Call of Duty May be “Pushed by Publishing” to be Controversial

An ex-head of a Call of Duty developer suggests that Call of Duty's publisher may encourage controversy.

Michael Condrey, the former head of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, WWII, and Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games, recently hinted that it might be Activision who pushes for the series to feature controversial content. 

“I respect every developer who strives to deliver their work as an extension or reflection of their artistic vision,” said Condrey in an interview with Venture Beat. “That said, MW seems like a tough challenge for any studio, especially if they are being pushed by publishing to be more controversial and ‘darker’ for the sake of headlines.” 

While Condrey does not state that’s what’s happening with the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, nor does he even outright say that it has happened in the past when his former studio worked on the game. However, he does note that Sledgehammer traditionally tried to create a degree of separation between real-life atrocities and the events of the Call of Duty games the studio worked on. 

“Our efforts on MW3 were focused on storytelling in a universe that dealt with intense conflict but was also very clearly fictional,” said Condrey. “And with WWII our team strived to pay tribute to a conflict like no other…With Advanced Warfare we created a relatable yet fictional antagonist threat with the rise of the PMC (Private Military Company)…The creative challenges of realistic “modern warfare” are complex. Western “heroes” killing “villains” in the Middle East simply isn’t good enough.”

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For those who don’t know, the reason that this subject has been thrust into the spotlight again is due to the reveal of a scene in the upcoming Modern Warfare in which players control a child forced to kill invading soldiers. Naturally, the scene has been described as disturbing, but there are some who feel that the game is going out of its way to stir up controversy similar to what we saw with the infamous “No Russian” level in Modern Warfare 2 and other controversial Call of Duty moments

Could someone in Activision really be pushing the old controversy creates cash philosophy? That seems to be the implication, but it’s hard to definitely draw that conclusion based on what we’ve heard so far. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014