As Activision’s latest Call of Duty game — this edition is entitled Ghost — hits stores, the game’s developers and marketers have won. They have earned the right to party in the street, and raise their own “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banners. Through verisimilitude and ubiquity, they have their greatest victory: much like real war, America has accepted Call of Duty as a part of the way things are, and the way things always will be.
The games, which set you in the point of view of a soldier, have advanced the normalization of violence and war. This is the franchise which made headlines with a hostage scene where you have the option to massacre civilians. With each new Call of Duty game, which is always a best seller, we embrace simulation of war as America’s new favorite pastime. With this onscreen activity, we have been training to become drone pilots for years, training our brains not to flinch.
The advertising for the games has reached the plateau that only automobile and beer ads reach: the actual product is barely mentioned. Unlike most video game ad spots, a Call of Duty TV spot gives us celebrities and average Joes (rarely average Jills) pretending to be in the military, because that’s how realistic these games feel. Last time, we got Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel, and this year places Gentlemen’s Magazine Spirit Animal Megan Fox in the military fatigues, and acting like she’s just one of the bros.
There were earlier ad spots, that showed off the game’s pre-rendered cutscenes, but when it came down to convince any undecided consumers, the folks behind Call of Duty decided no such person exists. Any gamer worth their salt preordered their copy, and these new ads are an only slightly premature victory lap.
“It’s Call of Duty, you know it, you love it, you buy game systems just for it,” we can hear the drumroll to online multiplayer warfare cry. “We don’t want to change anything because it doesn’t even need improvement.”
Sure, the popularity of video games in America started with Frogger trying to cross the highway, the acid trip of Mario travelling through the sewers, and the destruction of space detritus, but times they have a changed. The modern video game culture is now defined by Call of Duty and it’s war sims genre, with easily mistakable clones like Battlefield and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon which also have sold enough units to prove their is an adoring audience for them.
Learn from history on the War Channel, streaming 24/7 via FilmOn:
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