‘That Scene’ from Modern Warfare 2

In which Stewart wonders whether we really needed 'that scene' in the first place...

So, I finished the campaign of Modern Warfare 2. I found it, for the most part, very exciting, adrenaline fuelled, edge of your seat nonsense. Except for one scene, which became infamous just a matter of hours after the game’s release.

The scene in question sees you, in the role of an undercover American operative.  You witness – and can participate in – the massacre of hundreds of holidaymakers at an airport.

It’s disturbing and unsettling. While I’m a huge advocate of breaking down these sort of barriers, I wish the rest of the game’s storyline had actually warranted it.

Instead, following ‘That Scene’, we get a bizarre mess of sub-Tom Clancy cliché’s (n.b. that’s NOT a good thing), pointless sub-missions and almost comical plot twists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – as such.  It does however, make it much harder to argue in the game’s defence, when publicity-hungry MP’s are mounting campaigns to try and snaffle a few votes and increase their public profiles.

It’s analogous to Spinal Tap being reprimanded for their original cover of Smell the Glove (if only the album had been a hit, they might have got away with it.)

The MW2 scene actually felt needless and unnecessary. I’m not saying this in the interests of censorship or ‘decency’.  I’m saying this because I don’t believe it made the game any better.

Would the shower scene from Psycho have been improved with the inclusion of more blatant, graphic violence? Would Sykes’ murder of Nancy in David Lean’s Oliver Twist been more frightening if he’d focussed on the act, rather than the dog cowering from the violence in the corner?

Conversely, the first half hour of Saving Private Ryan wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful without all the flying limbs and entrails. In that case, you could argue, it was necessary to show exactly ‘what happened’.

All I found myself thinking of, when I was ‘experiencing’ the MW2 scene, was the large number of kids who will play this and simply find it ‘fun’. Then they’ll post videos of themselves laughing it up on YouTube, which will then end up on the news. You can stop kidding yourself that this won’t happen, it will.

It’s almost taboo for anyone with an affection for games to say things like this, because it provides extra fuel for gaming’s already vocal opponents to increase their already rampant witch hunt.

The issue for me with with this scene and this game, however, isn’t one of poor taste, or that the game risks ‘corrupting youth’. Rather, it highlighted the need for developers to be sure they can justify the content they’re putting into their games. Because the next time, there’s an incident at an airport which includes guns, ‘that scene’ in Modern Warfare 2 will be rolled out and used as a scapegoat.

The problem is, that in the context of the game itself, there wasn’t really the need to have it in there in the first place…

– Stew (@chicknstu)