I knew there would be a heated response to my argument last Friday that Infinity Ward and publisher Activision did not provide enough of a detailed warning about the "No Russian" sequence in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Even though I stated multiple times the sequence represents an important milestone for the medium, many readers disagreed with my criticism that players should have been allowed the option to better learn what was potentially "disturbing" and "offensive."
I wanted to highlight some of the counter-arguments readers made and respond to them today.
"But really, how often in any form of media are you told what potentially disturbing content is included? ... Its not Infinity Ward's job to let us know what is included in the game. Good job for warning us because undoubtedly many would find it extremely disturbing but they don't need to go beyond that." -- Hyuzen
You make a good point. Technically, we don't know everything that we're in for when purchasing a ticket for an R-rated film or watching a violent or sexual TV show. But we're talking about shooting up an airport with virtual innocents. If Infinity Ward wasn't worried some players could be offended, they would have stuck to their guns and let the M-rating speak for itself. By including two "warnings" before the single-player campaign begins, Infinity Ward and publisher Activision were admitting the "No Russian" sequence required a warning that went above and beyond what an M-rating implies.
"i dont understand why this has been such a big deal. what about GTA franchise where innocent people and cops are killed by the thousands. Not only is there no warning there, but there has never been one question raised from that. Its a video game and the sooner everyone realizes that the sooner we can all get on with our lives." -- slobalt
Though the Grand Theft Auto series has always allowed for an overindulgence into violence, until Grand Theft Auto IV, it's arguable whether it was intended to come across as realistic. With GTAIV, the visual fidelity mirrored reality enough that it acted as a personal deterrent to running over the cops of the other mayhem I'd become accustomed to in previous releases. And there have been plenty of questions raised about Rockstar Games' approach to the video game experience. In the case of the buried sex scenes (aka Hot Coffee), that wasn't even accessible by players unless they downloaded a hack.
"it's just a god damn video game.." -- foureyezz
I knew this one would come up. By now, there have been enough headline-worthy moments in games that a line is being drawn in the sand. There are always going to those who look at games as escapism and have no interest in looking at or treating the medium on the same level as others will. To them, these moments will always be countered with the argument of "it's just a video game." Instead of getting riled up over it, I accept the argument works...for some people. It doesn't for me. Games cause me to think, emote, react. If a medium can do that, it's worth a deeper discussion.
"To squash all this bull crap. You need to be 18 to buy the game. If your loser parents buy the game for a child then they should be punished. Infinity ward did the right thing. I love violence in games, I wish all games were developed bye Epic in the violence dept. However I would never let my kids play these games. You can not make people watch what there kids are playing. Besides who cares the average child is watching porn and rated R movies by age 12. It is an unstoppable juggernaut." -- GreedyMcNasty
Kids will always seek out what they're told they cannot have. It's a fact of life. My parents did it, I did it and whenever I decide to have kids, I'm sure they'll try to pull the same stunt. But just because kids are smart enough to go around their parents' backs doesn't excuse a game not providing enough of a heads up for parents simply seekingly knowledge about the product they've purchased okay. Why can't all of that information be in the game itself? We're not talking about removing a level in exchange.
"If you don't want to see this kind of stuff then SKIP THE LEVEL! Stop bitching about something you DONT HAVE TO DO! Its easy to skip anyway." -- thanx4theluv
Here's the problem. At that point, I don't actually know what I'm agreeing to skip. Maybe this is an issue that needs to be addressed by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, but it's worth noting when a game that already has an M-rating feels the need to warn the player about a piece of potentially "offensive" and "disturbing" content with no description of what makes the content potentially "offensive" or "disturbing," yet that very information is disclosed on the ESRB website.
"How about those people with half a brain to take half a second to see if they're offended and/or disturbed, pause the game, and choose to skip it? This is the internet, I've done it with lemon party, g0atse, and tub-girl. Not once did i sit there for 20 minutes staring at the picture and thinking to myself "Hmmm, this stuff is offensive to me, fox news should know about this and condemn the creators and stir up a bunch of controversy. There should've been a warning before the picture is actually displayed asking if I want to skip it or not" -- Magicinabox
All three examples you provided are tricks by Internet pranksters to get someone click on something they know will offend or disgust most people who view it. For the sake of argument, however, I'll stick to what you're actually proposing: turning off the content once you realize "hey, this isn't for me." To Infinity Ward and Activision's credit, having the ability to skip the sequence after it's started was a smart move, as it gives them a way out if someone agrees to view the content and changes their mind. But as I've said before: what's the harm in disclosing that information earlier?
"What affected me was the screams, they were so lifelike and real. It didn't stop me doing what I was doing but it was chilling that what me and my squad were doing was causing so much fear and terror. See I'm not a writer but that seems like a hard thing to convey in a paragraph of text to highlight the scene. Now should Infinity Ward instead spoil it completely and show them a section of the mission? It still wouldn't work since as a 3rd party when watching the leaked footage, nothing affected me not even the screams as I was not in control. There is a deffinate difference here between watching/reading and actually doing it, something I don't think an optional spoiler could even express." -- Greenbirdo
You're absolutely right. A paragraph of text wouldn't have the same effect as actually playing the mission. But it does provide someone who's curious to know what they're in for. If you aren't forced to look at the spoilers, what harm does it do...except give people options?