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CoD: Modern Warfare Dev Breaks Silence On Controversy

From portraying dead children and dying animals to including an entire child soldier mission, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has courted criticism throughout its development. The White Phosphorus killstreak, a new feature unveiled by Infinity Ward, has once again plunged the game into controversy.

On July 29, Call of Duty proudly shared the return of killstreaks to the franchise, rewards that players can collect after securing a number of kills in a row without dying. The Tweet highlighted three of the killstreaks that would feature in Modern Warfare's multiplayer mode: Juggernaut assault gear, Infantry Assault Vehicle, and White Phosphorus. 

While the first two benefits represent standard fare for the Call of Duty franchise, Twitter erupted in horror and outrage over the inclusion of White Phosphorus, especially as a reward for killing other characters. In the real-world, White Phosphorus, a devastating incendiary weapon that can ignite cloth, skin, and combustibles, has been deployed against both combatants and civilians. The United States in particular has a long, checkered history related to its use. 

"I want to say it horrifies me to think people in the West are so barbaric and desensitised to the most evil forms of violence that white phosphorus is just a fun, cool video game thing," said one user. "Weird that COD is selling itself on "gritty realism" when it makes a war crime a power up," said another.

The developers, who had remained silent about the controversy, weighed in on the topic during an interview with VG247. "Our game is more about two sides, that there is no good guy or bad guy, you play on either one. We're just creating this playground to play on," said multiplayer design director Geoff Smith. According to him, Infinity Ward treats multiplayer as a separate entity from the singleplayer campaign, one that does not provide a commentary on the horrors of war. 

"We had a nuke in the previous games," Smith continued, pointing out that this feature did not draw the same outrage as White Phosphorous. "Maybe people are reacting to the photogrammetry, the more realistic visuals. Maybe if it was more cartoony would that be more acceptable?"