Political scientist and author P.W. Singer, who served as military adviser to Treyarch on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, tried to steer the development team towards a realistic future of warfare based on current military trends, according to a recent interview with Singer at The Wall Street Journal.
Singer helped Treyarch build the in-game world of 2025, helping to decide its major players and conflicts and what warfare technologies would be available. The cross between the military and entertainment worlds — what Singer calls "militainment" — is historically portrayed in a hyper-realistic and "epic" manner, said Singer, and he cites authors from the ancient Greeks to Hemingway as examples of artistically-portrayed combat.
"They're still a virtualized experience of combat," Singer said. "Just as Homer's depiction of combat was greatly off, so is a videogame's depiction of combat. The fiction world, for obvious reasons, is drawn to telling things in an exciting manner. Well, guess what? Nobody's going to do the videogame about the pentagon officer that got in a train and then made a PowerPoint presentation about the acquisitions budget that day."
Singer argues that militainment is now inspiring the real-world military, with tools and procedures of our world's modern warfare being drawn from war fiction, with the Pokemon-inspired stun weapon as an example.
Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia added that the company drawing from real-world warfare was "inspirational, not directive" for the Call of Duty franchise.
"It's not important for us to make a perfectly realistic game," Lamia said. "It's important for us to make a really awesome game that feels plausibly authentic."
Lamia also noted that some of the series' more fantastical weapons, like giant mechs, are never included without extensive research and some sort of historical justification, and that whether or not these technologies ever become a reality is not important to their use in Call of Duty canon.
"As we come up with this stuff, we actually go back into it and try to justify it ourselves in a fictional, gameplay setting," he said. "So it seems plausible, but it's in service of the gameplay. Whether or not it's ever something that comes into being is irrelevant.
"I think shooters are a really fun form of entertainment," he added. "There are so many people that enjoy it, that find it exciting or challenging or whatever. Why else would we go through the trouble of creating this plausibly authentic fiction?"
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