Why we didn’t review Call of Duty: Ghosts
One of the few benefits of being a small community site with no one to answer to (but our own consciences) is that you can make big calls like this one. I hope that even if you don’t agree, you understand.
I would first of all like to thank you for sending me this review copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts. We are very happy that you recognize CalmDownTom.com in your allocation of review code and we commend the hard working men and women who created, produced and marketed this game.
I am very sorry to say we are not willing to feature Call of Duty: Ghosts on our site. As Owner and Editor of CalmDownTom.com, I take full responsibility for this decision. It is mines to make, and I will stand by it.
I realize that this will likely count against us in receiving future Activision releases, and that we will lose out on site traffic as a result of this decision. However, I cannot in good conscience benefit from the advertising revenue and increased popularity that would result from covering this title. This is because I feel that Call of Duty: Ghosts is hateful, that it is potentially damaging to young people’s outlook of the world, and is effectively a propaganda tool that glorifies war and slaughter based on nationality and ethnic race.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some moral crusader who wants to ban this game because it’s needlessly violent or shocking. I think games can and should be free to comment on social, political and societal issues. No, I refuse to cover this game because it depicts a whole nation of people in a cruel and cynical manner that’s both discriminatory, and also damaging to young gamers views of other nations.
With South American acting as a leading light on the world stage for representational democracy and an active, engaged political youth, I cannot countenance a game that characterizes those countries as vengeful, imperialistic and expansionist, and a threat to the USA. Characterizing South America as a potential threat to the USA’s safety is not only inaccurate, it’s an inversion of historical reality. It’s something you could only get away with in videogames (or possibly right wing radio) where you obviously hope gamers are not politically or socially aware enough to realize you are selling them a form of tribalism which can only harm our future hopes for a peaceful world. This may sound like hyperbole, but as the maker of one of the biggest games in the world, you should be aware that you are shaping public opinion with your game, and it seems that you have chosen to use that power to portray millions of South American’s as potential murderers and war criminals.
Now I am aware that this is just a game. It’s just for fun, right?
Well I believe games can be far more than fun, and I believe games writing can be about more than graphics, sound and a score out of ten. I could write a review for Call of Duty: Ghosts and mention my issues with the games politics and story. In this case though, I worry that with any hateful or incendiary media, sometimes it is best to avoid giving it the oxygen of publicity.
Imagining my little site can have any effect on the success of this entertainment behemoth would be monumental hubris on my part. What can I do though? I honestly believe that this games story will measurably make the world a worse place to live in. With this game reaching more young people than any political campaign, it will shape opinion one way or another. And any media product that shows all North American’s as heroic, vengeful and justified in all violence they inflict on the other nations of the world is warping reality and shaping public opinion. It will make young people (who are the biggest demographic for this game) more likely to support expansionist American policies overseas, build up support for war in impoverished countries, and will blind them to the real world consequences of violence.
In previous games in the franchise there has been a veneer of respect for other nations as the antagonists were often not nations, but deranged individuals who were rogue in one way or another. This is not the case in Call of Duty: Ghosts, and as such it depicts other nations as evil simply because they are rivals to the USA as a super power.
I also believe the fans of the series are far smarter and more politically and socially aware than you give them credit for, and this game is dumbed down in all senses, from the gameplay to the theme and story.
Ultimately, games can make us heroes. They can teach us about the world, help us learn new skills and live out our fantasies. We can fly around space, save civilisations, go on adventures and stand strong in the face of evil. The only way I can stand against this evil is to refuse to write about it.