Off the back of demonstrations of their latest Call of Duty offering at this June’s E3 gaming trade show, COD: Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer has this week announced that they are going for a ‘hyper-realistic’ feel for the graphics of their new game. Their art-director was widely quoted across the gaming news websites as saying that the company has done “whatever it took to make the game look as photorealistic as possible,” which, as someone who has only ever seen these games in passing (and thus whose opinions and judgements might be bunk, I’m admitting that freely now) seems to be in keeping with the visuals and feel of past Call of Duty games. This is creepy, right?
As a non-CODder, the psychology of this hyper-realistic approach honestly frightens me, especially as gaming technology heads inexorably into the world of virtual reality; google ‘Google Glass’ (use your Google Glass if you’ve got one), or ‘Oculus Rift’ if you’re not yet aware of this trend. Think about it though. Sledgehammer wants players to feel like they are literally shooting a man in the eye. They want you to get totally lost, totally immersed in the game, and to really experience exactly how it feels to explode someone’s head off with a sniper rifle. Why? Why do they want that? If it’s just the money, if it’s just that they know people like to pretend to be soldiers and that this will sell, then they are cynical at best. They’re providing something people want, sure, but why not go into an inherently less death-focused, less trigger-happy industry, like nuclear weapons research or mass-murder? If it’s that they legitimately want people to be able to enjoy fantasising about killing other people in the comfort of their living rooms, then they are as creepy as I have already suggested.
But here’s the thing: I think I’ve worked it out. It’s not the money. It’s not the bloodlust. I know what they’re really up to. And it’s a conspiracy on a grand scale. Forget moon-landing-9/11-David-Icke-the-Queen-is-a-space-lizard stuff. This is the big one. Call of Duty and games like it are preparing the gaming generation for actual, factual warfare.
It’ll start slow. With hyper-realistic graphics, ever more realistic guns, tanks, locales and enemies will become possible. Multiplayer maps and campaign story-lines will stop referencing fictional or unnamed Middle Eastern countries and start to place players directly in Tehran’s Azadi Square or the streets of Pyongyang. Before long, playing Call of Duty will feel like exploring Google Earth using the ‘street view’ feature. Soon after, CODders will have taxi-driver style knowledge of the roads and buildings of Moscow, Baghdad and Islamabad. And then things start to get really sinister.
The distinction between reality and fantasy will become so blurred that players will forget that they are playing a game at all. They’ll be assigned missions in-game like ‘buy a gun’ and they won’t realise that they aren’t walking down a digital street to a digital shop to purchase whatever the latest Kalashnikov variant is. They’ll be actually buying guns. And then they’ll be reporting to actual military bases and flying out to actual foreign countries in actual khaki uniforms. And all of a sudden, their virtual reality headsets and controllers will malfunction and government-trained minders will take the kit away and the game will begin and boom! World War 3. Russia versus the US, with the latter wielding an army of teenage gamers who’ve spent the last three years practising warfare and paying California-based Sledgehammer (probably part of the CIA or something in reality) for the right to do so.
It’s perfect. No-one would notice until it was too late. And consider that the best-selling Call of Duty game sold 28 million copies in total. That’s 28 million extra soldiers at least. They’d win hands down. So I urge you, if you yourself are a Call of Duty player, stop playing the game! Not only is the psychology creepy, but you are liable to be brainwashed, taken over by the US government and forced into a massive global war without even realising. And if I have really uncovered a massive conspiracy, then expect this to be my last ever contribution to Wessex Scene, because they’ll send agents after me. Hold on… what’s that noise? Wait! They’re here already! They’re bashing down the door! Bloody hell, it’s an army of chubby gamers wearing CIA headsets! Quick, turn off your games! Turn off your