Activision received a lot of attention for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ads starring Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington, but not all of it has been good.
In a recent column for The Atlantic, former U.S. Army Special Operations paratrooper and Afghanistan veteran D.B. Grady called the ad “tasteless,” and added that it “trivializes combat and sanitizes war.”
“[The Modern Warfare 3 ad] is so base and strident that it’s hard to believe that it’s not deliberately offensive,” he argues. Grady goes on to suggest that the game itself isn’t the issue — the simultaneously glorified and simplified depiction of war in the advertising is the real issue.
If this were September 10, 2001, maybe it wouldn’t be quite so bad. Those who are too young to remember Vietnam might indulge in combat fantasies of resting heart rates while rocket-propelled grenades whiz by, and of flinty glares while emptying a magazine into the enemy. But after ten years of constant war, of thousands of amputees and flag-draped coffins, of hundreds of grief-stricken communities, did nobody involved in this commercial raise a hand and say, “You know, this is probably a little crass. Maybe we could just show footage from the game.”
And while Grady acknowledges that the game’s record-breaking sales certainly include more than a few military personnel and veterans — and the fact that the marketing is clearly working — he questions whether now is the right time to make a war zone seem like “a gritty Disneyland.”