The debate over Activision's "Soldier in All of Us" ad continues to swirl as a columnist for The Atlantic calls it a "twisted advertising campaign" that goes way too far toward turning the horrors of real combat into cheap fun and games.
There's been a lot of talk about "There's a Soldier in All of Us," Activision's ad for Call of Duty: Black Ops that puts dozens of normal, average people (and a couple not-so-normal or average) in the middle of a very realistic battlefield, complete with explosions, automatic weapons fire, circling helicopters and more. Pyrotechnically, it's a match for any run-of-the-mill war movie, but the players themselves are clearly having way too much fun. It's a dichotomy that some people find inappropriate.
"This ad equips people with real guns and simulates real-life, no-CGI combat," Sam Machkovech wrote in a column for The Atlantic. "The thud of recoil, the screams of rockets, the dust of explosions... and the look of exasperation on that little, shotgun-wielding girl. The only things missing are the dead bodies on the receiving ends of each bullet and blast."
Machkovech argues that videogames, "even at their highest level of action and violence," are inherently cartoonish and silly affairs. But by simulating real-life combat so closely in the ad, Activision has crossed some sort of line. It has, apparently, made things too real.
"A few years ago, Microsoft decided against airing a similar ad, pasted below. Perhaps they pulled the ad to avoid disrespecting the sensitivities of real combat, but at least their take shared the whimsy and coyness that is inherent with video game battling," he continued. "Activision's ad, on the other hand, comes closer to selling real death than any video game possibly could."
At the risk of over-editorializing, I feel obligated to point out that the ad doesn't feature any dead bodies or horrific trauma that inevitably results from real combat, as Machkovech himself noted, precisely because it's not about real combat. It's an advertisement for a videogame, and while war isn't fun, videogames - including videogames about war - most definitely are. The chubby girl with the door-knocker doesn't look exasperated, she looks exhilarated, because she's obviously having a blast. Which from where I sit is the whole point: War is hell, but "proud noob" Jimmy Kimmel getting knocked on his ass by his own RPG? That's just good times.