Electronic Empire – Orientalism Revisited in the Military Shooter:
Perfectly in line with the tradition of representation described by Graham, the games discussed in this article render or construct the Middle East as a perpetual military frontier where the conflict between American democracy and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is acted out indefinitely. The notion of perpetual war, first outlined by George Orwell in his classic 1984 (1948), suggests that it is in the interest of government that certain wars do not stop. Not only does a perpetual war fuel a nation’s (war) industry indefinitely, it also allows the beleaguered nation to believe that the hostile (but never finally defined) Other is being perpetually contained. Lately, the concept of perpetual war as such has been examined by Tony Cliff (1957), and in relation to American hostilities in the Middle East by critics like Noam Chomsky (Chomsky, 2003). With this concept in mind, the gamer involved in a military shooter set in the Middle East is forever performing this strategic containment of the Other.
Don’t try to sell Call of Duty to us as anti-war:
“When we started this journey almost three years ago,” Sledgehammer co-founder Michael Condry said during the livestream, “it was really [about] wanting to tell a really impactful narrative and story, largely to ensure this sort of conflict doesn’t happen again.”
While you squeegee the spit off your monitor, let’s consider that claim. If CoD:WWII is “largely” about scaring its players straight on modern history, it has an odd way of showing it. The pacifist message is at odds even with the first in-game footage, which mainly glorifies, or at least maintains the idea that WWII was a brutal but noble conflict—hellish and awful, yes, but with “visceral gameplay.” There are flamethrowers backed by opera singers. A man yelling “we had orders!” before being socked in the face. Drums that pound to the beat of gunfire. A logo that slaps the screen and shakes with anticipation for battle.