Last Friday, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare developers, Infinity Ward added “splash” screens and recurring Black Lives Matter messaging in-game that players cannot ignore.
The splash message reads: Black Lives Matter.
“Our community is hurting. The systemic inequalities our community experiences are once again center stage. Call of Duty and Infinity Ward stand for equality and inclusion. We stand against the racism and injustice our Black community endures. Until change happens and Black Lives Matter, we will never truly be the community we strive to be.”
Part 2 of the splash message and “message of the day” is this commitment:
In the past week, we saw small businesses, corporate brands, influencers and celebrities make public statements about racial injustice and systemic racism. The vast majority of these statements were made online via Instagram and Twitter. It is difficult to differentiate the sincere from the tone-deaf to the peer-pressured (not to mention those businesses who stay silent).
With the coronavirus pandemic (and all that it entails), the bombardment of negative news on social media and mainstream news outlets, people across the nation are pissed. Let’s tell it like it is- people are pissed and stressed out. The recent virality of innocent African-American deaths, national uncovering of racial injustices and the American government’s response has only stoked that flame into a straight-up dumpster fire. That sentiment is SO prevalent while playing Call of Duty online.
If you have experience playing Call of Duty games in the past 10 years, then you know that, up until this point, online players could pretty much say whatever they want to other players. Often, the content of some players comments border hate-speech and are undeniably intended to be hurtful. Communication between online players typically occurs through external microphones, but can occur through direct messaging, clan tags and usernames.
Growing up in Southern Orange County, many of the other boys I went to school with played video games on Playstation, Xbox, PC etc. My parents were never fond of video games and preferred I spend my time playing outside in the neighborhood, going to different sports practices and studying. When I was 13 and feeling a bit rebellious, I bought my first gaming console without my parents consent with the intent of playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
I played almost every game since, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). I didn’t always use an external microphone, but I bought one in January 2020. I found it useful and overall beneficial as a communication tool while playing certain game modes: Search and Destroy and Cyber Attack. That being said, I immediately witnessed online-bullying including racist comments in the majority of these games. Sometimes, I was on the receiving end of those remarks (my Activision ID used to be daddyredbeard which sparked derogatory comments about red hair and beards). For whatever reason, many men on this online platform take advantage of the loose restrictions on verbal communications to degrade others on a regular basis.
Infinity Ward’s commitment states they are adding additional resources to monitor in-game racism, and I truly hope they follow through. As a current player, I report other players at my discretion, but I’ve historically not been confident any action will be taken. It would be helpful if Infinity Ward followed up with those who have reported other players with an email informing them about the actions taken or not taken. In my opinion, Infinity Ward lacks credibility in combating racism (among other hurtful behaviors) within their community, but they are taking steps in the right direction…so it seems.