Long-time Call of Duty game developer Mohammad Alavi designed Call of Duty IV's famous ghillie suit level and Modern Warfare 2's notorious interactive massacre of civilians, the level called "No Russian."
In a stellar piece about interactive atrocity, game designer Matthew Burns gets Alavi to explain the intent behind that level, a level in which the player is put in a position as an undercover agent to assist or simply watch a terrorist cell of Russians massacre Russian civilians in an airport. The level wasn't designed to create controversy. It wasn't to sell more copies. It was to further the plot, Alavi tells Burns, saying he wanted to: "sell why Russia would attack the U.S., make the player have an emotional connection to the bad guy Makarov, and do that in a memorable and engaging way." He didn't want it to be a movie. He wanted you to feel involved.
Was it fun? No. That's fine with Alavi. "It isn't really relevant whether that makes you enjoy the entertainment experience even more because you're being naughty (à la Grand Theft Auto) or it engrosses you further into the story and makes you resent your actions. What's relevant is that the level managed to make the player feel anything at all."
Alavi doesn't make Call of Duty games anymore. He, along with most of the original Modern Warfare development crew have formed Respawn Entertainment and are well on their way to making a new game that will be published by EA. Burns, meanwhile, has written a terrific essay about the atrocities that game developers have dared to let us experience in modern shooter games. It's a topic we find fascinating here. His piece is highly recommended.