SPOILERS. I’m going to spoil significant parts of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. If you don’t care or already know, continue reading.
Just in case the break didn’t take: spoilers follow. Quit reading if you don’t want it spoiled.
Let’s start with the scene. You are playing an army ranger who has been pulled out by the CIA to infiltrate the Bad Guy’s group. You’ve become part of a mission team that includes the Bad Guy. The mission turns ugly very soon: you and your team (four others) are making a charnel house of a civilian airport. Nobody is shooting back, and you’re killing dozens, possibly hundreds, of people. There are no children shown, but as you look around you’ll see indicators they should be there: teddy bears and dolls being an example.
And you are helping the killing. At a minimum, you cannot stop it. You can refuse to shoot or shoot in the air – no big deal. You can try to shoot the team; you will die. If you run too far ahead or lag too far behind they’ll call you a traitor and then you’ll die.
Eventually you come to armed opponents – police reaction forces – who at least shoot back. You have to engage them to progress onward; otherwise they just maintain a continuous spawn. Once you’ve come to the very end you get the nasty twist – and I warned you we’d hit the spoiler.
The bad guy turns around and shows he knows you are an American infiltrator and kills you, saying the mass killing wasn’t the message, “This is the message.”
Gaming first. I realized there were two possibilities for the end. Either Makarov was saying “if you screw with me I won’t just stop you, I’ll make things worse for you,” or there was another agent with an agenda to be served by Makarov doing this. If you’re paying attention that’s resolved by about halfway through the game and the big ending is logical, not surprising. Yes, it helps if you’re a fan of various thrillers. In that regard this is not a surprising twist.
I’ve been dancing about the gaming because the actual experience was… no, let’s get to the guts. Many people are bothered by being a part of the pure butchery. Many others are shrugging it off: “It’s just a game,” and “Lots of killing in GTA, what’s the difference?” I’ll respond to the latter here. The difference is that in GTA pretty much everyone you shoot is able (and often willing) to shoot back. Here, it’s pure wanton murder.
I’ve been among those who say the ratings are skewed: we ignore violence and get VERY uptight at sex. I think I’ve met the evidence – and the fact that there are so many who shrug and continue just enhances the point.
And yet… it is just a game. It isn’t perfectly immersive; the graphics do have a touch of cartoon (color if nothing else, and the fact you see the same models over and over has an impact as well). One measure of maturity is the ability to separate fact from fantasy, and so… “it’s just a game.”
I can’t decide, honestly. I do know that if I replay on harder levels I’ll be skipping this scene. I don’t know, however, that I’ll condemn others for not doing so. I suspect it’ll depend on the context and supplemental remarks and behavior. A player who noob-hunts and teabags and /spits is going to get a different response from me in comparison to someone who doesn’t do those things. Unfortunately, my limited experience at this time is that it’s the former saying, “It’s just a game.”
Regardless how I feel, the line’s been crossed. It won’t be more than a year before we run into something that makes us long for the restraint of That Scene.