Wherein we discuss: No Russian, the controversial Modern Warfare 2 level (and the game's subsequent banning in Russia)



You probably already know this, but Modern Warfare 2 has been banned in Russia because of that controversial level, No Russian. In the mission, you, an American soldier in the employ of the CIA, team up with a Russian terrorist who shoots up a fictional Russian airport. At the end of the mission, the Russian terrorist double-crosses you, shooting you and leaving you at the scene of the terrorist attack. This serves as a springboard for the rest of the game, wherein Russia uses the (what they think is) American attack as a pretext for war.


As a response to the level, Russia has recalled all copies all the game. (Here’s the original Russian source.) Infinity Ward has responded by editing the game, the edited version being expected to go on sale within the month (provided the Russian authorities even allow this version).

We’ve talked about the game a little, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the level in question.

It’s very hard to defend the level. In fact, I do wonder who at Infinity Ward thought it’d be a good idea to include such a level. And that Activision gave the level the OK! Did no one anticipate the controversy that would erupt?

I understand people will want to defend the level, and the game, and Infinity Ward (no one’s defending Activision~!), because it’s “your team” that’s being attacked. “Leave video games alone!” And for the record (get it?), I really don’t think any of us here at CrunchGear believe there’s a link between video game violence and real life violence. All of us have played violent video games, from Doom all the way on up, and we’re a bunch of harmless nerds. I wouldn’t know how to fire a gun, or carjack a minivan, or punch someone in the chest and rip out their heart if my life depended on it. Gaming is just a fun thing done to pass the time. No more, no less.

But to hide behind those excuses when it comes to examining No Russian is absurd. You realize that you’re running around an airport in a simulated terror attack, right? That’s different than you playing the role of, say, the Allied forces in WWII, shooting conscripted Wehrmacht soldiers. That’s two armies going at it; a terror attack isn’t even in the same ballpark.

Let’s put it this way: if an Iranian video game developer released a game that put you in the role of a suicide bomber, and had you roll into a mall in the middle of suburban New Jersey, shoot it up, then blow yourself up in the middle of the food court, you don’t think there’d be people in the media freaking out? I can guarantee that Drudge, Hannity, Rush, Beck & Co. would be up in arms over that. And once they’re up in arms, other news outlets would pick it up (because that’s how news works in the country), then we’d be dealing with a truly national story: should we ban the video game that glorifies terrorism, and shows America at its most vulnerable?

So why is Russia any different? Why can’t Russian gamers (and, more importantly, Russian politicians) be angry over the level? They have every right to.

Again, I’m not saying that by playing the level, all of a sudden America’s youth is going to be training how to attack a Russian airport, it’s just the the depiction of of violence is so over-the-top and so unnecessary that you wonder why it was approved in the first place.

So I officially don’t care for the level. I did enjoy the game—it’s a well-done FPS, yes—but don’t think I don’t recognize that I’m getting my kicks playing virtual soldier.

There’s a larger point you can make here, too: what does it say about our society and culture that one of the highest grossing entertainment releases of the year amounts to virtually shooting up airports filled with helpless victims, or where we entertain ourselves by virtually shooting our friends in the face with AK-47s? I’m guilty of this, too, of course, but it’s something to think about.