Loath as I am to admit it, I thought about Call of Duty the other day. Usually I try to avoid thinking about that once-great series, which has fallen far from its heyday (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare).
But, upon catching a few seconds of the trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and taking in the evil, megalomaniacal motion-captured Kevin Spacey, I thought about the nature of ‘bad guys’.
In fact, I realised that in the short time I’ve been a gamer, I’ve seen bad guys go from one-pixel blips to highly detailed enemies – and what I was especially surprised by was how they’ve ‘moved with the times’.
People inexperienced with videogaming as a pastime usually ascribe to the typical stereotype of the hobby – anti-social strange people living in their mother’s basement, shouting ‘pew pew’ at a screen. Sure, people like that do exist, but as gaming’s matured into a mainstream pastime, so have the games – and so have the bad guys.
Whereas in my youth, my enemies tended to be animals (Ecco the Dolphin), anthropomorphic mushrooms (Mario games) or enemy helicopters (the Strike series), these days my foes tend to be – often shockingly – human.
Keep your enemies closer
Though human enemies are nothing new, if you use Call of Duty as an example, the maturation of gaming – and its method of reflecting the geopolitical situation in the wider world to build gravitas – become clear.
While we once spent our time in the past, taking on the evil of the Nazi regime, Call of Duty gradually moved on to tackle the tricky subject of terrorism.
By Modern Warfare, the Western world was busily involved in wars all over the Middle East – and it was clear that Infinity Ward was more than aware of this. The plot of Modern Warfare brought the stark reality of war to light in full detail – this wasn’t some historical battle for you to be the hero – this was survival against a committed enemy who didn’t think or fight like you did.
Then, of course, there’s the ever-present threat of weapons of mass destruction. Sure, the West didn’t find anything in Iraq, but the soldiers of Modern Warfare sure did – if you’ve played the game, I’m sure you remember the slow heat death of a nuclear blast.
The thought of that chilling, slow end remains a standout moment in gaming for me.
Later, as the wars continued, the people of the West started to question the morals and ethics of our own leadership.
By Modern Warfare 2, gamers – those who looked away from the incredibly addictive multiplayer – were rightfully distrustful of the government and the military. This was reflected in the plot – and though it was bonkers at points, it still left a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who was even a little distrustful of centralised government.
With the advent of Advanced Warfare, the nature of the ‘bad guy’ has shifted once again. Reflecting the changing nature of warfare itself, the new enemies to be tackled are no longer terrorists or evil man in faraway lands – it’s the growing, unpredictable threat of private military companies – mercenaries by any other name. Men who will fight for the highest bidder.
Sure, I may be generalising, and I’m sure the likes of Blackwater may well have done a lot of good – but exactly what goes on away from prying eyes remains to be seen.
Then, of course, there’s the rapidly shifting political situation in eastern Europe and the South China Seas. Suddenly, the idea of being at war with Russia or China in the real world – as opposed to the situation in Battlefield 4 – doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
I wonder where games – and the bad guys who give gamers something to shoot at – will be in a few years time?
What do you think about the changing nature of videogame bad guys? Leave a comment below.