizes world politics.  An example is in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare where a Russian Ultranationalist, going by the name Imran Zakhaev, who seeks to take the nation back to the Soviet era is hunted down by the British special forces. He is on a collision course with the Russian government for “prostituting” itself to the Western powers and creates a political crisis that plunges the Russian state into a civil war. His intention is to overthrow the government, which would allow him to have total control 15,000 nuclear warheads capable of flattening American cities.

It is also worth noting that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare seeks to reignite and (re)activate the American post- 9/11 fear of an Arab terrorist attack. The Arab terrorist, Khaled Al-Asad, is an ally of Imran Zakhaev and the possibility that he could acquire nuclear weapons to attack U.S interests found in the Middle East sanctions the United States Marine Corps( U.S.M.C) to invade. Arabs as a whole are depicted as ‘uncivilized warriors” and “savage”, which often provides the United States with an ideological sanction to continue with their war on terror. It is interesting that this particular game echoes President George W. Bushes brand of tabloid politics together with that of President Ronal Regan during the Cold War era.

Both editions of the Modern Warfare edition invite gamers to a viewpoint that paints Russia as a sponsor of terrorists that also intends to relaunch its nuclear arms race with the Western powers, in particular, the United States. Those Americans that would play this game would then view Russia as an enemy or rival, encouraging divisiveness and reinforcing long-held stereotypes about cultures different from theirs. In the game, the average Russian is presented as a cold-blooded individual whose primary goal in life is seeing the destruction of the West and the perpetuation of acts of mass destruction. Experts in Internation Relations such as John Mearsheimer “offensive realist” argue that international politics is a dangerous and ruthless business driven by a group of “revisionist” superpowers (Mearsheimer 205). The aim of these powers is ton drastically shift the current balance of power that exists in their favor.

The story lines that form the basis of Call of Duty all seem to display foreign

adventures taken by the soldiers are benign and the effect of war on the soldiers downplayed. An example is in the manner in which a United States soldier gains a Holywood-like stature that presents them as  Rambo-like figures who are invincible. In the game, rarely do we see the images of falling comrades, which is a common thing during battle. The game provides a simplistic approach to warfare. From the gamers perspective, it is easy to hide behind a wall after being shot, and later regaining your health automatically. Sadly, this is not the case. War causes unimaginable destruction, and those in the direct line of fire are usually the boots on the grounds. Airforce planes often come back full of flag-draped coffins with the remains of gallant soldiers who were the victims of the conflict. It is also a reality that soldiers who come from battle, often return with both physical and emotional scars. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) is common among individuals exposed to violent occurrences such was war veterans or soldiers returning from the frontline. Most of these individuals end up spending the rest of their lives on some form of medication, or alternatively, in a mental asulam for the rest of their lives. Those who are not so fortunate to get the necessary care and medication, often end up committing suicide or gruesome acts of violence. Call of Duty is thus responsible for a visual representation of war that is tweaked, creating depiction that war is safe and has little or no consequences to individuals.

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