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Video Game “Call of Duty” Pushes Russia’s Buttons

As many readers are aware, the Russian government has been on a recent censorship tear, including talk of banning off-color and proudly offensive animated TV imports such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park (oddly, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has already done the same). 

No reason to stop at TV shows.  Today we’re seeing reports that the government has ordered Russian retailers to pull the video game title Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from its shelves while a ban on the game is considered.  The game, which pits players in bloody gunfights in a slew of imaginary international conflict zones, is already being called one of the decade’s most successful product launches – hitting $310 million in one day alone.

cod111609.jpgIt’s not too hard to see what irked the Duma, according to PC Magazine:

Apparently the thematic content of the controversial “No Russian” levelin which players must choose whether to fire on innocent civilians in aMoscow airport managed to escape broad public notice before launch.It’s not clear whether the threatened governmental ban came aboutbecause of the level’s play mechanics (the compulsion to shoot andterrorize innocent civilians) or the fact that you play a CIA agentpretending to be a Russian ultranationalist pretending to be anAmerican terrorist. Presumably someone’s decided Russia comes offlooking badly, and that America comes off looking nobler-than-thou(albeit, per the level in question, pretty single-minded about it).

Yikes … let’s take a second to recognize that this isn’t really a freedom of expression issue. Russiacertainly wouldn’t be the first to call for bans on video games(Hillary Clinton, years before rising to Secretary of State, was once spankedby the Economistfor her proposed censorship of games), but I’m still surprised that thestate would bother calling more attention to such a popular title (no doubt thiswill become one hot item of digital samizdat).  After all, the Kremlinis way ahead of the curve on this one in terms of embedding politics into entertainment products … remember that there’s even a Georgia war game in the works.

But business is business, and I think we can expect the game’s developers to happily reproduce an edited version of the game which could hit shelves in a month.