Responding to the recent controversy about the game’s questionable political agenda, Infinity Ward has now clarified that, actually, so what if it’s based on real events, it’s also made-up, but it’s also supposed to make you think about things, but that’s also up to you.
This week, Metacritic users review-bombed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, mostly over the Highway of Death mission which references a real event in which the US and its coalition forces attacked Iraqis retreating from Kuwait in 1991. In this version, however, Russia gets the blame, because, you know, it’s made-up. And maybe this would get a free pass in the Cold War paranoia-panic of 1969, but not so much 2019 when US “intervention” in dubious proxy wars and other conflicts has become a somewhat more contentious subject.
But, according to the game’s narrative director Taylor Kurosaki, we’re supposed to assume players are going to pause the game and read about the Highway of Death on Wikipedia.
“For us to educate, to enlighten this player base about people like Farah, and again there are millions of people put in her position, I think is bringing awareness to something that’s sort of outside of the understanding of a lot of people,” he tells Gamespot. “If it encourages them to look more things up or do more research, or again, build empathy with people whose backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life are dissimilar to their own, I think that’s a good thing.”
Asked if the team has a responsibility to distinguish between real and made-up events, Kurosaki makes the excuse that it’s about “themes”, not who did what.
I think you could probably find many instances of the words ‘highway of death’ being used in a lot of cases. The reason why Urzikstan is a fictional country is because we are taking themes that we see played over and over again in the last 50 years in countries and locations all around the world. We’re not making assimilation of one particular country or one in particular conflict. These are themes that play out over and over again with a lot of the same players involved. We don’t portray any one side as good or bad in our game.
But those “themes” notwithstanding, is using a real event and even using the real name of the event, but presenting it as a made-up event kind of disingenuous? Players can tell the difference, insists Kurosaki.
“So, you know that they’re based on real-world events and yet you don’t give the player-base the credit. You’re sort of saying that the Call of Duty audience should be talked down to or things should be simplified or dumbed down. In fact, we have tons of research that the Call of Duty audience wants more accurate portrayals of conflict areas,” he elaborates. “They don’t want a dumbed-down experience. They want an experience where characters aren’t purely good or purely evil, where there is moral complexity involved. We’ve done a lot of research into this. So, for me, I like to speak up to my audience and I do believe that they are sophisticated enough to make the parallels.”