Call of Duty: Play or Propaganda?

by | Oct 5, 2021 | Arts & Life

It would be hard to find someone who isn’t familiar with the iconic, best-selling first-person shooter game, Call of Duty (COD). 

With 19 different games released since the beginning of the franchise in 2003, COD is available on nearly every gaming platform there is, including Nintendo DS. 

COD’s primary players are young male-identifying people who hold competitive thrill-seeker and masculine archetypes. The range in the gaming community makes it immensely popular amongst people of all genders and ages, but is it more popular with that specific demographic for a deeper reason?

The game is unlike other big names in the gaming world. There’s the cartoony and colourful Fortnite where players kill each other with comically large guns and do meme dances. Or there are games like BioShock which are grim, but clearly very fantastical.

COD’s realism extends to real world events like World War II and the Cold War. Even the name “Call of Duty” seems to allude to either mandatory military enlistment or the personal need to fight for one’s country. Although the game has British and Soviet campaigns along with its American movement, COD is most popular in the United States, a country known for its patriotism that occasionally borders on the extreme.

The United States has been open about putting military patriotism into Hollywood media in an attempt to influence how the world will view its armed forces. 

In Hollywood, some American movies with U.S. Army scenes have supervision by the Department of Defense in exchange for the use of affordable military vehicles and supplies in movie scenes. The catch is that the supervision isn’t just about making war scenes realistic at a low cost. It’s also about making deals with Hollywood to ensure the U.S. Army is displayed favourably. 

Glen Roberts is the Entertainment Media Chief for the US Army. In a Vice News clip he said that this subtle propaganda will ideally lead to recruitment. Unsurprisingly, this propaganda extends to video games. 

The U.S. Army developed a video game in 2002 called America’s Army. It is intended to recruit soldiers and has nearly as many games as COD. The game was developed by the Army’s chief economist at the time, Colonel Casey Wardynski, and was created with the intention to prospect interested players. 

Even though it has almost had the same run as COD, keeping up with COD’s popularity and familiarity would have been impossible.

As far as research goes, there’s no evidence to prove that COD has any malicious hidden motives like other military media. The franchise, developed by production giant Activision, is so popular that it would be hard to determine a correlation between COD players and army enlistments. 

 In fact, the series has a nonprofit organization called CODE (Call of Duty Endowment) that helps unemployed veterans get back on their feet, which is the opposite of what America’s Army does. COD gamers are encouraged to get involved and donate to the organization. 

Although COD attracts thrill-seeking young men and boys, perhaps it is more of an escape from the real world and harsh expectations of male archetypes rather than an entrance into them.

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