To start with, I put down a reserve on this game early, figuring I liked the first well enough, so this should be OK. I heard a lot about it, but I never would have thought something like this current debate would come up from it. Worth the 5 dollar entry fee. On to the meat and potatoes though:
Games as Art
The first point that I want to make is that we seem to be in a gaming Renaissance, of sorts. Many games are pushing the envelope, starting with violence, nudity, sex scenes, moral choices, innocents, etc. I feel like this is a good push for the medium to earn respect as other mediums do. Movies have scenes involving rape, murder, sacrifice, and on and on, and they have been known to get heated debates.
Throughout history paintings have done the same, pushing what is acceptable, what people will consider painting and what is wrong. Changing from portraits of people to soup cans, from a still life to a splotch an elephant made as a trick. The most important thing about these changes, the scenes in movies, and in videogames is, in my opinion, the discussion that it makes. If a piece of art, a novel, a movie, a song, can be debated as to meaning, as to purpose, if it is even art, then in some way it did something right. I think we have seen from the DToid staff that this debate has two very different sides, each with equal merit. I think in this respect Modern Warfare 2 has achieved a status as being a piece of art, a point of culture that we can look back on, and relate to in the future. For this reason alone, the now infamous airport scene was worth the inclusion.
What is 'Innocent'?
One piece of this debate that bothers me is that people are saying the scene is bad because of innocents, and I started to think: What is innocent? Clearly, the citizens with no protection are innocent. Are the guards innocent? They are just doing their job, so sure. Are the terrorists innocent? One would be hard pressed to argue that, given the current knowledge of the situation. But let us broaden the scope. Who fights in a war? Are they innocent? What if someone was drafted into conflict, and killed people during their stay? Are they not the same as the security guards, just trying to do their job? With this in mind, who is innocent in a war like setting? Could the terrorists be defending their country, just as our army is perceived to be defending ours, by answering the 'call of duty'? Maybe.
On the topic of innocence, I wanted to touch on a few other video game comparisons. First is the GTA comparison. Many people say that in GTA you are also killing innocents, and the argument against that is that you have a choice, and it does not help you progress through the game. First, who in this crime ridden world is innocent (see above)? Second, you rob a bank. You kill cops. You can't run around them. They will kill you. Try to do a mission, and cops will swarm you. Sometimes you can not just run, you must kill. If you want to beat the game, you must kill innocents. But in our minds, I argue, it is more acceptable because we have walked into the role of an antagonist. We know Niko is bad, so his (our) actions are not as reprehensible, because they are expected. In MW2, the actions are against the character of the portrayed good American Soldier. What if you did not play an undercover agent, but instead a Terrorist? What if you had an alternate campaign, where you learned why they were doing this, spent time in his shoes, and ultimately wound up at the same place, killing innocents? Would you feel so violated then?
I also had to say that Fable had a good example of killing innocents. A sub theme of the argument that it is required to progress, is that your violence is rewarded. I wanted to analyze this in Fable a bit. If you want the full gamerscore, you can take violent actions to boost your score. You get directly rewarded. There is a 'moral choice' (the game was pretty black/white as to what was good and evil, but made the decision harder) where you could spare your own characters youth by forcing a woman who you just met to sacrifice hers. I did not see so many blogs about this particular decision, because it is not presented in a believable manner, and is not forced. But I am sure that many people made this choice without second thought for sake of their in game avatar. Not to say 'shame on you', but killing one person to save your own good looks, or killing many people to save many more...either if you have done one then don't do the other or remember that you are playing a video game primarily to be entertained, and that the scene was inserted for that purpose.
Will I Play It?
I figured a few people might ask, and I feel like I will. I think that it will be a memorable experience, and something that you have to go through at least once. I personally will try to play it as an artistic experience more than as an interactive murder simulator (to borrow from Fox news). As a last comment, I have a friend who is a Sociology/Psychology major, who has very little 'know' in the video game world. I attempted to summarize the situation to her as best I could, to get her reaction from it. She gave me a glazed over look, and said something like "So, it's a videogame." So maybe this is just something between us gamers. This comes from the same girl who felt empathy for every pedestrian I ran over, shanked or shot in Grand Theft Auto 4.