Outrage as terrorist game lets players massacre civilians
October 29, 2009 - 3:21PM
A prominent children's lobby group is calling on the Government to review its decision to classify as suitable for 15-year-olds an upcoming video game that allows players to assume the role of a terrorist and shoot innocent civilians in an airport.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a highly realistic shooter title due for release on November 10, is one of the most anticipated games of the year. Its predecessor, Modern Warfare, sold more than 14 million copies worldwide and garnered a slew of "game of the year" awards.
But the game has sparked controversy after leaked footage revealed that, in one of the missions, players can join a group of Russian ultranationalist terrorists and massacre civilians with assault weapons in an airport.
The mission effectively simulates a terrorist attack from a first-person view.
Even gaming publications have expressed concern, with GameSpot saying the scene is "reminiscent of last year's mass killings in Mumbai".
The Classification Board gave the game - available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC - an MA15+ rating this month. Australia is one of the only Western democracies without an adult (R18+) rating for video games.
Jane Roberts, president of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, called on the Classification Board to review its rating decision.
She said even if the game maintained an MA15+ rating it would still be easily accessible by people under 15.
"The consequences of terrorism are just abhorrent in our community and yet here we are with a product that's meant to be passed off as a leisure time activity, actually promoting what most world leaders speak out publicly against," said Roberts, who is also the principal policy officer in Western Australia's Department of Premier and Cabinet.
"We understand that it's a game but ... we're not far off when you look at the images that you could actually put it on a Channel Nine news report and you'd think maybe that is real.
"If that material was on the internet about how to become a terrorist, how to join a group and how to wipe out people - that would be removed because it would not be acceptable."
One of Australia's most ardent campaigners against violent video games and the main reason this country lacks an R18+ rating, South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, said: "Expecting game designers to be responsible by not glorifying terrorism will always lead to disappointment."
Activision, the game's publisher, and its lawyers, have been working frantically to remove all traces of the footage from the web, arguing that it was released illegally before the game had come out. But the company has confirmed the footage is authentic and that the mission is part of the game.
In the report accompanying its decision to give the game an MA15+ rating, the Classification Board said that in the scene: "Several civilians are shot with blood burst bullet wounds; civilian corpses are strewn across the airport floor, often in stylised pools of blood; injured civilians crawl away with lengthy blood trails behind them."
But the Board noted that no post mortem damage can be inflicted on victims and, in other missions in the game, killing a civilian results in mission failure.
Activision said in a statement that the footage was "not representative of the overall gameplay experience". It said players could choose not to play the scene if they found it too confronting.
"Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 features a deep and gripping storyline in which players face off against a terrorist threat dedicated to bringing the world to the brink of collapse," Activision said.
"The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism."
Nicholas Suzor, spokesman for the lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the incident highlighted the need for an R18+ rating for video games.
But he did not believe a video game could breed terrorism. He said previous games such as Counter-Strike have allowed players to assume the role of terrorists.
"Films often show the villain's perspective and, by doing that, they get across the character's story and the heinous nature of people who carry out atrocities. Games, too, are becoming more expressive, and are telling more involved stories," Suzor said.
"We may make an argument that these sorts of topics are not suitable for children, but I don't at all accept that it is unsuitable for adults."
A spokesman for the Classification Board said the Board could not review its own decisions and anyone who wanted the decision reviewed would have to apply to the Classification Review Board.