To celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision will be helping out real-life veterans by establishing a $1m foundation that helps veteran soldiers find jobs.
Unemployment everywhere is on the rise thanks to this blasted "recession" thing that everyone's talking about, but here in the States - and presumably elsewhere as well - it's particularly difficult for veterans to find work, reports the Washington Post, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics' numbers: "The unemployment rate among people who served in the military since 2001 was 11.6 percent in October," which is a bit higher than the national norm.
So, as the biggest war game of all time - of all time (thanks, Kanye) - hits shelves, industry giant Activision-Blizzard is trying to give a bit back to the people who know actual Modern Warfare. "The joblessness rate that [veterans] should have should be far less than the national average, not more," said ActiBlizz CEO (and gamer nemesis) Bobby Kotick. "How do you expect people to actually join the military if when they leave the military they can't integrate back into the free market they're supposed to be protecting?"
With that in mind, the publisher has established the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), a $1m foundation meant to "support other groups that assist veterans with their careers." The CODE board of directors will feature several prominent retired military figures chosen by Kotick & Co., including Army Gen. James "Spider" Marks, who was thankful for the assistance. "The fact that industry can complement the efforts of the government to really provide assistance is wonderful."
Now, to put on my cynicism hat for a moment, the benefits to Activision-Blizzard are obvious. The army is largely composed of 18-to-35-year-old males, which also happens to be the publisher's largest target demographic. Gaming and the military are becoming more and more closely intertwined, as military services use games to recruit and train, and off-duty soldiers are as likely to spend their time playing a round of Halo as they are to do just about anything else.
Taking off the cynicism hat, though... does the fact that there are benefits for Activision (not the least of which is good PR) detract from the act itself? It's still a non-insignificant sum that could have otherwise gone to, say, Modern Warfare 2's advertising budget, and it's being used to help people. Furthermore, the fact that it's establishing a foundation rather than just making a donation means that it would be easy for the company - and others - to donate more when needed. I know we as gamers (and sometimes we in the press) love to demonize Kotick and his company and make them out to be reprobates and villains that would make Darth Vader blush, but I don't think that that means we shouldn't recognize them when they've done something positive for a genuinely good cause.
So good job on this one, Activision. It's worth a bit of a salute all on its own.