Since Moscow’s busiest airport was hit by a suicide bomber who killed 35 people and injured 150 others, at least one state-sponsored media outlet has embarked on a narrative that should be familiar to Americans who’ve watched their media since the Tucson shootings: searching for someone, or something, to blame.
The first and most obvious target of their ire appears to be Activision’s shooting game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” which depicted a brutal terrorist mass-shooting at a fictional Russian airport.
The mission, called “No Russian,” was optional in the game, which warned viewers that it featured shockingly graphic content. The scene was viewable to non-gamers in videos posted online. In it, the player may not fire on the other terrorists, but it is also not mandatory that they fire on civilians either. They are instead forced to slowly walk through the scene as it unfolds.
In context, the sequence places participants in the shoes of a CIA agent who’d been tasked to infiltrate a terrorist cell, but the terrorists caught onto him and he’s executed at the end of the chapter. The discovery of his body is used by the game’s narrative as a key motivation for a Russian invasion of the United States, which the other game’s chapters detail from various perspectives.
Ultimately, as they story goes, an American general behind a number of the missions, including the controversial terrorist infiltration scene, is revealed to have been working both sides, bringing on the invasion for his own nefarious means. In the game’s final stage the player is tasked to kill the general, cutting down both Russian and American soldiers without differentiation along the way.
But on a Monday broadcast from Russia Today, a news anchor claimed the airport shown in Activision’s game was actually Domodedvo airport, and that the attack was an all-too-eerie echo of the scene from “Call of Duty.”
She called it “a pretty scary premonition.”
Wayne Madsen, a self-fashioned online writer who was providing commentary for the program, asked bluntly: “What kind of messages does this send?”
He added that “we need to take a look at some of these people who make video games — the people who put them out and the reason they put them out,” implying a connection to the US or private military.
While the US military was indeed behind an online multiplayer game called “America’s Army,” most military experts serve mere advisory roles for game studios that embark on projects depicting war.
But, in perhaps another eerie echo between art and reality, the financing of military-style shooting games was a minor plot point in Konami’s PlayStation 3 game “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.” That story’s hero, a future-mercenary on a technology-dominated battlefield, lamented how private military companies came to overrun video games, to use freely distributed multiplayer shooters as recruitment tools.
Prior games in the “Metal Gear” series touched upon issues such as the manipulation and control of digital information and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Russia Today also spoke with Walid Phares, a Fox News terrorism analyst, who suggested that games like “Call of Duty” can be used by real-life terrorists to “train” themselves ahead of an attack.
While the discussion as to whether violent video games inspire violent behavior remained unsettled, the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that instances of violent crime in the United States in 2010 were down significantly since 1991.
By contrast, graphic violence in video games has only escalated since then, as the industry scaled upwards to eclipse other forms of media entertainment in total sales. The Entertainment Software Association, which serves as an industry ratings bureau in the US, further insisted that violent crime and terrorism have more to do with the individual perpetrators’ backgrounds, or the availability of firearms, than their media influences.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” released in late 2009 for the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and other game systems, topped $1 billion in sales this time last year.
An email to Activision’s corporate communications went without reply at time of this story’s publication.
This video is from Russia Today, published Jan. 25, 2010.