Many of our graduate students have a variety of extracurricular activities and jobs that keep them busy in addition to the scholarly work that they do within the department. Carrie Andersen, currently a doctoral student, is a writer for Kill Screen Magazine, a periodical devoted to video game criticism and cultural analysis. She recently published a piece about the viral marketing strategies underlying the latest release in the popular Call of Duty video game series, an excerpt of which you can read below (and, if you’re inclined, the full version can be found at this link).
The threat technology poses to the future of the military also looms in Ghosts, set in 2023. Once again, a sophisticated military technology—ODIN, a weaponized space station—gets hacked by a collective known as “The Federation.” Once again, the hackers turn technology against American soil. The Federation destroys more than a few U.S. cities, leaving the nation open to social disarray and invasion thanks to an almost entirely crippled military. Chin up, though! Although the military has collapsed, a few surviving soldiers band together and create a paramilitary force known as the “Ghosts.” Cue the revenge fantasy; say farewell to the Federation.
Ghosts is thus ostensibly a classic tale of rugged individualism that has its roots in early American mythology. Think vaunted figures like Theodore Roosevelt, a cowboy-style statesman who would put Dubya to shame. Or Davy Crockett, whose brief shining moment in politics as a U.S. Congressman ended with a huffy departure for the wild frontier of Texas. Such figures—again, heavily mythologized—eschewed working within sluggish, stodgy institutions in favor of manly action exercised through aggression and occasional violence.
A glance at the marketing of Call of Duty: Ghosts suggests that the game can firmly be placed in that continuum of individual prowess, but with a more menacing twist. Here’s where Eminem comes in. After meeting with members of the Call of Duty team and catching a glimpse of Ghosts gameplay footage, Eminem purportedly retooled one of his songs, “Survival,” so that it meshed more cleanly with the game’s narrative. The final music video can be seen on the Call of Duty website, where the rapper performs in front of projections of in-game video footage of guns, soldiers, and death.