Every time a Call of Duty game comes out, gamers have the same conversation.
Gamer A: "But the story sucks, it's always the same!"
Gamer B: "You don't play it for the story, you play it for the multiplayer!"
Gamer C: "I actually like the story mode."
And so it continues in every iteration of the best-selling FPS series, and it will continue next year as well. Well, Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg thinks you should be paying more attention to that story, and feels that the Call of Duty games deserve just as much respect as critically-acclaimed war dramas like The Hurt Locker.
In a recent interview, Hirshberg was asked about CoD's regular criticism for glorifying violence and warmongering. His response:
"There's a sense that games are more exploitive in a way that The Hurt Locker—which also was designed as form of entertainment—isn't."
Hirshberg believes that "video games are fictitious popular culture." "I think they are an art form, and I think that 'too soon' criteria is not applied to things like Green Zone. Or United 93. There will be a time when we look back and find it quaint that video games were so controversial. I think the active ingredient to changing that attitude is time."
He goes on to say that the creators of The Hurt Locker didn't make the film "as a public service," but as a commercial product to sell tickets and DVDs. "And, yet, that's not viewed as exploiting current events. It's viewed as somehow artistically interpreting and commenting on current events. The creative process of making that movie and making our games is very similar, but they're received differently."
While he first talks about Call of Duty as a serious drama focusing on the moral dilemmas and psychological stress of warfare, but later explains: "The narrative of Call of Duty has been much more good guys and bad guys, and brotherhood and the journey and the battle, and I don't think that's an indictment. It's a choice, one that's maybe a little less literary and a little more action-oriented in terms of its foundation. I don't think that means the narrative structure of Call of Duty is lacking, though. I can name a hundred other movies that are not like Black Hawk Down, but you don't leave questioning about the heroism and the bravery and the action and the sort of extreme experience of battle."
I'm a little disappointed in that I was hoping for a straight answer and instead got a lot of flip-flopping. Is it a fast-paced action-adventure roller coaster, or is it supposed to be this serious reflection on how terrible war is? For every good decision Call of Duty's stories have made (watching the horror of a terrorist attack firsthand, or the devastation of a nuclear weapon), the rest of the games' stories are action movie mayhem, with chase scenes and gunfights and destruction on the level of a Roland Emmerich film.
What do you think about this? Is Eric Hirshberg correct and we're all just not looking at Call of Duty the right way?