Michael Condrey, the cofounder of Sledgehammer, has spoken about the unfortunate direction that the Call of Duty series has been taking as of late. Condrey was in charge of EA's Visceral Games studio before parting ways with partner Glen Schofield in order to found Sledgehammer Games in 2009.
Over the next nine years, Sledgehammer would develop three games in the series, Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare, and WWII. Venture Beat had the opportunity to chat with Condrey, who expressed the challenge that the studio was currently facing by being "pushed by publishing to be more controversial and ‘darker’ for the sake of headlines."
However, Condrey was absolutely clear in his belief to support the right of artists to create games as they see fit, stating, "I maintain that video games are the most important art form of our time. I respect every developer who strives to deliver their work as an extension or reflection of their artistic vision." Even so, Condrey also states that there needs to be a balance between reality and games in terms of respecting a global community.
Obviously, this relates to the current setup in the Call of Duty series, which is little more than "Western 'heroes' killing 'villains' in the Middle East".
Ultimately, the notion is idealistic but hardly realistic. Companies that wish to undergo a manner of self-censorship exist everywhere. Some do it to not alienate an audience and maximize profits, and some do it with the sensitivities of individuals in mind. However, past that there is nothing that can be done without getting into a discussion of artistic censorship, which is a significantly prickly topic of discussion.
Such censorship is a slippery slope, and certainly there are countries that practice censorship in different ways and towards different ends. For instance, The German Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) in § 86a outlaws "the use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations", § 130 Volksverhetzung "(agitation of the people)," and § 131 "instructions for crimes." As a result, a game that contains swastika flags and/or any depiction of Adolf Hitler is listed alongside racist propaganda pieces. In 2018, this was relaxed within appropriate social adequacy allowances.
China meanwhile polices video games that are not in conformity with the outlook of the government, in a most extreme example of censorship.
The issue with games in the Call of Duty series is that these are pieces of entertainment meant to be consumed by young minds, ones who may not have had the developmental processes established to consider what they consume with a critical eye, which is highly problematic.
If Apu is too culturally insensitive for The Simpsons, should Call of Duty continue to demonize people from the East as generic "villains"?
For now it is not up to us to decide what content is appropriate or not, but we can choose how we use our consumer dollar, which is just as strong a way to vote on how we feel about such portrayals.