×

Why the New ‘Call of Duty’ Has a Playable Child Soldier Scene

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” is many things — a reboot, an attempt at putting the modern back in “Modern Warfare,” a technical splendor — but above all else, it’s a game that seems to be trying to tackle concerning real-world, modern-day issues through the lens of a first-person shooter.

The notion of military shooters weaving important issues of the day into their narrative is a valiant idea. But it also runs the risk of devaluing the topic it tries to take on.

The issue, one of many, is that the chief mode of interaction in a shooter is to shoot. And asking any more or less of a player is to thrust them into the position of actor,  but with little direction and no script.

So why run the risk?

It sounds as if in the view of Taylor Kurosaki, studio narrative director at Infinity Ward, it wasn’t really a choice.

“When we set out to make this project, we made it very simple for ourselves, what do the words modern warfare represent,” he told Variety in a recent interview. “What defines modern warfare for us, or what do we believe defines it in the world we live in in 2019?

“You are inherently taking on these sensitive topics today more than any other time. The battle lines are not really clearly defined. The warzone is not over there, somewhere in some remote corner of the world, it’s all around us. A busy city center can become a combat zone in a blink of an eye. For a Tier one operator, navigating that world is part and parcel with what we believe modern warfare to be.

“If we only talked about western soldiers fighting in far-flung lands or on domestic counter-terrorism in their homes that would also only tell you half the story. There is a whole group of people where the battle zones are their home and their cities.”

In a presentation earlier this month, Infinity Ward showed off the upcoming game with two missions, both bound to be highly controversial in different ways.

In the first, we say a member of the SAS working his way through a townhome in London killing armed suspected terrorists while avoiding non-combatants, including a mother with a child in her hands.

In the second, we saw Russian soldiers shooting and gassing unarmed civilians as the player controlled a very young girl who eventually stabs and shoots to death several enemies.

I asked Kurosaki why those two particular missions were shown to press and not more classically, Call of Duty missions features soldiers fighting soldiers.

“We had a very short runway to show you some things,” he said. “We couldn’t show you the entire campaign in its entirety and in context so we wanted to make sure what you saw was representative of how different it is from previous titles. The things we didn’t show were moments of joy, levity, and comradery between people working together as a team to make a difference.

“We showed you Farrah’s origin story, where her life was turned upside down, and we showed you that to express how we want to delve into the backstory of these characters to explain their perspective. We weren’t showing you those assets to show how provocative we can be. We were showing you those assets to show that modern war isn’t always pleasant, it’s serious business and it can be kind of messy.”

The other open question is how the game will treat players who do things they shouldn’t as they play through the campaign. Can, for instance, a player deliberately shoot down the mother holding her child in that townhome?

“We don’t allow our players to conduct themselves in a matter inconsistent with how Tier 1 operators are expected to conduct themselves,” Kurosaki said. “If you are Tier 1 and are overzealous or aggressive and responsible for unnecessary harm you can be court-martialed, arrested, you can be prosecuted. We do our own version of that in the game, allies will chastise you and eventually, the game will boot you out of the game.”

The townhome level, he said, is meant to mirror the complex and sometimes confusing situations that real anti-terrorism groups might face.

“It’s a harrowing job, intel is not always perfect and sometimes it does come down to these very very split-second decisions,” he said. “It could be the difference between endangering squadmates, yourself, innocent people, or not succeeding in their mission.”

Ultimately, Kurosaki said that games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” are meant to be empowering at a time when the reality of daily news can be paralyzing to some.

“That’s an outlet we give to our players,” he said.

The same can be said of movies and television shows that tackle the same topics, he added.

“Film and TV get to talk about these concepts,” he said. “We’ve seen these concepts explored in ‘Lone Survivor,’ ‘American Sniper,’ ‘Sicario,’ ‘Hurt Locker,’ ‘Zero Dark 30.’ These films are talking about the vagaries of war. As an audience you can have a level of empathy. The difference with the video game version is that if you really want to empathize with a character and know what it’s like and be in their shoes, why not be in their boots? Experience first hand what modern warfare really means.”

More Gaming

  • Frank Pearce - Blizzard Entertainment

    Blizzard Co-Founder Frank Pearce Exits After 28 Years

    Frank Pearce, one of the three co-founders of game developer Blizzard Entertainment, is leaving the company. The announcement of Pearce’s exit comes less than a year after president Michael Morhaime, another Blizzard co-founder, left the company. J. Allen Brack, executive producer of “World of Warcraft,” took over the position as president of Blizzard. “The time [...]

  • Fortnite Battle Royale

    How 'Fortnite' Fans Can Earn Loot by Watching YouTube Videos

    Epic Games and YouTube have teamed up with a special offer for “Fortnite” players — giving players of the popular battle-royale game rewards when they watch “Fortnite”-premiered content on the video platform. The catch: You have to watch at least 20 minutes of “Fortnite” special content or live esports broadcasts to receive the loot. Under [...]

  • Google Stadia Pro to Include 1

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service to Include Free Monthly Game

    Google has been busy sharing additional details about its upcoming game streaming service Stadia, clearing up some confusion in the process. Stadia’s pro subscription tier, which will cost $10 per month, won’t be a Netflix-type subscription service. However, subscribers will get free games at the rate of about a title per month. That’s according to [...]

  • The Lion King

    'Lion King' VFX Supervisor Rob Legato to Keynote at the 2019 View Conference

    Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of “The Lion King,” “The Addams Family” co-director Conrad Vernon and Baobab Studios’ co-founder and chief creative officer Eric Darnell, director of the VR studio’s Emmy- and Annie-winning VR short “Crow: The Legend,” are rounding out the keynote speakers at this fall’s 20th edition of the View Conference in Turin, [...]

  • Nintendo Switch

    Nintendo Releases Updated Switch With Better Battery

    Nintendo just refreshed its wildly successful Switch game console, but the company isn’t giving existing Switch owners many reasons to upgrade: The renewed game console comes with a better battery that guarantees up to 9 hours of game play, while otherwise sticking with the same design and features of the original Switch. The new model [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    U.S. Consumers to Spend $26 Billion on Music, Video Subscriptions This Year

    U.S. consumers are expected to spend a combined $26 billion on music and video subscription services this year, according to new estimates from the Consumer Technology Association. That’s up from $20.4 billion in 2018, and nearly twice the amount spent on such services in 2017. Propelled by the continued success of Apple Music and Spotify, [...]

  • Gears 5 - Xbox Game Studios

    'Gears 5' Will Exclude Smoking Depictions After Concerns Raised by Youth Anti-Tobacco Org (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Gears 5,” the forthcoming installment in the “Gears of Wars” third-person shooter game franchise, will be a smoke-free establishment. The game, set for Sept. 10 release, comes from Xbox Game Studios and game developer The Coalition. The decision to remove all smoking references from “Gears 5” came after not-for-profit anti-smoking organization Truth Initiative approached Turner, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content