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In defense of a video game ad

From Michael Mirasol in Manila

You tweeted an article from the Atlantic blog from a U. S. Army paratrooper who was angered by a TV ad for the video game "Modern Warfare." I can understand how offensive the ad may be to some, especially those who have served in the military and in genuine combat zones. But there are many things missing from the piece you cited and need to be taken into account.

I myself greatly admire the ad, but not because of how it depicts "violence" in the sense that D.B. Grady points out. I enjoyed it because of how it captures a genuine atmosphere and perspective that gamers feel when they immerse themselves in these kind of video games, particularly the aspect of "veterans" and "noobs." Sure the ad is trying to get young people to buy the game by making it look cool, but it also focuses a particular kind of gaming culture were we gaming veterans view greenhorns with much amusement. In that sense, the ad is immensely funny.

Now does that mean that most of us who play "violent" video games aren't sensitive to the realities/horrors of war and those who suffer from it? Far from it. Gamers are no more desensitized to violence any more than moviegoers who enjoy action movies to experience a thrill that they would normally run away from in real life. And video games like Modern Warfare are very capable of making their players experience guilt just as much as seeing moral injustices in a war film.

I will grant that the video game does in some sense trivialize combat experience. Especially now that video games have such incredible capabilities when it comes to mimicking the real thing. But as long as kids can play soldier, cops and robbers, or cowboys and indians, there will always be the need to play "shooters" in one way or another. The advances in technology have made it so much closer to home, thus much more uncomfortable than ever before.

And if we're going to blame video game ads for this, we better include movie trailers, like those for G.I.JOE 2, which could be argued against in the same manner.

The author is a Far-Flung Correspondent for this website. He blogs at
http://www.michaelmirasol.com and tweets at @flipcritic

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