According to a MintPress News article by Alan MacLeod, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has partnered with the makers of the Call of Duty video game to create military propaganda to further the interests of the US empire. Documents obtained by journalist and researcher Tom Secker using the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the relationship between the DoD and the video game industry is deliberate and highly calculated.
According to the documents, Activision Blizzard and Call of Duty producer Coco Francini was invited to the US Air Force headquarters in Hurlburt Field, Florida to discuss strategies for making the entertainment industry “more credible advocates” for the Air Force. In an email, one officer wrote, “We’ve got a bunch of people working on future blockbusters (think Marvel, Call of Duty, etc.) stoked about this trip!” In another exchange they suggested that the purpose of the meeting was to provide developers with “heavy-hitter” producers with “AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] immersion focused on Special Tactics Airmen and air-to-ground capabilities.” The officer went on to write:
“This is a great opportunity to educate this community and make them more credible advocates for us in the production of any future movies/television productions on the Air Force and our Special Tactics community.”
During the visit, Francini and others viewed demonstrations of CV-22 helicopters and AC-130 planes, both of which were given significant screen time in various Call of Duty games.
Call of Duty’s relationship with the security state is much deeper than what is suggested in this singular interaction. The documents also expose that the United States Marine Corps was directly involved in the development of COD: Modern Warfare 3 and COD 5. In exchange for access to a hovercraft, a tank, and C-130 aircraft licensing, the Marine Corps received positive publicity and propaganda.
Beyond influencing the games, Activision Blizzard’s board is also made up of many former high ranking US officials. One member in particular, Frances Townsend, is a senior counsel member and was, until September 2022, chief compliance officer and executive vice president for corporate affairs. Prior to working at Activision, Townsend was George W. Bush’s senior advisor on terrorism and homeland security and was responsible for conjuring up fear around the “threat” of Al-Qaeda terrorism.
In addition to Townsend, Brian Bulatao, a former US Army captain and chief operating officer for the CIA, currently works for Activision Blizzard as chief administration officer. While acting as chief operating officer, Bulatao was appointed Secretary of State for Management under former President Trump.
It is undeniable that the security state and game developers like Activision are the reason for pro-U.S. propaganda in video games. Moreover, the latest additions to the Call of Duty lineup continue the pattern. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare users must conduct a drone strike against a character named General Ghorbrani. Upon further inspection, the campaign is a very obvious recreation of the Trump administration’s illegal drone strike against Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. This is only one of the many examples of aggressively pro-US propaganda present in the Call of Duty franchise.
Currently, Call of Duty sits as the top-selling first-person shooter war game, giving the security state the opportunity to flood an audience of millions of people with pro-war, pro-military propaganda. Moreover, because the delivery of state propaganda in Call of Duty is often subtle, most players will consume it without a critical perspective while being conditioned for future military conflicts.
As of April 6, 2023, no corporate outlet has covered this story.
Source: Alan MacLeod, “Call of Duty is a Government Psyop: These Documents Prove It,” MintPress News, November 18, 2022.
Student Researcher: Reagan Haynie (Loyola Marymount University)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)