Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Journalists Could Learn a Thing or Two from Call of Duty



Back in June, there was an investigative report on FOX News concerning how America's increasing reliance on drones could present a severe security risk in an age of cyber-warfare.  It is a good report, so give it a quick watch here:


Pretty interesting, right?  But here's the kicker: if you were one of those slack-jawed video gamers, you probably were already well aware of this possibility because of Treyarch's forthcoming title, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.   Remember this from May (i.e., one month prior to the FOX special report)?


But how can this be?  After all, aren't video games all about mindless violence?



One of the reasons why I am such a dedicated gamer is because unlike most of the non-gaming Baby Boomer pundits, I am well aware that games are often a tremendous teaching tool, something I learned back in the '80s when SSI's Reforger 88 opened a whole new world of military history and geopolitics to me. Of course, this realization is nothing new - the idea of gaming as a teaching tool has been around since Chess was first conceived as a highly abstracted wargame some 1400 years ago. 

So why is the media so ignorant about gaming?  Let's be honest here: if Black Ops 2 was the highly anticipated sequel to a blockbuster movie franchise, I would be willing to bet you anything that that FOX segment on rogue drones would have begun with a line like "You've seen them attack in blockbuster movies like Black Ops 2, but could such a thing really happen?"  You know they would!  But because BlOps 2 is 'merely' a game, no one in the media even realizes that Activision/Treyarch were already exploring this possibility in detail long before FOX News happened across it.

Then again...is it possible that the impetus for that story was Black Ops 2?  Let's be honest again: do you think any mainstream journalist would 'fess up to getting a story lead by a lowly video game franchise?  

Probably not.  It clashes with the "video games are bad" mythos that they are so found of promoting.  Not only that, but most journalists sit around the office all day and wait to be faxed/emailed leads anyway, so the genesis of this story probably had more to do with the researchers faxing them about it.  Hey Activision!  Get some BlOps 2 info to FOX stat!

[Who's to say that the researchers weren't put on the rogue drone scent by BlOps 2, for that matter?  Then again, where did Treyarch get the idea from?]

Point is: despite the mainstream media's disdain for this increasingly threatening entertainment competitor, gaming can be just as insightful and informative as any movie or TV special (in fact, given the state of movies and TV, I would say more so).  A long, long time ago gaming crossed over into the realm of edu-tainment, but not in the expected PBS-style that kids naturally eschewed from the get-go.  Rather, gaming, like a good book, learned to communicate its ideas and knowledge without ever stepping on the toes of its entertaining plot.  With that in mind, I expect gamers to be far more prepared to tackle the complexities of the modern era than those who grew up in a pre-gaming world. 

Thanks for catching up to the rest of us, journalists!  Better late than never, I suppose.

Now, about these drones.  Good or bad, they are the wave of the future.  Did you know, for example, that the original plans for the Space Shuttle (now defunct thanks to the incompetence of the US government, NASA, & Al Gore - people forget he was put in charge of picking the new shuttle by Bill Clinton) did not include a spot for pilots?  Yup, it was originally designed to be controlled by computers, but when the Air Force / Navy squawked that the space program was the traditional career capstone for their top pilots, NASA relented. So this has been a long time coming. 

But with drones come some serious issues about not just national security, but privacy.  I mean, when the EPA is planning on using (is using?) drones to spy on American farmers, and DHS is planning on using drones to spy on protestors...well, Big Brother doesn't get any bigger than that.  So, all things considered, drones are a big concern.  Black Ops 2 might be right, maybe "the future is black" after all - at least when it comes to liberty versus tyranny.

"The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse."

 
As for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - I confess I am really looking forward to it.  Even though I am still sore over the "stat reset bug" that was never fixed in the original game, I am willing to put my money at risk again and take another chance on Treyarch.  This is partly because I am becoming a real fan of cyberpunk/near future-themed games.  I mean, I like sci-fi generally, but I find near future sci-fi particularly interesting because it is more grounded in reality than the distant sci-fi that is associated with titles such as Star Wars and Star Trek.  What is more, I confess to being in a torrid love affair with CoD: Modern Warfare 3.  As a Battlefield player, this somewhat surprises me, but credit where credit is due.  There is a competitive e-sport purity to MW3 that transcends what other virtues the Battlefield franchise might possess.  Not only that, MW3 is just packed with gameplay content far in excess of what other games offer (SP campaign, many MP modes, challenges, etc., etc.!).

All things considered, I really don't get the CoD hate that is so common around the intertube these days....

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to follow up with this interesting story:

    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/08/02/court-upholds-domestic-drone-use-in-arrest-of-american-citizen

    "A North Dakota court has preliminarily upheld the first-ever use of an unmanned drone to assist in the arrest of an American citizen."

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