Call of Duty: Modern Warfare hasn’t even had a proper gameplay reveal and yet there are already game journalists calling for it to be censored. VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi has advocated for and doubled down on wanting certain segments censored.
It all started with an article published on May 30th, 2019 over on VentureBeat by Takahashi, where he writes in a betrodden fashion…
“The publisher’s Infinity Ward studio recently showed a part of the single-player campaign for an upcoming installment of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and it has scenes and gameplay in it that are very disturbing to me. It brings to mind the No Russian controversy, where civilians are mowed down in a Russian airport in 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
“I was quite uncomfortable as I watched a gameplay demo of Modern Warfare, which is more than just a remake of 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The demo, which will be shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) game trade show in June, has two parts. In both cases, the safety of civilians comes into question.”
The article goes on to describe how the game will blur the lines between the moral boundaries of war. Players will have to kill or be killed in scenarios that the run the gamut from soldiers engaged in lethal fire, to clearing out houses where civilians and insurgents blend together like a melted Neapolitan ice cream sundae unattended under the waning sun of an early September afternoon.
Players will have to pick their shots carefully, avoiding killing civilians in some cases while taking down hostile combatants in others. This rocked the fragile soul of Takahashi like a child in Nagasaki watching the plumes of flame pillar over the clouds before being consumed by fear and fire.
You could almost feel the uneasy trembling echoing across the clank and clatter of keys as Takahashi began to frame his rebuttal, writing…
“This is the nature of modern combat, the developers say. But this should not be a part of a modern video game, in my opinion, given the thin line between civilians and warriors and given the impression it creates in our world, which is driven by social media sound and video bites. It looks so much like you are killing innocent civilians. And if you make a mistake, you are.
“I am told that the narrative of the story, which is generally secret, will explain the context for this scene. But as it is, as I’ve seen it, I found it profoundly disturbing and unjustifiable. After showing us this scene, the developers at Infinity Ward went right into a presentation where they said, “We’d like to talk to you about the star of the game, which is the weapons.” Sadly, I do not have pictures of this scene to show you.”
The article goes through one more descriptive scenario before getting to the meat of the matter. Two child soldiers are forced to kill a man in the Middle East for their own survival. A common thing that takes place in the war-torn region. However, being in the visceral heat of interactive combat, where life and limb are at stake – and racing beats of one’s heart play a tune of fury and trauma, swirled in a melody of chaos and violence – it shapes a different kind of experience for the player. One more visceral than the typical encounter, thanks to today’s advanced photogrammetric technology.
For Takahashi, it was one beat too many, one melody too discordant, and one kill too much for his frail heart to take. He immediately jumped to the only sensible solution he could muster: censorship.
As if without chains on his words or fettered inhibitions, Takahashi outright asks for the game to be censored, writing…
“My reaction is not that the developers should censor themselves or someone else should censor them. My question is about choices. We can make this kind of game, but should we? But should this kind of content, which we can see in movies or books, be in a video game? Should they be depicted in a form of art where we have so much agency? It’s going to be a Mature-rated game that kids shouldn’t play, but I had a conversation with an Uber driver who told me he lets his 6-year-old play Call of Duty.”
This response netted the mentally delicate journalist quite the reaction on Twitter.
Indie developer PixelMetal took the VentureBeat to task for his calls of censorship, stating that it was the job of adults to decide what to play, not the responsibility of publishers. Takahashi retorted that he wasn’t a book burner, but he still felt the team should “drop” the scenes.
I am not a book burner. Or a game burner. In 30 years of writing about games, I have never said something like this. I am raising the question for this one. And I am saying they should drop these scenes. I am flagging this for parents to be aware of another “No Russian.”
— Dean Takahashi (@deantak) May 30, 2019
Others called the article “rubbish”, and that if developers wanted to depict the horrors of war then they should be able to do so.
Takahashi calmly replied that war is fine; depicting the horrors of war is fine; but he felt that there’s a line between fun and entertainment and trying to be too serious, which can end up turning people off.
Anti-war messages are fine. Depicting the horrors of war is good. But everybody has a line where it’s no longer fun and entertainment. Then you mix that with the joy of multiplayer.
— Dean Takahashi (@deantak) May 31, 2019
There’s obviously an argument to be made about lines between a fun-filled, first-person shooter and then throwing gamers into Saving Private Ryan, complete with all the stomach churning sequences and desensitizing violence that might actually put people off the game altogether. But it’s impossible to tell if Activision even comes close to the latter description with the upcoming game when the criticism is coming from the same guy who had more trouble beating the tutorial in Cuphead than Dan Quayle had issues spelling “potato”.
And yes, that is indeed the same Dean Takahashi that brought you the infamous Cuphead gameplay.
— appabend (@appabend) May 30, 2019
The “hot takes” on Takahashi’s article have already spread far and wide across the social media metaverse.
Plenty of people are taking the piss out of the journalist for his outright call for censorship, a rather reprehensible request during this day and age when so many games are being forcibly censored by the platform holders (i.e., specifically Sony with their censorship policies) and where companies like Valve are indiscriminately banning games for inconsistent and unclear reasons.
While social media pressure has resulted in various studios kowtowing to the censorship brigade, like in the case of Catherine: Full Body, the last thing any gamer wants is for their AAA annual hot dog and fries experience to get neutered down into a tofu and broccoli stir-fry with lightly sprinkled sesame seeds on sauteed mushrooms and sparsely toasted garlic bread on the side. That’s not what gamers pay $60 for (or $120 if they get the limited collector’s edition) each and every year.
Even YouTubers like TheQuartering basked in the mad ramblings of the misplaced puritan.
At this point, gamers have probably come to expect pleas for censorship from game journalists as a standard fare modus operandi given today’s degeneration into feels-based fealty that dictates and governs the creative spirit (or lack thereof) within the gaming industry.
I doubt that Activision and Sledgehammer Games will take the VentureBeat journalist’s words to heart (or one might hope they won’t), but in the Age of the Clown anything is possible.
We’ll find out if the developers are going to tamper with the content when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is put on display at this year’s E3 ahead of its October 25th launch this fall on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
(Thanks for the news tips Animatic and Lyle)