In the midst of all the excitement over the recent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare reveal (Hover-bikes! Frank Underwood!), Activision slipped in something surprisingly somber. The publisher teamed up with VICE Magazine to produce a video that explores troubling trends in the rise of private military corporations (or PMCs) in global affairs.
Although not the first shooter to feature PMCs in recent years, this does mark something of a shift towards a more critical cynicism for a series that has traditionally taken a somewhat “rah-rah ‘Murica!” tone. If the video failed to get you upset enough, they also released this supporting infographic with more depressing numbers:
PMCs have thumbed their nose at the UN convention banning mercenaries, using semantics to wedge open a distressingly transparent loophole while they quietly take over global military operations. The rapid evolution of PR mechanisms over the last few decades may be one of their most effective weapons in this takeover, allowing it to happen with manageable amounts of public outcry. Firms like Blackwater and Titan Corporation have all quietly changed their names in recent years to the much more innocuous Academi and L-3 Communications, respectively, apparently having figured out that their original monikers sounded a bit too much like video game villains to go unnoticed.
While it stands to be seen how this theme will be explored in the game itself, it is encouraging to see a pillar of mainstream gaming attempting to engage with such serious, contemporary issues. Perhaps no amount of discourse will be able to save us now, though, and soon once-mighty nation states will be under the boot of our corpocratic masters. It wouldn’t be the first thing that “Snow Crash” got right.