Modern Warfare 2 airport terror attack stirs controversy

Leaked footage of Modern Warfare 2 has caused an uproar, and prompted a response from the game's publisher.

This screengrab, from footage reportedly leaked from Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2, shows the player seconds before he opens fire on a crowd of civilians at an airport security checkpoint.

More like Media Warfare 2?

For the second time in a month, Modern Warfare 2, a video game set to be released Nov. 10, is in the headlines for its disturbing imagery.

The counterterrorism simulation first raised eyebrows when an ad for it that ran during Monday Night Football showed Washington D.C. in flames after a terrorist attack.

Now new leaked footage of the game is giving more people pause. Publisher Activision said the video was "taken from a copy of game that was obtained illegally and is not representative of the overall gameplay experience."

Disturbing imagery

The clip posted online Wednesday shows the player assuming the role of a terrorist carrying out a calculated attack at an airport. The player joins a team of four terrorists who use automatic weapons and explosives on civilians waiting at a security checkpoint before shooting their way through a terminal.

Activision, in response to concerns that arose from such graphic imagery, issued the following statement:

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. 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.

In addition, Activision said that before starting the game, which is rated Mature by the ESRB, players must pass through a mandatory "check point," a warning that upcoming gameplay may contain "disturbing elements, and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene."

Does it go too far?

Much of the commentary on gaming sites (where Modern Warfare 2 is a highly anticipated title and a favorite for game-of-the-year honors) has defended the game and its publishers. The popular opinion among gamers is basically "people can choose not to play it if they're offended by it." Another popular argument is that this type of atrocity happens every day in the real world, and that not showing it in a video game is just naive. Defenders of violent video games are also quick to point out the weak links between video games and violence in the real-world.

Still, others, like "ferntfactor," who commented at GameSpot, think this part of the game goes too far:

i just saw the video. there's "a line", and i think that line has been crossed with this inclusion. morally, there is an enormous difference between trained combatant vs. combatant and combatant vs. innocent civilians. so this is not just like D-Day or Pearl Harbor scenes. i realize this is reality, and yes, it happens in the world every day, but it's cruel, gutless and sickening, and i think putting players behind the gun in this situation is going too far.

Others, including the game's publisher, point out that games from the Call of Duty series often depict graphic scenes as an attempt to bring out the atrocities of war.

Stopping a leak

Activision's copyright minders are keeping a close eye on video sites across the Web to try to stop copies of the video from getting out, but as usual with the Web, once something's out, it's out.

The original copy of the footage was reportedly first posted to CNN's iReport video site, and has since been removed.

The footage this writer saw was in French, and was recorded from a home TV set that clearly showed its controller-toting owner in its reflection.

A boycott, but not for content

Some were speculating that because of the publicity the game has received surrounding its striking imagery, a protest or boycott by family values organizations would spring up. So far none has, but fans of the game's PC version have proposed one of their own.

The beef springs from Infinity Ward's decision not to allow user-run dedicated servers for online multiplayer gameplay. An online petition reportedly garnered 135,000 signatures, and many have canceled their pre-orders of the game.

Gamer's Nexus user "Lelldorianx"called for upset users to cancel their pre-orders, avoid buying future products from the publisher, and urged them not to talk about the game in an effort to quell publicity.


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