Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Art of (Selling) War

This ad aired during Sunday's football fest (I saw it between watching my Eagles make Peyton their bitch) so as to ensure it would reach as many testosterone-fueled gamer-heads as possible. I'm not a Sensitive Susan but I'm going to exercise my right to bitch-blog and call shenanigans on this ridiculous and offensive commercial.

I understand the makers of Call of Duty (which is owned and published by venerated game-producer Activision) are obviously trying to sell their (impressive and addicting) product as the most realistic war simulation on the market. But in promoting this war GAME, one must take note of several important points: a) it's a GAME, b) we're still fighting the longest war in our nation's history that happens to also be one of the most brutal and tasking while having just concluded combat operations in another, equally grueling and costly war, c) we already live in a society where the wars we fight are largely ignored, either willingly or ignorantly, by the vast majority of the comfortable yuppie-class while America's low-income families send their sons and daughters to fight a determined enemy we can't even characterize correctly let alone locate on a map.

While Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel (??really??) smile satisfyingly at a downed helicopter or fumble comically over an RPG in order to sell a fun, exciting, really realistic war game to obese teenagers and lazy college students, America's heroes are being killed by RPG attacks on our Blackhawks in the Hindu Kush. Don't confuse me for someone who doesn't appreciate a good first-person shoot 'em upper. I'm currently working through 1994's classic Doom II again just for kicks; wasting alien hell-zombies with a double-barreled shotgun is fucking therapeutic. But no matter how realistic and/or epic and righteous Call of Duty or any other shooter game is, I would never, ever equate myself to a soldier, or claim my skillful hand-eye coordination in detonating a landmine would somehow make me a fine Marine. There is not a solider in all of us. If we were drafted to fight, we would fight, and most of us would do well given the best combat training in the world. But the fact remains that we did not volunteer. We stayed behind, and we benefit continually from the sacrifice of those who ran ahead. I don't want to launch into a rant about the glamorization of the perils and true costs of inglorious warfare (which certainly isn't a new phenomenon) but I have long felt a disconcerting disconnection between our contemporary society and the wars we (they) fight. The Greatest Generation included not only the brave young men fighting Over There, but the thoughtful and supportive populace back home for whom those men were fighting. They didn't just slap magnetic stickers on the back of their cars; they subjected themselves to food rations and recycled scrap metal for bombs. The circumstances of today's wars may not necessitate such similarly drastic sacrifices here at home, but that doesn't give us the luxury to ignore them, let alone conflate them with a damn video game. Playing war in the woods with twigs is part of growing up; now that we've grown, let's stop pretending we're soldiers (and equating our sports stars with them) and instead, on today of all days, solemnly honor those who actually are, unequivocally, warriors.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree that the commercial was in extremely poor taste. Playing a game as a soldier in no way means there's a "soldier in you." It's offensive to equate Kobe Bryant or Jimmy Kimmel with a gun to a veteran who served in combat and has defended our nation.