Tag Archives: Call of Duty

Heroine Complex

Running from the forces of patriarchal ass-hattery, "Remember Me" heroine Nilin

Running from the forces of patriarchal ass-hattery, “Remember Me” heroine Nilin

How difficult is it for video games developers to include female characters in their title?  Bafflingly tough, if two news stories this week are to be believed.

No sooner has French developer Dontnod revealed that publishers turned down their upcoming title “Remember Me” as it featured a female lead,than one of “Mass Effect 3″’s writers indicates that the games industry is actively resistant to featuring female characters.

If your game’s lead is a smart-mouthed dudebro, you’re on easy street but anything outside of that slight , gender-fixated design stipulation is an uphill sell, it would seem. So much for inclusion and broadening the audience, eh, chaps?  I suppose we can take some comfort from the RPG genre, where the demands of flexible character creation will out and more diverse options are frequently available but what’s to say that the next-gen can’t offer us a bit more diversity from our action platformer hybrids and shooty-shooty stabby-stabby fests.

There’s a case to be made that simply reskinning the male lead with an alternate female character model and doing nothing subsequently to address changes in the story would be almost as bad, but shouldn’t developers be trying to use the level of horsepower at their disposal to give us more choice?  Hello, player agency?  Or is that just a meaningless buzz phrase with zero actual meaning?

I suspect that some spurious marketing data suggests that people don’t buy games with female leads (just as Marvel are unlikely to make a “Black Widow” or “She Hulk” movie because nobody went to see “Elektra” or “Catwoman“), but this argument always strikes me as remarkably bogus and far too convenient.

A good game with a central female protagonist, person of colour or any non-traditional lead will sell if the mechanics are solid and publishers support it – the issue that I note time and again is that Game X is green-lit, gets good preview word of mouth and then falls over at retail because there’s no marketing behind it.  You can’t get people to buy a game if they don’t know that it’s out there.  I doubt that most consumers would actively boycott the next “Call of Duty” if you were playing a female Marine in some near-future combat scenario – they’d want to blow stuff up and head-shot dudes and the gender of the first person avatar you were inhabiting wouldn’t necessarily resonate that much.

Of course, I’m sure that the number of polygons and bump-mapping complexities necessary to render the ladies convincingly is the problem, and certainly not residual banal sexism and creative mindsets firmly locked in the 1950’s.  FYI, games industry, you’re not supposed to want to be Don Draper, lads – he’s kind of a dinosaur.

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Hypocrisy? What hypocrisy?

We’ve barely had time to try and process Friday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut and UK tabloids are up to their usual tricks.

Oh look - one of those hyper-detailed murder simulators that the kids all love...

Oh look – one of those hyper-detailed murder simulators that the kids all love…

Rupert Murdoch’s wholly above reproach UK tabloid newspaper The Sun today has a headline story skirting around the idea that Adam Lanza’s rampage is somehow connected to his ‘obsession’ with Activision’sCall of DutyFPS franchise.

You know the kind of thing before you read it – no real evidence to speak of, a few splashy pull-quotes and amateur psychology aplenty conspire to deliver the kind of schlock, predictable, cynically hand-wringing story we usually see after a tragedy like Newtown, all the while trying to inspire an emotional, “Won’t Somebody Think About The Children?” type reaction in the kinds of parents who are (whisper it quietly) probably buying “Black Ops 2” as  a Christmas present for their kids (if they’re not already playing it themselves).

Did Lanza play “Call of Duty”?  Who knows – who cares?  He was a young American adult.  The bigger story would be that he didn’t play “CoD“, “Battlefield” or “Medal of Honor”.

If he did play video games, why does it automatically follow that he was being somehow desensitized or made more susceptible to violent power fantasies?  I’ve played “Call of Duty” instalments in the past and all that I can point to is an increasing lack of desire to engage with that franchise.  Am I somehow miraculously unaffected by the otherwise corrupting, pernicious influence of these games?  Is it down to my living in a different country without easy access to guns?  Am I too old and set in my ways to buy into such shock and awe pyrotechnics?

Just as a matter of curiosity – is the “Call of Duty” game series being raked over the coals by The Sun today any relation to the “Call of Duty” game lauded in breathless prose in a story tied to the launch of “Black Ops 2”?  Or in this feature about how ‘SAS hero (TM)’ Andy McNab believes that the game teaches morality to kids?  Or is that a different series of blockbuster action FPS titles from Activision, Infinity Ward and Treyarch?

When it’s going to sell copies or connect The Sun in a positive way with a blockbuster, generation-defining pop culture entertainment brand loved by their demographic, the paper will happily get into bed with Activision in a mutually beneficial relationship.  When there’s a sliver-thin line of particularly smelly, easy answer bullshit to peddle, that partnership gets swiftly forgotten about in the rush to sell papers or get page impressions.

Hypocrisy?  Surely not.  Not on Rupert’s watch.

No violence here, eh, Rupes?

No violence here, eh, Rupes?

It’s a good job that Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t make violent, gun-heavy entertainment isn’t it?


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Multi-player Madness?

Money spent on Xbox Live membership by Fluffrick in 2013? Zero pounds!

Microsoft have recently been keen to remind gamers that Xbox Live has been around for a decade – hence e-mails like the one above, which I received this morning.

I might rather have received one of these, but as I live in Europe (and we don’t matter to Microsoft), I’ll just be happy that they deigned to send me an e-mail which has reminded me of something crucial – my Xbox Live Gold membership is the nerd equivalent of the gym membership that I don’t use.

My taste in games has always skewed towards the solitary and offline – a good percentage of the Role Playing games that I spend my time with don’t really bother with online modes and competitive functionality – and so it really doesn’t make that much sense for me to spend the price of a new game on a service which I don’t actually use.  Sure, Mass Effect 3 has a suite of multiplayer options but it’s not really the kind of thing which appeals to me – plugging wave after wave of NPC’s in the company of some random dude who doesn’t speak/plays music down his headset or regale you with his unsolicited neo-Nazi views is not my idea of happy-happy fun times, truth be told.

I’ve tried “Gears of War” multi and “Call of Duty” online (see my previous neo-Nazi comment) and found the experience profoundly wanting – and it’s not just a problem with the 360 audience, as Uncharted 2 on the PS3 had more than a few highly vocal 12-year-old nitwits ready, willing and eager to demonstrate their bigotry and stupidity to all and sundry in matches and lobbies.  I find myself actively wanting to disassociate myself from many of the people who play online on consoles, as this gaming generation has exposed me to people so acutely unpleasant and unrepentantly objectionable that their stupidity can surely only be explained away by being a stunt or deliberate tactic of some kind – gamesmanship employed by people for whom winning is the only goal.

Testify, Wonka – testify!

Yes, we can mute and report people to the enforcement teams on the respective platforms but the point to me is that by the time that you’ve done that, the very last thing that you want to do is venture back online and play against people – I’m fairly soured on the whole notion of competitive play against people who I don’t know.

When my Gold membership expires in a month or two I am pretty certain that I won’t be renewing it. And, you know what?  I’m totally okay with that.


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Flawless Victory!


I’ve blogged about Freddie W. and his awesome YouTube antics previously so I’m more than happy to direct to another equally talented gang of artists and all-out nerds doing splendidly nerdy, video game related shenanigans.

Meet Corridor Digital and their match-up video of combatants from various franchises doing battle to decide on supremacy.

The result may surprise…

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UK government to end dual rating system for games.


In what seems to be an outbreak of common sense, the British government has elected to do away with the two tier rating system for video games and just go with the Europe-wide PEGI system (cue some otherwise ignored Tory back-bencher trying to get some media traction by claiming this leaves us at the whims of the EU and all manner of depravity being forced upon our kids).

Previously some titles fell under the auspices of the British Board of Film Classification which led to multiple ratings on games boxes – and that won’t do, as having to read two boxes which tell you that the game you’re buying is for adults is only going to cut into time that many parents reserve for allowing their offspring to do whatever they want without fear of admonishment or, you know, actual parenting.

So, when clueless Mum and Dad go to Tesco and buy Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ for little Darren this November, they’ll have one less graphic on the box to remind them that they’re ineffectual halfwits and can spend that extra half-second of reading time on ignoring health warnings on their ready meals and supermarket special boxes of Lager.

Still, it might shut up professional irritant, charisma vacuum and British MP Keith Vaz for ten seconds, so we can at least be grateful for that…

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“Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” announced


Well, that’s Autumn sorted for a lot of gamers – Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 announced • News • Eurogamer.net.

I’m not one of those players – action RPG nerds who play as Rogue Female Elves for the win! – but I fully expect this latest episode of the annual FPS franchise to dominate sales chart and mind share in the games community for the latter part of this year.  It’s the go-to shooter for many a gamer and remains seemingly unstoppable at the retail counter, predictable annual controversies notwithstanding…

Expect a proper reveal (and trailer) tonight and more hype when E3 rolls around in the summer.


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Olympic Property Boom

I'm guessing Iron Man was busy. Or not real.

Missiles stationed on top of flats – UK News – MSN News UK.

Well, it’s one way to deal with those annoying drunk first-years who were seemingly born without volume control when alighting from their cab at 1:00am.

Having noticed the amount of armed police in London whenever I’ve been travelling through the more tourist-packed areas of the city, it doesn’t come as much surprise to learn that the London 2012 organisers are making it clear that any potential terror threats are going to met with an appropriate counter response.

This underlines to me one of the most undeniable truths about the forthcoming Olympics – if you had anywhere else to go whilst the Games are on, why the hell would you want to stay in the Capital?  It’s going to be a nightmare to move around, the normal tensions of city living are going to be ramped up 200% and on top of that, the top of your apartment building could end up looking like a “Call of Duty” level objective.

No thanks!

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The shooter’s lament…

Have you tried talking about your issues, nice man with grenade launcher?

Well, it’s an interesting perspective, at least.  Kotaku and Eurogamer today reported on a recent panel discussion at a Geneva Red Cross conference which discussed our beloved shooty-shooty games and the impact that they have on society as a whole.

More specifically, how many times have you run merrily amok through a round of your favourite military FPS game online and given any thought to how your actions mesh with International Human Rights laws?

Yep, thought as much...

I’m being facetious, naturally.  To any reasonable mind, these are questions which should be asked about the game worlds which we inhabit, even if it’s only after the fact.

To get us to the point as a games community where we do think about these human rights issues whilst we’re playing games would probably require a game that’s more “Mass Effect” or “Skyrim” than “Medal of Honour”, I would vouchsafe.

Even though most games in the “CoD” franchises are fairly linear, directed experiences which don’t give the player a great deal of wandering room, it still seems to me that an RPG (no pun intended) is a better venue for discussing or depicting the kind of human rights during conflict scenario that the Red Cross panel talk was dealing with.

Let’s be honest – most of the military FPS games that we see are more comfortable operating in the realm of James Bond spy-fi fantasy than they are when being forced to contemplate the real world consequences of the action sequences which are these games’ stock-in-trade.   When “CoD” reaches for anything more resonant than congratulating the player on their in-game avatar’s command of a silenced pistol, the previously hidden barrier between game and real life abruptly falls pray to what the youngsters might term ‘epic fail’.

I’m sure that some erstwhile indie dev could bash out something in Unreal Engine which addresses some of the concerns expressed in the Eurogamer piece but it’s not really that hard to imagine that dev teams like Infinity Ward and Danger Close are happier letting the bullets and destructable environments do the talking for them.

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Stunning news! Keith Vaz hates games!

Oh Keith, when will you learn?

It’s a development so stunning that nobody could have seen it coming – Labour MP Keith Vaz  is quite worried about the impact of violent video games (so, he’s okay with “Myst” and “Ilomilo” then?).

This time around, he’s concerned about the impact of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and in particular the levels set in London, as they echo the events of 7 July 2005 (my word, it’s almost as though Infinity Ward are drawing from real life or something).

In a story picked up by Eurogamer, Vaz cites evidence of  “an increasing link” between the content of violent video games and a subsequent effect on games players and wants the British Board of Film Classification to more carefully consider their certification decisions before allowing games like “MW3” into the wild.

A couple of points, if I may.

If anybody was going to be negatively impacted by the impact of a prolonged exposure to depictions of violence in media, one could reasonably expect that the BBFC are amongst the first people who are going to have problems.  Why is it that censors and politicians remain utterly unaffected by their exposure to the likes of “MW3” (rated 18) and “The Human Centipede” (rated 18 after a lot of cuts) and can be trusted to walk the streets, whereas the likes of you and me are going to become gibbering, perverse serial criminals if we so much as look at the options screen on a first person shooter?

How, pray tell, does that distinction come to pass?

It stands to reason that there isn’t a direct causal link between what people do in video games, enjoy watching in films or find compelling in novels because the crime statistics don’t for one minute back up Vaz’s current assertions or any of the previous quote-friendly politicians or interest groups who have sought to further restrict our access to aspects of popular culture that they don’t agree with.

If everybody in the UK directly exposed to “MW3” were driven to commit acts of violence due to exposure to the game,  our under-staffed and over-stretched polices forces up and down the land might reasonably expect to keep a couple of million people under surveillance after the annual release of a “Call of Duty” title.

In a stunning development, the Police force don’t appear to be tagging and tracing anybody with a PS3 and a yearning to play Team Deathmatch online.   Curiouser and curiouser.

A politician like Vaz is, let’s face facts, somebody who loves to align themselves to issues like this – his public profile exists largely because he complains about the negative effects of pop culture on the young and he and his ilk desperately needs the oxygen of publicity to be invited on TV news shows and to be interviewed by newspapers.  It might be argued that his press releases are the IRL equivalent of forum trolling and every bit as insubstantial in their ultimate impact.

Keith Vaz, meet your ideal fictional constituent. Shame she's fictional and dead...

The big ugly secret that most gamers are somehow privy to and which the media, concerned parents and outraged parents are somehow not aware of is that kids have to get the likes of “Modern Warfare 3” or “Saints Row The Third” from somewhere, if they are indeed playing them.

Most kids, last time that I checked, don’t have regular paying work which allows them to drop £44.99 on a console title each week.  Most kids don’t have credit or debit cards either, so that precludes them ordering from Amazon or Play.com. Assuming that little Dane and Jade are refraining from using Teh L33t Torrentz to get their gaming fix on, that logically tells us that parents may be the evil Nazi scum pushing computer game filth to their offspring.

News flash – some parents play games, too, Keith.  They may make a decision that their kids are mature enough to handle the content in a video game.  They may be crappy parents, but the buck stops with them.   If they care as much as they claim to do about their kids, they can lock out consoles and place age bars on content that they feel is unsuitable for their offspring.  The tools are there – the kind of people who complain loudly in public about violence in video games are the kind of lazy, responsibility-shirking dullards who have no business having children in the first place.

An age rating is there for a reason – it’s about time that parents actually started parenting and using the tools, warning systems and content advisories that have been put in place because of their incessant bitching and whining.

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Charlie Brooker 4, Modern Warfare 3

Fun fact. Charlie Brooker actually looks like this in real life...

Erstwhile screenwriter, telly face and gaming curmudgeon Charlie Brooker is at it again. And as usual, he’s got a ruddy good point.

You might remember him from his various BBC series – “How TV Ruined Your Life”, “Newswipe” and his one-off special, “Gameswipe”, or in his capacity as the creator of Channel Four’s ace reality telly/zombie mash-up, “Dead Set”. He’s also one of the few Guardian columnists whose byline I actively seek in the paper, chiefly as he never loses a chance to integrate games and gaming into the papers’ general arts conversation.

His latest column tackles “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” intelligently and asks a simple question that has probably occurred to most games players at one time or another:

Why am I playing this game, when the protagonist is such a weapons-grade tool?“.

Yes, he's got a mohican haircut. In the Military FPS genre, this passes for characterisation...

So often in games, movies and novels set in this genre, we’re asked to accept at face value that we should identify with characters whose sole notable feature is an ability to field-strip an assault rifle blindfolded and to p spout inane, frat-boy one-liners largely inspired by the killing of enemy combatants, the inevitable, imminent slaughter of said enemy combatants or the destructive force of the military hardware which will be used to wipe enemy combatants from the very face of the planet.

It’s all a bit dull, really – and it’s where I can’t get excited by the “Battlefield” and “Call of Duty” games. I don’t want to be these guys, so the idea of slogging through a five-to-six hour campaign in the company of people who’ve read too many Jack Ryan novels and taken them far too seriously isn’t exactly my mug of Senseo.

I’m not saying that all game protagonists must henceforth be replaced by variations on this guy:

The bard of self-deprecating urbane whimsy

But wouldn’t it be more interesting to play one of these games with a protagonist who isn’t built like a brick outbuilding and whose sole interaction with the world is to pepper it with bullets, knife slashes and tactical nukes?

I realise the irony of saying this given my preference for the bald-headed, space marine genre of third-person action games but there again, I don’t want to be those characters, either.

If games are supposed to be offering me wish-fulfilment and an escape from the pressures of the real world, they’re doing a bang-up job on the second point and a piss-poor job on the first part.

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