Is ‘Call of Duty’ war porn?

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By John Niblick – 30th March 2015
Is ‘Call of Duty’ war porn?

Is Call of Duty war porn?

Call of Duty is a strange series. I find it difficult to understand how a game that places the player in the role of a soldier in a real world conflict, but that provides said soldier with such an unimaginable amount of power that it is completely unreal. Characters in Call of Duty will only die when the story requires it. The player can be shot in the head thirteen times point-blank and then simply respawn at a set point. Your enemy can hold a grenade loMarines in Vietnamng enough that he blows his own hand off and then reappear, completely unharmed, later to kill you only minutes later. Players are encouraged to kill as many other human beings as they can, to earn more powerful weaponry. The entire experience feels like a sadist’s wet dream, but this dream is available on store shelves everywhere. Welcome to the world of ‘war porn’.

War porn, in this scenario, can be said to refer to media the uses gratuitous violence and death in association with nationalistic imagery to create a feeling of euphoria. To put it plainly, war porn is nothing more than pornography with the sexual images replaced with guns and death. It’s a fetish that doesn’t bode well. This sounds disturbingly similar to the Call of Duty franchise. In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare you are placed in scenarios that involve ‘them damn commies’ or, to be blunt, brown people and then are told to grab the biggest gun you can find and shoot them all. There isn’t really much more complexity than that. Throw in a few American flags and you have the complete experience. I find that slightly disturbing. Shift your view to Call of Duty: Black Ops and you will find a similar scenario presented. You, the player, are dropped into the midst of the Vietnam War whCall of Duty Advanced Warfareere you take the role of an American special ops agent. A gun is placed in your hands and you are turned loose to gun down the hordes of Russians (them damn commies), Nazis, and Cubans (Brown People). Throw a healthy dose of American flag into the mix and you have Call of Duty: Black Ops. Call of Duty: Black Ops moves the storyline further into the future. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare takes the same cliché further into the future. Nothing changes save for the date. The central theme is always that the player is given the role of the ‘masculine hero that saves the world during a horrifying war’. I understand that everyone wants to feel like a hero but does there really need to be so much violence involved?

I will not deny that I have a bias towards the Call of Duty franchise. The point, however, still stands. The same criticisms caBattlefield 4n be applied to Battlefield or Medal of Honor. Halo simply swaps out the America for a heavy helping of alien. The key mechanic always filters down to ‘grab the biggest gun that you can and blow the ever-living hell out of everyone’. It’s obviously a mechanic that sells well. Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 5.6 million units within 24 hours of its release. I find that rather disturbing. Are we as a nation so incredibly enthralled with violence? Why do we continue to shell out sixty dollars a year for a rehash of ‘grab the biggest gun that you can and blow the ever-living hell out of everyone’? I would like to venture that Call of Duty owes its success to the ‘war porn’ market. I won’t attempt to explain the appeal of the ‘war porn’ market. I don’t think I can even come close to comprehending it. It frightens me though. I would like to ask that everyone who reads this article take a moment and consider why you enjoy playing Call of Duty. Are we really that enamored with violence and death?

  • witchking

    Sorry to say but this article is a load of bullshit, i will be first to say Call of Duty is a shit game but to call it ‘war porn’? this article should have never appeared here or anywhere else as comparing a shooter game to a fetish is stupid at the least…

    • John

      If I may, the entire purpose of an opinion article is to be able to share an opinion. I fear that Call of Duty falls into the same sort of fetishistic area that Tom Clancy’s novels, war movies, and good ol’ fashioned guns. Call of Duty is a series that glorifies violence and helps to spread the war porn area. It may in itself not be a fetish, but it plays into the war porn fetish. I find no other reason than that as to why the game relies so heavily on ‘give you a big gun and let you “save the world”‘. It’s just porn for those who want to have a big gun instead of a big dick.

      • witchking

        Sorry if my post sounded as if i was rejecting your or anyone else’s opinion, was never my intention as all opinions are there to be heard, no matter how sane or ridiculous they are, i personally found yours to be quite ‘interesting’ and a one i disagree with, with that said i dont see anyone in their right mind to jerk off to Call of duty or any violent scene from any game or movie, then again Gore Porn is out there for a reason too but to degrade all gamers to a Gore porn sick bastards due to violence in video game they chose to play is simply wrong.

        • John

          You also make a very valid point and I do apologize if that is how I came across. I would like to thank you for being so civil in your disagreement. That seems rather rare on the internet these days. :)

  • Mr0303

    I find the term ‘war porn’ strange. The article defined it as porn with all sex scenes replaced by battles – so it is a war game and not porn at all.

    I myself don’t like the series and never play them because of the lazy Murica stories and the fact that I’m not much of a FPS guy.

    “Are we as a nation so incredibly enthralled with violence?” – I can’t speak for your nation, but humans are prone to violence. This is why slapstick humour exists. Videogames provide a way to experience something you can’t/don’t want to in real life – be that combating enemies in a war situation, driving a car you could never afford or rip someone’s head off in Mortal Kombat. COD (and all other war games) are catering to a market and I don’t see a problem here.

    • John

      The issue for me is that America has such a massive fascination with these specifically ‘war’ games. I understand slapstick humour and I understand games like Mortal Kombat. I don’t understand why we need a game where you as the player are a godlike force that mows down the entirety of the Middle East. That really isn’t just allowing you to live out a scenario that you never could, that’s glorification of American war. I don’t want to say that all players who want to play are going to see it as ‘war porn’ I simply view this series as something other than simple entertainment.

      • Mr0303

        What is puzzling is that this series is hugely popular outside of the US as well. The reason could be that gamers mainly focus on the multiplayer aspect of it and don’t even touch the campaign.

        I don’t think Activision is using COD as propaganda if that’s what you’re implying. Like any business they try to make a profit. If anything they are trying to cater to the already established cultural background of the states.The US is born in war (multiple in fact), it has a very active war economy with military bases in over 100 countries and an enormous marketing and power in the NRA. Owing a gun is part of the law over there (Second Amendment). There are alternative anti war games like Spec Ops: The Line, but they are not as popular. Sometimes even in COD the bad guy turns out to be a corrupt US general.

        My point is that one should look to the media first to seek out political agendas. Games are usually made for fun.

        • John

          I totally understand. I wrote this article entirely on the basis that there is such an extreme fascination with violence and that really frightens me. I don’t think it’s propaganda by any means, I just don’t like how glorified the violence is. Is that really healthy?

          • Mr0303

            An argument can be made that violent videogames are used for stress relief not dissimilar to sports (some of them can get quite physical and brutal). Since the days of Jack Thompson there was no study to confirm a correlation between violent videogames and actual violence. In fact recent statistics show that as the gaming industry grew crime has declined.

            Those types of games are not for everybody. Nether are all movies, music, art and even books. It is the nature of human diversity.

  • Nick

    Did I stumble into Kotaku by mistake?

  • Billy the Squid

    Oh wow, where did you guys dig up this writer? Are you getting another boat load of SJWs to write click bait? Did he escape from Stephen Totilo’s Kotaku dungeon?

    I would venture that this article is moronic. Consider, a brief glance at human history would illustrate that we enjoy violence and competing, hence the existence of violent sports, children at school play bull dog for Christ sake, it’s violent and competitive.

    Ancient human history is replete with Gladiatorial games and blood sports it was hugely popular then as well. Funnily enough fighting via the virtual medium is hugely popular now. If it was down to people like the author we’d be playing wouldn’t report on touch Rugby in the World Cup and trying to talk about “feelings” with people who exist in the world who want to kill you.

    Looks like the ad block is going back up as the bull shit spirals on.

    • John

      I think you are REALLY missing the point here. This is not a critique of violence as a whole. This is a critique on the specific nature of Call of Duty as War Porn. I completely understand that we as a human race enjoy violence. I don’t understand why we want to have a game that is so rife with it. Call of Duty is entirely about ‘let’s pick up a huge gun and kill everyone we see’. Not a very good message if you ask me. I would like to recommend that you consider this as an opinion piece. Call of Duty is war porn, in the same way, that Tom Clancy novels are. They are enjoyable, but their entire existence can be owed to a love for getting to be the hero that stopped the foreign menace. Rugby is not being the hero that stopped the foreign menace. Gladitorial games were not being the hero that stopped the foreign menace. That is what differentiates war porn. You are the hero that stopped the foreign menace. Can I kindly ask that you do not resort to name calling and that you read more thoroughly prior. I allow that my point might not be perfectly framed, but I am certainly not acting as an SJW. I am simply stating that Call of Duty glorifies violence. Perhaps if I said that “COD is an affront to all that has ever happened arrrgghh!” I would be acting as an SJW. For now, you are really just perpetuating a stereotype that actually harms social justice as a whole. To use SJW as a random insult suggests that social justice is a group of whiny brats. Please don’t degrade an important movement like that. We need social justice and using the term ‘Social Justice Warrior’ is no better than throwing around ‘Politically Correct’. It damages an important concept. Thank you kindly for your time. I understand that you are free to have your own opinion. I simply wanted to state my own. If you disagree, that is most alright. Just please don’t spit bile, express your own opinion civilly please.

      • Nick

        How long have you been on the internet? SJWs overall ARE a group of whiny brats.

        Your piece does misrepresent the franchise, since you frame it overall as ‘America kills the nasty foreigners!’ when the plots nowadays tend to have someone stateside as the villain behind it all. Modern Warfare 2 in particular is a perfect example of this.

        There’s also the fact that pretty much every FPS is ‘let’s pick up a huge gun and kill everyone we see.’ It’s an inherent part of the genre. To complain about that is to complain about jumping in a platformer. To put it simply, CoD is not ‘war porn’ simply because it follows the standards of the genre.

        I have to agree with Billy here. This article is nothing more than clickbait nonsense, given the lack of anything resembling objectivity. This article is nothing more than ‘violence makes me uncomfortable, so it should bother you too!’

  • Komeda

    I play the game and I don’t get off on the war imagery like the author suggests. It’s like participating in an action movie or playing with toy guns when you are a kid. It’s fun. The people on the screen are not real and everyone knows that.

    • John

      Not everyone knows that. Any psychotic that picked up this game would have no clue. I completely understand that violence is just a fact of life. I just find it truly disturbing that it has become SO commonplace. Even a simple removal of the nationalistic imagery would make this more palatable. I take issue with the glorification of being the hero that saves the world and stops the “foreign menace” not with the concept of violence in a game. I don’t really like nationalism because it has been a key factor in a number of past conflicts. Nationalism is, after all, a strong contributing factor to the beginning of World War One. It wasn’t just Princip that started WW1. Still, I completely respect your opinion and I am glad that you shared it. Discussion is a truly important thing.

  • a literate person

    Regardless of the point you’re trying to make (which is a really bad one), this article is written so badly that nobody could take this position seriously. You use the same phrases over and over again, while not really saying much of anything. For example, how many times can you possibly say that you find something disturbing?