So the Call of Duty video game franchise that brought us the infamous “No Russian” mission, where you had to physically remove Russian civilians from an airport – not many complaints of “terrorism simulators” when it’s Russkies who are getting gunned down – now has another offering, in which you as a Syrian rebel fighter need to do combat with Russian gas killing animals.
I submit that sneaking in with stealth, staging a false flag attack (the latest revelations indicate that the OPCW sought to sideline experts who did not go along with the “Assad is responsible” narrative), and escorting White Helmets to the scene would be a more accurate mission scenario for a Syrian rebel.
In fairness, the reactions to that Tweet were highly negative, which reflects the gap between the politically correct Russophobia of video game publishers and rank and file gamers (a gap that is also markedly present in Hollywood).
Anyhow, this led me to wonder: Who is The Enemy in video games? Do Nazis still have that honor, or have we displaced them?
Fortunately, there’s a study by Brandon Valeriano and Philip Habel (2016) just about that:
Digital games are among the most popular forms of entertainment media. Despite their ubiquity, the fields of political science, International Relations, and political communication have generally overlooked the study of digital games. We take up this void by examining the international enemies depicted in combat games – specifically, first-person shooter (FPS) games – which can speak to the process in the construction of international threats in society. Our review of framing the enemy gleans perspectives from multiple disciplines including International Relations, political communication, and digital gaming. Our empirical analysis traces the evolution of images in digital games from 2001 to 2013 to reveal the identity of the enemies and protagonists and to examine the context of the game – including the setting where each game takes place. We find that Russians are a popular form of enemy in FPS games even after considering terrorists as a broad category. Our review of the literature and our empirical analysis together present a foundation for the future study of digital games as a process of framing of enemies and transmission of threats.
The heroes are almost all Americans, where nationality is given. This is unsurprising, since almost a third of the world’s video game development studios are American.
The villains are indeed most often Russians in the best selling games since 2000.
Moreover, we must conclude that white, straight, male Russian moderate ultranationalists such as myself are the most repressed and underprivileged race in the United States.
Consistent with expectations based on the work of Maness and Valeriano (2015), Russians are prevalent enemies. Among real-world threats linked explicitly with a nation-state, Russians dominate FPS with twelve uses, not even eclipsed by the combination of Middle Eastern (six uses) and Latin American (five instances) terrorists. In fact, referring back to Table 1, among the top five games by sales figures, Russian enemies are featured in four – as they are the typical enemy for the Call of Duty series. … Most important for international affairs, Russians appear twelve times as the enemy, either as Russian nationalists or as a re-assertive Russian Federation in alternative reality-based games.
In fairness, I would rather be portrayed as a crazed revanchist than as the mafia hitman + prostitute combo more typical of the 1990s. So I suppose that is an improvement.