Modern Warfare 2: Buy this sick filth!

Modern Warfare 2
Are games sophisticated enough to tell big stories?

If people aren't appalled by COD: Modern Warfare 2's No Russian level, something's seriously wrong with the world. A videogame where you can mow down civilians in an airport is a BAN THIS SICK FILTH campaign's wet dream, and there's simply no justification for it.

You can stick worthy quotes on the "you're dead" screens all you like, Infinity Ward, but you're still encouraging pimply teenagers to hoot with joy as they head-shot ordinary people.

That's pretty much the Daily Mail perspective.

Now for a different version. Apologies in advance, as this is going to include spoilers.

What Infinity Ward is trying to do here is pretty brave. You're not killing people for fun; you're a double agent embedded in a terrorist cell, and you need to do what the bad guys do or you'll blow your cover. The challenge in the No Russian level, then, is to do the minimum you can get away with.

Will you do that, or will you join in the wholesale slaughter? Even if you don't join in, does watching and doing nothing to stop it make you as guilty as the men who pull the trigger? Does "only following orders" let you off the hook when you're an accessory to mass murder?

That's heavy stuff, but remember that the average age of gamers is mid-thirties. We're grown-ups. We can handle this - and it's a damn sight less disturbing than the torture films that infest the DVD racks of our local supermarket.

And yet, and yet.

I've been banging on for ages about the need for grown-up games, because I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only adult gamer who's getting a bit fed up being in charge of yet another bunch of vaguely homoerotic space marines fighting space Nazis in space.

But when I see a game with ostensibly grown-up content - not just Modern Warfare 2 but things such as GTA IV's The Lost and The Damned - it all feels a bit gratuitous, a bit depressing.

Maybe it's that games simply aren't sophisticated enough to tell big stories, or maybe it's just that the very nature of games means you can't be a participant and not enjoy it.

Shooting what?

Is there any real difference between mowing down queuing passengers in MW2 and blasting Grunts in Halo, or shooting rival motorcycle gangs in the face in a GTA expansion pack? Not to me, there isn't. These are games, not harrowing documentaries.

You're supposed to enjoy them - so of course you're going to get a visceral thrill from pulling the trigger. If anything, the taboo nature of it makes it even more thrilling.

The only way to prevent that from happening would be for the action to pause every twenty seconds and Simon Bates to turn up, telling you that killing innocent people is BAD and WRONG. I wouldn't buy that game. Would you?

Infinity Ward knows what it's doing, and I don't believe for one minute that the airport section is supposed to be gratuitous or to make you feel in any way that terrorism is a fun career choice.

What we're seeing here is something much more interesting than mere headline chasing: it's a dramatic example of how videogames are trying to grow up.

If we want our games to grow up with us, we need to be grown up in the way we react to them - and that includes dumping the "we must protect the children" crap when games come with an 18 certificate specifically saying they're not suitable for kids.

The airport bit of MW2 doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but I'd much rather live in a world where it exists than in a world where entertainment for adults is dumbed-down, tabloid approved and incapable of offending anybody.

If Infinity Ward has crossed a line, the reviewers and the gamers will tell us - and if you can't wait that long, you can give Sainsbury's £26 and find out for yourself. Like a grown-up.


Liked this? Then check out The truth about videogame addiction

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.