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Controversies surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. Released worldwide on November 10, 2009, it generated several controversies. In the game's fourth level, "No Russian", the player controls an undercover CIA agent who participates in a mass shooting at a Moscow airport to gain the trust of a Russian terrorist group. This level was largely criticized for allowing players to partake in a terrorist attack, and international versions of the game were subject to censorship due to the level's content. Allegations of homophobic content arose when Infinity Ward released a video titled "Fight Against Grenade Spam". Some video game journalists chastised the video's use of profanity, and that the video's title forms the acronym F.A.G.S., a pejorative for gay people. In response, Infinity Ward removed the video from YouTube. An easter egg referencing the United States policy "don't ask, don't tell" was also seen as homophobic, though most journalists belittled these allegations. The Windows version of the game was also met with criticism from players, when it was revealed that the game would not support dedicated servers among a litany of other changes. Windows players created an online petition to allow for dedicated servers, receiving over 150,000 signatures in ten days. However, despite these controversies, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 grossed $310 million in its first day of release.

"No Russian"

In "No Russian", the player can shoot at a group of civilians at an airport.

In the game's fourth mission, "No Russian", the player controls an undercover CIA operative, Joseph Allen, who participates in a mass shooting at a Moscow airport to gain the trust of a Russian terrorist group.[1][2] It begins with the player exiting from an elevator with four other gunmen, who proceed to open fire on a large group of civilians at a security checkpoint.[1] The player then accompanies the gunmen as they assault the airport, killing any civilians. The level is very graphic, as screams can be heard throughout, and the injured crawl away leaving blood trails.[3] However, the player is never forced to partake in the massacre, and may instead let their comrades kill the civilians. The only legitimate targets are lightly armed security personnel within the airport terminal, and a group of more heavily armed FSB members who are deployed on the tarmac. If the player does not feel comfortable during the level, they are allowed to skip to the next level with no penalties.[4] A warning before the campaign also notifies players that there is disturbing material, at which point they can either elect to go ahead with the mission anyway or skip it.

Prior to the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, footage taken from the "No Russian" level was leaked on the Internet.[5] Though some journalists were cautious towards the level's content, they decided to wait until they could actually play the level to judge its merits.[3][6][7] After the game's release, "No Russian" was largely criticized for allowing players to partake in a terrorist attack. Vince Horiuchi of The Salt Lake Tribune felt that the level was in poor taste following the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and questioned why the level couldn't have been told through a non-interactive cutscene.[8] Marc Cieslak of BBC News was saddened by "No Russian", as he felt it disproved his theory that the video game industry had "grown up".[9] Several prominent British religious leaders condemned "No Russian": Alexander Goldberg of the London Jewish Forum was worried that children would play the level; Fazan Mohammed of the British Muslim Forum described the level as an intimate experience of enacting terrorism; and Stephen Lowe, the retired Bishop of Hulme, felt that the level was "sickening".[10] Due to the graphic content featured in "No Russian", Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was subject to censorship in international versions of the game, including the entire removal of the level from the Russian version.[11][12]

Allegations of homophobic content

In October 2009, Infinity Ward posted a video titled "Fight Against Grenade Spam" on YouTube. In the video, professional baseball player Cole Hamels delivers a public service announcement that advocates against the use of grenade spam. Hamels uses profanity in the video, calling grenade spam "for pussies", and says "what the fuck" when he is blown up with grenades.[13][14] Soon after the video was released, it was quickly discovered that the video's title forms the acronym F.A.G.S., which is a pejorative term against gay people.[15] Phillip Kollar of Game Informer criticized that the title's acronym and use of profanity, and felt that Infinity Ward was condoning homophobic slurs.[16] Freelance journalist Mitchell Dyer echoed Kollar's statement, and commented that the video "seems to enforce the asshole-ry" of homophobic slurs.[17] In response to the backlash, Infinity Ward community manager Robert Bowling remarked that while the video was intended to be a social commentary joke, he understood why people found it offensive, and removed the video from YouTube.[15]

Further allegations of homophobic content arose when a easter egg was discovered in the game's opening tutorial level. If the player remains idle for a brief period of time, they are able to hear one soldier ask another soldier about his sexuality, and then remark "don't ask, don't tell".[18][19] This easter egg references the United States policy "Don't ask, don't tell", which prevented openly gay people from serving in the United States Armed Forces.[20] Unlike the "Fight Against Grenade Spam" video, few journalists commented on the easter egg. Jim Sterling of Destructoid felt that the easter egg was "too silly/stupid" for him to be angry at,[18] while James Sherwood of The Register commented that people were trying to generate controversy over unimportant dialogue.[19] Lyle Masaki of Logo TV's deemed the easter egg to be homophobic, but not representative of the game as a whole.[21]

Criticism of the Windows version

In a webcast conducted prior to the game's release, Bowling revealed that the Windows version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would not support dedicated servers, and would instead be powered by the IWNet server.[22] Infinity Ward would go on to state that the Windows version would also lack console commands, not support multiplayer matches larger than 18 players, and the inability for players to ban other players who are cheating.[23] These decisions angered many Windows gamers, with Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica commenting: "at launch, this will be one of the most locked-down, inflexible, and gamer-unfriendly game ever created."[23] An online petition was created to have Infinity Ward allow dedicated servers, which surpassed 150,000 signatures in ten days.[24] Additionally, users on submitted over 125 one-star reviews for the Windows version of the game.[25] Mike Griffiths, CEO of Activision, stated that while Infinity Ward was aware of the petition, they weren't overly worried. He commented that IWNet would allow for a "friendly consumer experience", and that the benefits outweighed the negatives.[26] Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would go on to sell more than 4.7 million copies and gross $310 million in the United States and United Kingdom in its first day of release.[27] According to Bowling, while only 3% of the game's sales came from the Windows version, it still outsold the Windows version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in its first week.[28]

Favela multiplayer map controversy

In October 2012, the multiplayer map Favela, set in Brazil, was temporarily removed from the game following complaints by Muslim gamers over the inclusion of a photo framed with sacred text in a bathroom above a toilet, an act that was seen as disrespectful by the Muslim community. Activision was quick to issue a statement stating that the image and other similar images included in their "game libraries" will be dealt with. The text was also removed from the then-under development Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game. Following the patch, the frame was completely blackened.[29][30][31][32][33]


  1. ^ a b Payne, Matthew (April 2016). "The First-Personal Shooter". Playing War: Military Video Games After 9/11. New York University Press. p. 80. 
  2. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (March 15, 2011). "Call of Duty No Russian actors "tearful"". Eurogamer. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Peckham, Matt (November 2, 2009). "Is Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Terrorist Gameplay Artful?". PC World. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  4. ^ Klepek, Patrick (October 23, 2015). "That Time Call of Duty Let You Shoot Up An Airport". Kotaku. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  5. ^ Thorsen, Tor (October 29, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 massacre 'not representative of overall experience' - Activision". GameSpot. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  6. ^ Hoggins, Tom (October 29, 2009). "Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 leaked footage analysis". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ Wildgoose, David (November 2, 2009). "Monday Musings: War Games". Kotaku Australia. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  8. ^ Horiuchi, Vince (November 16, 2009). "Oh My Tech: 'Call of Duty' has troubling scene". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved December 12, 2009. 
  9. ^ Orry, James (November 10, 2009). "BBC reporter 'saddened' but not 'shocked' by MW2". Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  10. ^ Ingham, Tim (November 16, 2009). "Religious leaders slam Modern Warfare 2". The Market for Computer & Video Games. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  11. ^ Welsh, Oli (November 17, 2009). "Activision chose to censor Russian MW2". Eurogamer. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  12. ^ Ashcraft, Brian (December 9, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 Censored In Japan". Kotaku. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  13. ^ Sarkar, Samit (October 30, 2009). "Cole Hamels: 'Pussies' use random MW2 grenades (Update)". Destructoid. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  14. ^ Good, Owen (October 30, 2009). "Cole Hamels Reminds You That Grenades are "for Pussies"". Kotaku. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Graft, Kris (November 2, 2009). "Infinity Ward Pulls Modern Warfare 2 Video Amid Criticism". Gamasutra. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ Good, Owen (November 1, 2009). "Infinity Ward Removes Modern Warfare 2 "F.A.G.S." Video". Kotaku. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  17. ^ Sarkar, Samit (October 31, 2016). "Infinity Ward pulls MW2 Hamels video after Internet furor". Destructoid. Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Sterling, Jim (December 2, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 has a homophobic Easter egg!?". Destructoid. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Sherwood, James (December 9, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 hit by anti-gay claim". The Register. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  20. ^ Bumiller, Elizabeth (July 22, 2011). "Obama Ends 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  21. ^ Masaki, Lyle (December 9, 2009). "What does a homophobic joke tell us about "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2"?". Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  22. ^ Robinson, Martin (October 19, 2009). "No Dedicated Servers For PC MW2". IGN. Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Kuchera, Ben (November 5, 2009). "PC Modern Warfare 2: it's much worse than you thought". Ars Technica. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  24. ^ Thompson, Michael (October 29, 2016). "Modern Warfare 2: the case for the dedicated server". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  25. ^ Pereira, Chris (October 21, 2009). "Why Do PC Gamers Hate Modern Warfare 2's New Matchmaking System?". Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  26. ^ Martin, Matt (November 5, 2009). "Activision "not overly concerned" by MW2 PC complaints". Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  27. ^ Orry, James (November 12, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 sells 4.7 million day one in US and UK". Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  28. ^ Plunkett, Luke (November 11, 2009). "Modern Warfare 2 Selling Just Fine On PC". Kotaku. Retrieved August 5, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Modern Warfare 2 Map Removed Following Controversy - IGN". Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
  30. ^ "Controversial MW2 Favela Map removed after Protest from Muslim Community". Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
  31. ^ Plunkett, Luke. "Modern Warfare Map Removed After Complaints From Muslim Gamers". Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
  32. ^ "Modern Warfare 2 map taken down after controversy over Islamic imagery". Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
  33. ^ "MW2: Favela map edited to remove offensive material, returns to multiplayer | VG247". Retrieved 2017-06-25. 
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