From armchair warriors to Armistice Day. In my previous post I reflected on the irony of a boxing victory coming on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, when we call to mind the consequences of violence. Then I was reminded by a comment of another even greater irony: the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the 10th November, the day before Armistice Day itself. This video game has incredible graphics, the most realistic and life-like gameplay ever. Except, of course, you don’t die. It is warfare for fun.
Contrast this with the scene in Wooton Bassett yesterday, or in Fort Hood. And then there was the execution of the Washington sniper. And then all this ridiculous furore over Gordon Brown’s letter to a deceased soldiers mother, cruelly exploited by The Sun. Could it be that the same people who got all animated over that letter are the same ones sitting down to shoot the baddies from their armchair? The same people applauding the sniper’s execution who are learning sniping from the safety of their X-Box?
I can see the attraction of playing these games. The graphics are incredible, and they are ‘just fun’; it is not real war. I think it pulls you in more than watching a violent film does, as you control the action and pull the triggers, but maybe it is no worse. Maybe. And maybe it does release a latent aggression that many people feel, in a safe and neutral place. Maybe it is no different from the war games boys have played since time began, shooting each other with guns made from broken twigs. Maybe.
Except that the images are so graphic. Even the trailer comes with a “17” certificate and warning of “Blood, Drug References, Intense Violence, Language”. I don’t think this is the way to relax, to chill out. I don‘t think scenes of shooting civilians in airports are helpful, suitable or appropriate. It is, of course, your own choice to do that. And, of course, no-one under 18 will be playing the game (ahem).
I am not saying we should not play any war games. I am simply drawing attention to the complex narratives about warfare going on in the media, and the stories we are learning and telling about what it is all about. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it real? Is it removed? Does it really matter? I hope that across the X-Box live community today, there will be a 2 minute pause at 11am to remember not the toy soldiers, the graphically re-created soldiers, but the actual dead soldiers, the actual dead civilians, the graphic and horrific damage done to human bodies, human communities and human minds. From armchair warriors to Armistice Day. That would be a very modern way of remembering.