Over the weekend Infinity Ward unveiled a trailer for Modern Warfare 2 in the middle of the Steelers-Chargers football game. The two-minute ad gave a national audience a gander at a war-torn Washington, D.C.
Too soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?
The Christian Science Monitor thinks so.
Does the game go too far? Is it offensive?
Many on game forums are quick to point out that this is not the first time the US capital has been destroyed on-screen (remember 1997's "Independence Day?" Little green men made kindling of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). And with what's coming out of the gaming industry these days (Grand Theft Auto IV, anyone?) is this any worse? Maybe not. But this is one of the first times such striking imagery has surfaced since 9/11, when the idea of widespread destruction on US soil was suddenly thrust into reality.
As Innovation blogger Amy Farnsworth wrote this summer, games based on current events are seeing something of a surge. But something tells this writer there's something of a difference between a cartoonish Flash game where the object is to try to hit George W. Bush with a shoe, and one in which the destruction of a major US city – in near photo-realistic detail – plays a central role.
It would be easy to point out to writer Andrew Heining that this isn't in fact the first video game to show a destroyed Washington, D.C. since 9/11. Fallout 3 did a marvelous job of that.
But putting that aside, the heart of the argument is that Sunday night's audience, that a national audience isn't prepared yet to deal with images of war and destruction on U.S. soil, even when its fiction.
That's the one of the points of fiction though, isn't it? To be provocative, to deal with modern day issues in a way that gets people to stop and think.
I don't know, the Christian Science Monitor doesn't know, yet what exactly Modern Warfare 2 will be about, how war starts in Washington, D.C., but judging from past games I suspect it will be a meaningful story. I think at the very least that perhaps the Monitor needs to wait until we find out what that story is before it starts attacking its value.
If the imagery of war on U.S. soil is so troublesome, there are plenty of movies, music, books and art that are finished and in the public eye right now for the Monitor to attack. Maybe they should start with them.