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Ghost gets going
on August 25, 2016
Imagining the destruction of American cities, landscapes and monuments is nothing new. It’s been the crux of three previous Call of Duty games. Ghosts is conceptually different in that it imagines waning American power not as the result of some great calamity, but as a natural decline. Yes, there is also a calamity with big explosions, crumbling buildings and the earth splitting and yawning beneath our feet—sure—but Ghosts makes a point out of mentioning that this was only kicking us when we were already down.
Ghosts begins with us already having been defeated. We don’t play a part in defending Las Vegas against invaders, we only see it after the fact, the once-glamorous casinos slowly reclaimed by the sand. We don’t have a chance to repel an attack on LA (at once our cultural goldmine and void); it’s already been reduced to a crater. More importantly, we get to see that, meanwhile, the enemy is celebrating Federation Day with colorful fireworks over Caracas. We get to see the lights exploding and reflecting in the glass high rises that sprouted from its newfound wealth.
The fantasy of Americans as freedom fighters isn’t new either. I’m very fond of Red Dawn’s Wolverines and less so of Homefront, which tried to make a Call of Duty game out of the same movie. But defending the homestead is one thing, taking the fight out of the country and into a foreign, peaceful city is a completely different matter.
Ghosts takes a Call of Duty player, creates a fiction around him where America is put in the position of many of the countries we fight today (weaker than us, defeated from the sky), and allows him to become what we fear. Given the right conditions, maybe he’ll suddenly find himself empathizing with the enemy whose point of view we rarely consider. What better way for a game to engage with and comment on war without coming off as jingoistic?