Activision publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg feels that while “video games are fictitious popular culture” in the same vein as films, the content included in each are received in a very different manner.
Speaking with Kotaku, Hirshberg said the Modern Warfare series isn’t more exploitative than films such as The Hurt Locker, as each tells a story the makers felt needed to be told. The difference between shooter and movies, Hirshberg feels, is in the way each medium is perceived by the public: films are viewed as artistically interpreting current events, whereas games are seen as exploitative.
“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,” he said. “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.
“The producers didn’t create The Hurt Locker as a public service; they did it to tell a story that they thought needed to be told. It was a piece of entertainment that they sold tickets to and sell DVDs with. 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 the Modern Warfare series has famously pushed the envelope with its content, specifically with the No Russian mission in MW2 and a terrorist attack in MW3 which kills a family walking down the street, Hirshberg said Infinity Ward doesn’t add such scenes for the sake of being provocative. Furthermore, since it’s a game and not a film, it focuses more on the action side of things instead of striving to be a literary interpretation of current events.
“The narrative of Call of Duty has been much more good guys and bad guys, and brotherhood and the journey and the battle,” said Hirshberg. “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.
“We’ve told the stories that the developers want to tell. I don’t think we’ve made choices based on avoiding or aiming for commentary. The story and the characters have unfolded with great intent from our developers. Black Ops is an example where the guys who were really doing the secret stuff during the Cold War intersected with reality a little. Like there was the scene with Castro. There was the scene with President Kennedy. There were moments where it felt like that could have maybe really happened. But, then in the next scene, you’re doing something that couldn’t have really happened.
“So I see that was an example of a new angle on a military adventure story.”
Modern Warfare 3 has been on the market for two weeks, grossing $775 million in its first five days. In it’s first 24-hours on the market, it moved 6.5 million copies in the US and UK alone.