A US-produced online game has sparked controversy in Russia, by filming virtual events in Syria. The game shows Russian soldiers committing atrocities against civilians.
Call of Duty is one of the most successful games in the history of video games, with its latest release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019, which was launched in October, raised more than $ 600 million at the opening weekend. More than double the standard weekend achieved by the movie "The Joker".
But it has reacted violently in Russia by giving players the chance to use white phosphorus, an internationally criminal chemical weapon, as well as its portrayal of Russia as an occupying power of a Middle Eastern country.
The game scenario is based on the hero Alex as a CIA agent who goes on a highway in the Middle East, where the word Syria appears on the map, the road to death as the game calls it "bombed by the Russians and killed people trying to escape."
The scenario resembles an incident in the first Gulf War, also called the "Road of Death," when the United States and its allies attacked a large retreating Iraqi convoy on Highway 80, resulting in mass casualties, and later accusations against the US military for using unjustified force.
But this game essentially shows the Russians, not the Americans, as responsible for the killings. This hint of Russian crimes has led to charges against the game producer Activision, where Russian media have criticized the game developer, and Russian journalists and players have condemned the game as purely American propaganda.
But computer games specialists defended the content of the game and criticized what they called the superficial handling of its events without looking at the details.
"I can't be certain that the game promoted that the Russians are bad," says Eric, a computer gaming professional. "I think the goal was to create interesting events. The appropriate medium to promote ideological ideas. "
The media and political circles consider that the contents of the latest version of the game distort the facts, incitement to Russia and its army, and the promotion of terrorism, while others put them in the framework of methods of influence and brainwashing and the consolidation of stereotypes, within the ideological conflict between East and West.
"This unfortunately falls within the framework of the distribution of stereotypes by Western countries, such as Arabs as terrorists, Russians are occupiers and others," said Vitaly Milonov, a member of the Russian State Duma. The image of the American hero, and that everyone is evil except the American and Israeli. "
Russian players appear to have reviewed the game on Metacritic. The game received 8.5 out of ten critics, but many comments condemned the game in Russian.
The developer said in an email statement that it did not consider the events of the game a political statement. She explained that Call of Duty "features three modes of play: multiplayer, special tactical operations, single player, which represent only one part of the game, a fictional story that does not represent real events and does not seek to issue a political statement on any specific conflict or Global power. "