"Remember, No Russian" - The Lengths Visual Storytelling Will Go To
Video games, being one of the most famous forms of interactive media, have evolved over the years to include complex characters and narratives. These interactive stories allow one to experience and unfold the story at their own pace. One such franchise with a focus on quality storytelling is the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series which spans over three parts, all progressing the narrative in their own ways. The player takes control of multiple characters - US Marines, British SAS, CIA etc. - each with their unique backstories, fighting to prevent war.
The second part of this series released in 2009 puts you in control of an undercover CIA agent, infiltrating the ranks of a Russian terrorist group. Your rite of passage: a massacre at the Moscow Airport. Armed with American weaponry and a cleverly phrased dialogue from the terrorist leader Makarov, "Remember - No Russian", a double entendre, instructing you to not speak Russian and obviously, leave no Russian alive. All this, to make it seem like an American attack and fuel a war with Russia. The mission, albeit optional, slowly takes you through the airport, shooting at innocent civilians and security guards (also optional).
The mission was met with significant controversy, with the Russian version of the game not having the mission at all. Criticisms of its gory portrayal of a terrorist attack where the player is the shooter were countered with developer's aims of achieving realism. With the lead designer saying the mission acted as a catalyst in the larger story and players have the option to skip through it if they found the content disturbing. But to each individual, what qualifies as disturbing and what leads to violence?
The interactive nature of video games and their accessibility to underaged children is exactly why they face such criticisms, but beyond that, the content itself is frequently questioned. Studies on video games and violence have been inconsistent with their methods of experimentation and proving weak correlations between the two. So the question still remains, do instances like the one in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 come under the category of visual storytelling or instruments that increase aggression and consequently, incite violence?