MW2 Controversy: a rant to other game devs

So, the controversial Modern Warfare 2 footage leaked out, and now all the world’s in a hissy fit. Some are in a hissy fit because they are offended by the content, while some are having a hissy fit over the fact that anyone would be offended by the content. Most of these arguments I’ve read (from both ends of the spectrum) are from people who work in games. It’s a lot of the same bickering over and over, which mostly induces eye rolling in me.

BUT. I think it’s a shame, because people can’t put aside their bickering for two seconds to look at an interesting phenomenon, which could be extremely useful to us as game developers!

The two ends of the comment spectrum are equally frustrating. On one end is the “how could anyone defend this, it’s an abomination!” view. At the other end is the “how could you be offended by this when you play/make other shooters? You are a hypocrite!” The middle is peppered with milder, yet still annoying views, like the ever so common “IT’S A GAME.”

When I watched the video, my response was “wow, that’s pretty horrid! I hope there’s a way to skip it, because I don’t think I could play this and I wouldn’t be able to complete the game!”

Enter the people who don’t understand how I could feel that way when I play other shooters – the implied hypocrite stance. I don’t understand this reaction! One shooter evoked an emotional response in me, one did not. You can’t control the emotions that you feel, they just happen, you can only control your actions. The fact that one evoked an emotional response in me does not mean I’m a hypocrite, you guys.

ESPECIALLY since that seemed to be the whole intent behind the controversial sequence: to evoke a powerful emotional response. And they succeeded! They did their job, guys, it worked on me. They were TRYING to get me to have an intense emotional response where I may not when playing other shooters, that’s why they treated it so artfully.

It just happened that the emotions evoked in me exceeded some threshold, into the repulsion territory, as in “wow, I can’t endure that, abandon ship!” It’s the same reason I can never watch Boys Don’t Cry ever again.

Anyway, what’s the thing that everyone’s missing which I implied earlier? Well, if people could stop “how dare they”-ing Infinity Ward for including the sequence, and if people could stop saying “I wasn’t offended but you were, therefore there’s something wrong with you,” we could get a good learning opportunity out of this.

You can’t deny that this scenario is different than other shooters. People love to bark “how is this any different than x, y, z?” and I’m like, “well, HOW?” Explore the answer to your own question rather than using it as a way to say there’s something wrong with that person who felt something. There might be something useful in the answer!

It evoked a strong emotional response, others did not, and I’m not the only case here. Shouldn’t we, as game designers, be looking at WHY that happened? How mysterious! Why did this segment have such a different impact on this person? Was it the content? Was it the polish put into the ambiance? Was it the timeliness of the content? Was it some more complex arrangement of attributes that, standing alone, would not have been sufficient to evoke an emotional response? How are the people who had a response different than the ones who had none? Did it hit close to home for them on some level? Is there a correlation in demographic for the ones who did or didn’t?

Aren’t we always after tools and methods to create more emotional experiences in games?? We should be picking this thing apart and researching it, not arguing and accusing each other of being flawed because someone did or did not have an emotional response to it.

GEEZ, you guys. To hell with the lot of you! Hrmph.

Rant over!