Rant: Black Ops 2 Chooses Someone Who Failed The Call Of Duty

When you face low expectations, falling short of them doesn't count for much either. And that's the dirty secret of Call of Duty, which has spent four years solidifying its image as a crass chickenhawk brand thanks to some particularly dumb marketing initiatives. But hiring on Col Oliver North to stump for Black Ops 2 represents a new low.

North is a relic of the decade in which Call of Duty really should have been released: the Rambo 1980s, in which proxy wars were fought with perfect moral clarity by people who funded them without picking up a gun. Call of Duty embodies that repulsive vicariousness; its multiplayer-intensive focus, the kill-die-respawn-kill-die liturgy of the game's main selling point, has led some to argue that it's actually a casual title, considering that there isn't even a metaphorical consequence to death in the game's principal mode of play.

Perhaps they found their perfect spokesman then. North broke the laws of a nation that he, as a United States Marine officer, swore to uphold. In the US, we're continually reminded that servicemembers are foremost loyal to the US Constitution, not necessarily their commanding officers, particularly commanders-in-chief of a different political party. Though North claimed his actions in selling arms through an intermediary to an enemy of the US — Iran, mind you — were known and authorised by his superiors, he lacked the moral code to refuse to carry out actions that benefited a hostile nation and specifically broke a law passed by the US Congress. He is a disgrace as both an officer and a public servant and anyone who looks up to him is a fool who believes liars.

Black Ops 2 may wish to flatter itself by aspiring to a realpolitik story in which you must make decisions that are right but not necessarily legal. After seeing how the original Black Ops handled its singleplayer campaign story, I have little confidence it can deliver anything that sophisticated. The first Black Ops was a noisy, facile, confusing stroll through a series of set pieces and quicktime events that reduced the intrigue of the Cold War's pivotal events to a couple of panels in a GI Joe comic book. If we're going to be peering into the future — into any future influenced by consultation with Oliver North, we'll likely get a self-serving acquittal of his conduct that sings directly from the GOP hymnal.

He is a celebrity. And his presence creates what every marketer wants. A "conversation". Or "buzz" in more mercenary terms. Obviously, I'm writing about North and Call of Duty and a controversy that has two sides, and the net effect may be to recruit partisans to the cause, or even opponents out of curiosity. Robert McNamara, who sent the best and the brightest of my father's generation to die in a war he knew was pointless and unwinnable, cameoed in the first Black Ops, and I'll confess to a morbid fascination with seeing him on the screen. I told Dad, and his response was not so much disgust as it was fascination.

We got here by, similarly, expecting nothing of Call of Duty, by giving it a pass on offensive hype trailers and for the unbelievably stupid "F.A.G.S." Internet promotion for Modern Warfare 2. LOL so what, everyone said. Just a video game. Stop being so offended. And I bought into it a little, knowing that there are, basically, professional victims out there in a culture that is constantly seeking to be offended.

Still, in 2009 I lived with my grandfather — like North, a Marine colonel — helping him recover from a head injury and stroke. Before I moved in, I sold off my copy of Call of Duty: World at War. There was no way in hell he would ever see me playing that in his home. My grandfather was, literally, in a first-person shooter in his youth, and also in Korea, where he damn near died. If Activision really wants to impress me with its steel-eyed understanding of the lawless reality of war, it can try to interpret that in a video game. Because it wasn't entertainment.


Comments

    Great piece, through my own experinces as a merchant seaman, and later through the new lense granted me through my studies in international relations I have come to loath this infantile take on warfare. Just like EA's atempt to leverage SOF 'cred' with the most recent medal of honor, call of duty has lost even the pretense of respect for the subject matter.

    Great piece, through my own experinces as a merchant seaman, and later through the new lense granted me through my studies in international relations I have come to loath this infantile take on warfare. Just like EA's atempt to leverage SOF 'cred' with the most recent medal of honor, call of duty has lost even the pretense of respect for the subject matter.

    Great piece? Hahaha is that a joke? While I don't give a rat's ass about the game franchise itself, this is the most loaded article I've ever seen uploaded here. Good's comments are well and truly laced with vitriol, this is a man who is on a war path, but also happens to have a very public sounding board from which he can shout out his myriad hatreds.

    So basically, this North dude messed up big time in some point in his life - Good's comments however suggest that the guy is one of the biggest war criminals in US history (obviously in not so many words), and that the franchise spits all over any single human being ever involved in war. Yeah, let's add every single action-packed war movie of all time to that list then - Black Hawk Down, Tears of the Sun, et al have a ridiculously large amount to answer for.

    But no, Good has no idea about said things. Call of Duty is the bin Laden of the information age.

    Then, as if his ridiculously biased 'article' (aka 'rant', 'editorial', 'personal hate crime') couldn't get any worse, he then flat-out reveals that he isn't coming from a subjective place here, and that he himself is simply standing up for his Grandfather. Don't get me wrong - in no way, shape or form am I implying that standing up for the horrors that your grandfather had to face is a negative thing; rather, its just something that you should do on your own time, on a personal level. Good however has decided to just make some half-assed Call of Duty hate article that also doubles as a 'I love my Grandpa, Call of Duty is crapping on his legacy" article.

    I can't even keep my own thoughts straight now - all I know is, I'd love to write an article on how much I hate Owen Good's work practices. Oh wait, I kinda just did.

      Yep - the biggest load of crap I've read in a long time.

        Meaculpa- Owen you just got your ass handed back to you mate BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!

      Agreed.
      Best part is that your rant actually stands up as an article, at least in comparison with Ashcraft and Plunkett.

      North sold weapons to Iran; there is no way this man should be a spokesperson for anything. Also, Good talking about his grandfather is an attempt to ask the reader that, honestly, would you play a Call of Duty game in front of a war veteran? I'm also disgusted by the fact that you compare Call of Duty's recent treatment to bin Laden. This either implies that bin Laden was over-criticised or that CoD is rightfully criticised, and that doesn't fit with your argument so it must be the former.

      Now, here's where I agree with you: Good's complaints about CoD not capturing the dangers, trauma and turmoil of war seem heavy-handed. In the old days, people played with army men. They didn't necessarily treat these with respect or explore the turmoil of these little green plastic men. In fact, I can guarantee that 99% of people didn't. Now the same things happen with movies and videogames, and I can't see it being any different. Singling out CoD is ridiculous.

        Of course your wouldn't play a CoD game in front of a war veteran - no questions there. You also wouldn't, however, sell the game just to make sure he never saw the thing.

        Also, I am legitimately sorry if it seemed like I legitimately meant the bin Laden comment - forgot some quotation marks in there, I was meant to be implying that, going by the harsh and heavy-handed tone of Good's article, he seems to be taking this way too seriously. So seriously in fact that he's making Call of Duty out to be an immensely evil war criminal, almost on the scale of bin Laden.

        In other words - it's just an action-packed Summer blockbuster-esque videogame franchise. It sets out to make a crapload of money, show off a heck of a lot of explosions, and play to the masses. Fair enough. But I didn't see people claim that Tears of the Sun, or other similarly toned action flicks, were so offensive that they should be held as filth among the public.

        If you don't like it, don't buy it, don't play it. If you know your grandfather will be offended, don't play it in front of him (duh...). Good evidently must have liked the franchise at some point, as he did buy at least World at War, and yet now he's flying off the handle and knee-jerking all over the place (gotta sell the game so that I don't sully my grandfather's good name!)

          Also, just realised that, at no point, does Good ever link to the offending video in question.

          Really not diggin' this dude... Mark needs some kind of managerial rights on a grand scale! Let's go dictatorship! Purge those dirty US reporters!

          Plunkett, Ashcraft, Good, even Kirkman, send 'em all to lifehacker! Actually no, condemn Ashcraft to bellasugar for crimes against reporting.

            Woops, I realised my term "disgusted" may have been a little hyperbolic, sorry about that. On the whole, I agree with you, actually.

            Anyway, I see what you mean. Yeah, he takes it too seriously as an attack on the army, when in all reality it's more of a plug. Like America's Army and that new movie with Navy Seals playing Navy Seals. And, yeah, I would've liked Good to have actually provided the source.

              Re-reading that, I just realised I called Kirk Hamilton 'Kirkman'. That's kinda sad...

              Also, kinda humorous.

      Thank you! When I saw the "great piece" comment I thought that maybe I was wrong, but I'm glad you agree.
      This is a pretty awful rant.

      Sure, Kotaku is touted as a blog site, but isn't this sort of hate-article inappropriate regardless?

      "So basically, this North dude messed up big time in some point in his life"

      lol. Not a student of history, are we? I think committing what is considered technically high treason is a little more than "messing up".

        There are two different ways to look at that though - North did not commit high treason by design, but rather by default. He was ordered to do what he did; the guy was a moron for blindly following said orders, sure, but they were orders nonetheless.

        So yeah, he messed up. He was an idiot, a flat-out blind fool. But no, he isn't a war criminal, and no, he is far from the greatest offender here.

        Oh, and no, I'm not a 'student of history', as you say. Not many of us are.

          North came up with giving the money earned from selling weapons to Iran to the Contra. He was hardly a blind stooge who was simply following orders.

      Are you kidding? Do some research before ranting. Oliver North IS one of the biggest war criminals in US military history. he isn't just some 'dude', his trial dominated front page news around the world, and contributed heavily to the understanding that America was its own greatest enemy.

    Ah, I see what he did there. He paid out the professional victims out there, then tried to make us all laugh by being one himself, finding reasons why the naughty CODZ have shit on his pop's life.

    Very good, Owen. U R farni

    North seems a bizarre choice for a spokesman/ advocate for anything, but oddly enough I think he fits Black Ops, which introduced the huge greyness of right/wrong in war/international relations, into the usually preachy CoD franchise. Like CoD itself has regurgitated- "History is told by the victors" and The human race conveniently forgets the evils that its heroes have done, as well as the virtuosity of its villains.

    I appreciate that events/ personalities in Black Ops are often fresh in some people's minds and ears, and that sharpens the sting, but it is no less patronising than a Michael Bay film that grosses 100s of millions, or any Dan Brown book. Down Under here in Australia we call it Tall Poppy Syndrome- where something is built up, becomes popular and then chopped down by the same voices that raised it. And this is a country whose greatest "folk hero" is Ned Kelly- a murderous thieving bastard bushranger. We have artistic irony dripping from our pores.

    Entertainment can sometimes elect to teach, but rarely is it going to choose evenhandedness over marketability. Anyone who has played Dynasty/Samurai Warriors and seen a good range of Asian cinema can tell you that historical characters can be portrayed as heroes, fools and/or villains without necessarily infringing on the truth of the history itself. The danger is when people fail to see, or fail to research, the facts and quote Wikipedia, Infinity Ward and Steven Spielberg as gospel. I will play- and probably overplay- CoDBlOps2, but never will I use it to inform my kids on history. That's as criminal as North's sales history.

    I don't think Oliver North is the most terrible person on the planet, but he isn't a hero. He certainly doesn't deserve the fame that he has.

    still gonna buy blops2 hahaha

    This isn't an editorial; it's an outright sanctimonious rant.

      Hence the first word of the title being "Rant".

    "Though North claimed his actions in selling arms through an intermediary to an enemy of the US — Iran, mind you — were known and authorised by his superiors, he lacked the moral code to refuse to carry out actions that benefited a hostile nation and specifically broke a law passed by the US Congress.
    I'm sorry but generally you'd be looking to your commanding officer before you look to some rule that a bunch of politician's have decided."

    I don't know the specific's of North's history but

    Lacked the moral code hey, for all he knew those weapons were part of a larger plan that would have given the US a tactical advantage.

    Like giving them the confidence to attack a target they want, the US could then plan to ambush them en route.

    Hell aren't there stories of the russians being given fake nuclear plans. Since that is likely to get them to blow themselves up instead of us having to do it.

    By selling the weapons they took business away from the previous supplier which could de-stabilize the relationship between them moving forward. It could also have pushed financial pressure onto the regular supplier of those weapons.

    Hell I think I would sleep better if I knew that my enemy was being sold guns that didn't have the power to rip through Bulletproof vest's.

      From what I remember, the sale of weapons was to help the release of US captives in Lebanon somehow, so that was morally grey. He was behind diverting the funds gained to the Contra rebels, however, which, if it was morally grey, was a very, very dark shade.

    it's Call of Duty the equivalent of a hollywood blockbuster. To think that it should hold itself on the same level as a real documentary is just plain foolish. SMH if people learn history via blockbusters

    it's Call of Duty the equivalent of a hollywood blockbuster. To think that it should hold itself on the same level as a real documentary is just plain foolish. SMH if people learn history via blockbusters

    Wow, you sold your copy of a game after you played it and when you moved in with your granddad. You are a true moral hero...

    Article is titled and tagged as a rant. Readers complain that the rant is not an editorial, but a rant. Go figure.
    @Attila: "I lived with my grandfather...helping him recover from a head injury and stroke"

    This is a bit stupid. You put a face to something you can retrospectively look at and tut tut at. You said it yourself - his superiors US MILITARY knew he was doing it. You can't say the peon, the foot soldier is evil just because you can identify him if he was given ORDERS. You know, those orders the military give that end with the faceless "collateral damage". I don't mean to disrespect anyone but I find it to be particularly selfish to say something like "don't show a veteran a war game" when those same veterans probably aided in some way "for the good of the nation" the deaths of other people, human beings, soldiers, civilians, probably through in- or poor-action, deaths of their own friends and comrades. It's a messy world out there and you can't say what is right and wrong just because you have a veteran relative, you're patriotic or because you have a retrospect.

    This morning I was at the train station and this guy blatantly pushed in the line and went ahead of everyone. In retrospect someone should have stepped up and said "hey buddy, **** off" but being there in that situation no one said anything, because we were all tired, grumbling and on our way to work and here was some young punk who we couldn't account for who might have a knife or other weapon, or whose confrontation might hold the line up even more. So rather than step up for the group or as a group no one said anything and let the little **** go because at the time it was easier for everyone to just go with the flow - which is exactly what good soldiers do. They do what they're told, when they told. They don't question their orders. They do what they're told because they've been told to do so by their country of service.

    Am I really seeing fifteen year olds defending war criminal Oliver North on the basis that they like CoD?

    i felt compelled to comment in this article... What a load of ideologically laced crap this piece of gonzo journalism is. I had to stop reading when you found it necessary to invoke the whole Iran/Contra incident in the REVIEW OF A GAME. You should stick to commenting on GAMES, and leave the geopolitical analysis for... students of international studies. What a wank. Esp this line " isn’t even a metaphorical consequence to death in the game’s principal mode of play" - what the hell, perhaps you should regal your readers with an in-depth analysis on the philosophical underpinnings of modern consumerism and what potential effects that may have on the sub-conscious level of human interactions within a defined criteria, making sure to take into account modern developments in the theory and practice of transnational migration patterns whilst also taking into account the mating habits of homo-sapiens on a multitude of different levels.

    @John Quigley - what kind of a up-tight academic applies IR theory to a fricken computer game and takes offence at its "infantile take on warfare." Perhaps a game to your liking would involve sitting on a seat at the UN and trying to pass resolutions about whether to go to war or not. Spend 90% of the game constantly rewriting the letter so it can pass the security council. Perhaps the aim of the game is to give a really good speech about the morality of war or whether liberal or realist IR theory is best suited to understanding the world in which the game is played. Boring!

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