This has been buzzing the gaming channels since the weekend, but this is the first opportunity I've had to write about it for the HASTAC blog. There is a huge controversy over the release of a video promoting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, far and away the biggest title of the year. While MW2 has been stewing in various controversies for a while now, this particular video touches on something close to my heart: sexism and homophobia in the gaming community.
The video is set up as a PSA interrupting in-game play, in which Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels steps out of a Hummer to talk to something close to his heart: random grenades. Getting tagged by a sticky grenade from out of nowhere is undoubtedly frustrating for FPS gamers, and Hamel urges players to avoid using this type of attack because, he warns them, random grenades are "for pussies." Later, we find that he is speaking on behalf of the Fight Against Grenade Spam.
I won't rehash much of the eloquent blogging going on about this topic right now, and I don't need to explain to an academic audience why such remarks are inappropriate. Instead, I'm curious about the really irresponsible behavior that the Internet encourages - or, at the very least, allows to flourish and offers little means of correction.
Robert Bowling is the employee of Infinity Ward responsible for the public endorsement of the video by posting it as a part of their official YouTube channel and Twitter feed. It spread like wildfire, but by the time Bowling had a chance to explain that Infinity Ward did not produce the video or intend it to act as promotional material for the game, it had already been endlessly reproduced by fans who really dig that kind of humor - MW2's core demographic, as Brainy Gamer points out. Instant viral marketing.
I question the sincerity of Bowling's "mistake," not out of any sort of suspicion of his character, but for the simple fact that the timing of the release and mechanics of the Internet ensure that Infinity Ward will walk away from this completely clean. They have a fall guy, they're getting plenty of free publicity and wide distribution of the content, fags and pussies are at the bottom of a list of outrages when they're already being called out for terrorism, and at the end of the day, preorders are locked in. MW2 releases in less than a week, and it has already sold more preorder copies at Gamestop than any in the company's history. There was absolutely nothing for them to lose by releasing this video.
To piggyback off of Brainy Gamer's response to the whole debacle - until gamers AND developers (and sports stars) grow up, we have a frustrating road ahead of us.