Greetings Webtaculators! So we’re almost at Thanksgiving now. Neat! Sorry I didn’t remind everyone to set their clocks last week – at this point though, it would be weird if you missed it, since everything (but your car or oven) does it for you automatically. (If you are using your car or your oven as the only means of time keeping, I don’t know how you’re reading this.) On to the news.
STORY OF THE WEEK (8 min. read)
Why: Because that when two of the heads of two superpowers (China and Russia, one of which is the largest country in the world) don’t show up to a global climate conference, it might not be a global effort. Hey! At least the U.S. seems to be kinda sorta trying now!
ECONOMIC THING OF THE WEEK (4 min. read)
Why: Because Democrats finally passed a pared-back but still monumental infrastructure bill, which is somewhat of a miracle considering half the country’s politicians want to accomplish nothing.
LAW THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
Why: Because Steve Bannon should be launched into the Sun.
TECH THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
Why: Because Web3 promises to be better than the current version of the Internet, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that the people who thrive in these “competition only” takes on humanity tend to not be the best of us. Just read Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story instead. Or hopefully you bought into crypto a few years ago.
SPORTS THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
Why: Because Aaron “Jeopardy” Rodgers got caught lying about his COVID vaccination status, but since he is white, and the NFL’s fan base most likely hates COVID rules as much as he does, he will not be impacted at all. The NFL should be sent into the Sun along with Bannon.
MOVIE THING OF THE WEEK (4 min. read)
Why: Because Eternals is the worst reviewed Marvel movie ever. Which, considering that there are… 26 (?!?!?) of them, is actually really impressive that they’ve all been pretty ok at worst!
MUSIC THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
Why: Because Taylor Swift somehow became one of my favorite artists, and I have no idea how we got here.
ART THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
Why: Because Christopher Walken destroyed an original Banksy tag as part of a TV show. I wonder who gets to own that NFT?
LITERATURE THING OF THE WEEK (long read)
Why: Because my roommate from law school wrote a book about what to do if you don’t pass the Bar exam. Given, he never shared this information with me when it was still relevant to my life, but that’s OK.
VIDEO GAME THING OF THE WEEK (long read)
Why: Because the Call Of Battlefield games (Call of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042, respectively) are out. You would a) already know this happened if you cared about this sort of thing, since both games have been releasing around this time almost annually for just under 20 years, and b) the most recent releases are being regarded as some of the worst in both series to date. However! That’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the issues with storytelling in war games. Does this sound like unnecessary over analysis of something that doesn’t really matter? Maybe! But I am someone who firmly believes that the stories we tell and how we tell them matter a GREAT DEAL, and that poorly telling stories that millions and millions of people around the world are passively taking in could do a lot to influence the way in which they think about either history or our likely future.
Call Of Duty is up first, because it is by far the worst offender. This year, Call of Duty decided to go back to its roots by covering World War II (again). However, instead of actually being a story about any of the literal millions of real people or events that occurred, the story’s creators decided to go and pretend that the Allies had a multi-racial / sex secret ops team of international super soldiers who are trying to stop the creation of the Fourth Reich by Nazis who thought that Hitler was too soft. I hope that none of you are surprised that this never really happened (yes, of course a war video game where the player character gets shot thousands of times and suffers at most a reset while having a kill count in the hundreds is not possible, but that’s not the point).
As a bit of background, the original Call of Duty made its name showing the devastation of real war by taken from the point of view of regular grunts from different theaters of the war, many of whom didn’t live through the game’s end. This was powerful and good story telling, especially for the time. Here, we instead get a whitewashing of the actual problematic history of Allied forces for something that is trying to be palatable for modern sensibilities, but fails catastrophically (again, ignoring the fact that the point is to shoot and kill virtual soldiers). The worst example in this case is the American pilot character who gets shot down in Japan, only to be rescued by the 93rd Division, a very real part of the U.S. Army comprised solely of African-Americans. Of course, their only role in the game gets whittled down to “magical negro” portions, and the (white) player character gets to escape while learning some valuable life lessons about friendship and sacrifice along the way. It’s not good! Another fun screw up is that the Australian character is actually based on a real New Zealand hero – the Kiwis were NOT ok with that.
I am not trying to say telling alternative history takes on recent events is never allowed or good (see Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards for how to do this well, for example). What I am saying is that telling these particular stories AS history is problematic, especially when we are currently in the middle of a very real culture war about history and its very real affects on the modern world. Call of Duty Vanguard could have focused any of the real version of events and told a much more impactful story. Instead, we get a immensely forgettable and bland historical re-write pretending that World War II defeated racism once and for all.
On to Battlefield 2042. Battlefield is a multiplayer only game, so its story matters significantly less, if at all. It’s supposed to be fluffy window dressing to briefly explain why near future soldier wants to fight other near-future soldier, and that’s it. However, this game manages to have almost the complete opposite problem of Call of Duty – here since the future hasn’t happened, the setting could have been anything. Instead, we get a very plausible (and terrifying!) setting where the world essentially falls apart due to global warming, Russia and the US are the only remaining countries left, and everyone else becomes a soldier-of-fortune for those two countries as they battle for dwindling resources. Fighting in a soccer stadium in a near-future Qatar that is buried in sand is TOO REAL. Hell, it is so close to real socio-political problems that the game had to patch itself to get rid of an unintentional reference to a very current conflict. It is hard to find fun in the nihilism that could be just a simulation for where the world finds itself in a few short years.
In summary, just play Halo.
THING YOU SHOULD GET BRIAN OF THE WEEK
What: Replace my knowledge of video games with information that pertains to the California Bar.
Why: Because Brian deserves it.
Managing Editor, Webtacular World
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