The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

I can’t play Call of Duty anymore

This is not an argument that video games cause violence, or that they don’t. They do, however,  normalize and desensitize you to it. Growing up, I played various video games including Minecraft, Counterstrike, and of course Call of Duty. 

While I don’t consider myself a violent person, I’ve always been fond of games, especially first-person shooters that encourage teamwork and coordination. While Call of Duty has aspects of that, it also contains Kill-streaks, which give access to weapons or vehicles by killing multiple people in a row without dying. 

One of them, white phosphorus, levels the map, suffocating and igniting all players in the play area and killing them over a span of a few seconds. Playing Call of Duty was the first time I had heard about white phosphorus, and it was not until college that I learned about how it is used in real conflicts in real-time, with U.S. tax dollars.

 While not considered a chemical weapon, as well as not being banned, its usage in military conflicts is restricted by international humanitarian law. For example, in 2008 and 2009, Human Rights Watch documented and analyzed Israel’s usage of white phosphorus on three occasions over a 22 day period in Gaza.

According to the report, “The consistent use of air-burst white phosphorus instead of smoke projectiles, especially where no Israeli forces were on the ground, strongly suggests that the IDF was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities, but rather for its incendiary effect.”

In 2008-2009, “The Israeli government and IDF officials have repeatedly blamed Hamas for using civilians as “human shields” and for fighting from civilian objects.” Human Rights Watch found no evidence of Hamas using human shields in the area during the timing of the attacks.

These conversations, talking points, weapons, and struggles are not new. White phosphorus again made its appearance in media circles following the events of October 7th. On Oct. 31, Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab “Verified a video showing artillery-dispersed smoke plumes, consistent with white phosphorus munitions, on 16 October in Dhayra.”

Communication and media studies major Ethan Humphreys grew up playing mainly Spider-Man series on his PlayStation, and whatever movie adaptation games were around at the time. Humphreys first got introduced to Call of Duty at the boys and girls club they attended when watching the older kids surrounding the TV.

“There’s a lot of kill-streaks that are things that I will remember forever that I did not know of in real life; an AC-130, [attack] helicopters, sentry guns, [and] even a care package,” said Humphreys.

Humphreys didn’t even know what a care package was, other than in girls or boy scouts.

“People who play those games are going to learn vocabulary they’d never be familiar with unless they were in the army,” said Humphreys, “I didn’t really get [Call of Duty] at first, because I like to see my character when I’m playing a game for some reason, but it was fun.”

Call of Duty being a first-person perspective game offered a much more immersive experience than Humphreys was used to. “When you look at air striking in a video game it’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m just looking at little tiny white silhouettes just disappearing on my screen, but I didn’t know when I was younger, that that is exactly what it looks like when you’re actually doing airstrikes in real life – they’re just ants on a screen,” Humphreys continued. 

Humphreys stressed how this dehumanizes people on the ground, making it easier for the people in the military to push that button, or in other words, to kill.

“For students; I don’t want them to feel like bad people if they’re playing a violent video game. But I hope that they come to understand that it can desensitize them to the real thing.”

Minecraft diamonds and white phosphorus in Call of Duty and Minecraft, have two very important things in common: They are rewards for the player’s motivational spirit and ‘hard work’. For diamonds, it is mining for hours, and for white phosphorus, it is killing anything that moves on your screen, for as long as you live. No hesitation.

I just can’t boot up a game with my friends when the games I’m playing use the same real-time weapons to kill Palestinians, let alone anyone. There will be a generation of people who will instantly think of the Call of Duty kill-streak or power-up when hearing of white phosphorus; rather than the horror stories of mothers who have seen their children burning alive in front of them.

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About the Contributor
Albert Levine
Albert Levine, Staff Writer
Albert Levine is a third year communication studies major at Sonoma State.
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