Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Dr Nick Robinson discusses the misrepresentation of historical events in Call of Duty

21 July 2014 |

Associate Professor Nick Robinson comments on the former dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega’s recent upset at being included in the narrative of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which allegedly boosted sales.

The article entitled “Noriega’s beef with Call of Duty, or how US games consistently misrepresent history”, raises concerns that “war games regularly depict historical figures and rescript politically contentious events to retrospectively justify military action”.

Dr Robinson argues that at first sight Noriega has a case. He highlights that when a “football star’s likeness is used in a game they get paid according to legally sanctioned intellectual property rights”. Perhaps this should also be the case for Noriega.

Continuing on it is claimed that this issue runs much deeper than image rights. “Call of Duty: Black Ops II is part of a tradition of games that depict real-life historical figures within real-life historical events to engage with what might be seen as problematic periods of American history”. Whilst this game focuses on the invasions of Panama, its many predecessors encompass the Vietnam War and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Each provides a narrative that justifies American military action”.

The narrative in Black Ops II includes the 1980’s and 2020’s, depicting the US invasion of Panama in 1989, an event which is deemed highly controversial in international law.  Dr Robinson states that this “re-scripting of Noriega’s relationship with the CIA is politically significant given that he was legally prevented from speaking about it during his original defence in the US following his capture in 1989.”

This issue is by no means on isolated incident. Call of Duty: Black Ops which was released two years earlier was similarly embroiled in controversy.

Read the full article online

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