Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vigils, Videogames and Veterans Day

By Joshua Bottomley

On Thursday November 7th, a candlelight vigil was held at Community Field in North Attleboro, MA, in memory of Kyle Van De Giesen, a Marine Captain who lost his life in Afghanistan the week prior. Capt. Van De Giesen used to roam the grass of the football field in North Attleboro as quarterback of the Red Rocketeers when he was in high school twelve years ago. His old hometown congregated to honor the fallen hero, as well as pray for his 17 month old daughter and the unborn child his widow is expecting in a matter of weeks.

Four days later, a line formed outside North Attleboro’s Gamestop location, a mere three miles from the memorial site. Over 400 people waited in line for hours awaiting the midnight release of the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The day before Veterans Day, the fantasy and reality of war have collided.

The death of yet another US soldier so close to the national holiday intended to honor those who have served in battle is an unfortunate coincidence, but the release of a video game that is based on the slaughter of soldiers, both foreign and domestic, 24 hours prior to said holiday is indeed a cause for question.

Sony and Microsoft, the companies behind Playstation and Xbox are the proponents of a massive marketing campaign, culminating in the release of one of the hottest titles to grace their respective gaming platforms. That is typical business in a capitalistic realm. But to release a war simulation title on the eve of a hallowed day for the serving soldiers of our fare nation, that is barbaric and wrong.

It is a commentary on our society, an example of how much we, as a people, take our soldiers for granted. Many seem to think of Veterans Day as a passé holiday that means time off from their usual day-to-day responsibilities, and not as a sacred time to pay homage to those who have risked their lives to protect our freedoms as Americans. While Capt. Van De Geisen and his fellow patriots are being honored by the few and the proud, many children will be kicking back on their day off from school, celebrating with pixilated bullets. The older class of gamers will be spending their break from the cubicle to bathe in plasma rendered bloodshed, boisterously blowing up avatars of their online buddies.

Art most definitely imitates life, and violent videogames are nothing new, but there is a time and a place for such things. To pick the one Tuesday out of 52 that coincides with a Military holiday to help exploit a Military game, that is despicable, backhanded marketing. The money making decision makers either don’t recognize that without the blood of the soldiers there would be no video games for the public to indulge in, or they just don’t care. As long as the registers keep ringing then all else is quiet on the virtual front.

Unfortunately there will be no repercussions, because there is no fall out publicly and according to, Activision, Call of Duty’s publishing company, reported sales of 4.7 million copies during the first 24 hours of release in the US and UK alone. In a time where so many US citizens want to see the soldiers brought home alive, why are they not lining the streets to protest in the land of the free, or at least to pay their respects to those who have served the home of the brave? Instead they line their couches with the sweat of sloth and privilege that are now the characteristics associated with Americans.


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