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Infinity Ward says Modern Warfare isn't political, debates how it ever could be

Game's directors stress that upcoming Call of Duty reboot focuses on "thematic things" not current politics

The developers behind this year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare have denied the shooter is political in any way.

In an interview with Game Informer, two directors from the studio artfully dodged the question by turning it into a debate as to what it would take for a game to qualify as political.

"The question 'Is this a political game?' doesn't actually mean anything," said campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff. "Because what does the word 'political' mean to you?

"Do we touch topics that bear a resemblance to the geopolitics of the world we live in today? Hell yeah, because that is the subject matter of Modern Warfare. Are we telling a story that has anything to do with the specific governments of any countries that we're portraying? No. So if you're asking is Trump in the video game? No, he isn't."

Studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki added: "These are the type of questions that have been asked for the last 50 years. We do talk about concepts like colonialism, occupation, independence and freedom. We don't maybe say those words specifically, but that's the realm we're in. You could have a game set in revolutionary America talk about those exact same things."

Minkoff added you could set this year's Modern Warfare in 1980s Afghanistan and still have the same story. He argued that, for a game to be political, it would need to talk about "the exact administrations and governments and events in our world today", whereas Modern Warfare is talking about "thematic things."

He also added that such a title would be told from a specific point of view.

Historically, Call Duty's stories have been told from the same point of view, primarily putting players in the role of US and British forces. Activision has yet to announce campaign details for Modern Warfare -- although Kurosaki recently tweeted that this is "coming soon" -- but has detailed US and British characters that are likely playable and/or allies.

There is also a section in which players take on the role of a child soldier in a war-torn country, already likened to Modern Warfare 2's controversial No Russian level. Comments from the two directors hint that there will be more playable perspectives throughout the campaign.

"In a world where no one is purely good and no one is purely evil, in that big meaty grey area in between, the conflicts that arise out of people wanting to get their way and achieve what they consider victory, the conflicts that result from that -- that's the meat of the conflicts we want to examine," said Kurosaki.

Minkoff added: "We want to present the different perspectives. We don't want to say that one of them is correct.... What we want you to come away with at the end is an understanding of why all these different groups fight, or groups like them, and to have empathy for all of them and what puts them in this situation."

AAA publishers have been actively distancing themselves from any political stance for well over a year now. Ubisoft in particular has been frequently questioned following Far Cry 5's setting of a radicalised US state -- complete with a subtle reference to President Trump -- while its Tom Clancy titles have also come under scrutiny.

The debate has flared up around The Division 2, released earlier this year, although developer Massive's COO Alf Condelius stressed that "we cannot be openly political in our games" back in October.

It's a stance the publisher has taken again and again, especially after the reveal of Watch Dogs Legion, the setting of which has widely been described as a post-Brexit Britain. (Interestingly, while Ubisoft insists this game is not political, creative director Clint Hocking is equally insistent that Legion "has a message for sure.")

Perhaps the campaign reveal for Modern Warfare will shed further light on Minkoff and Kurosaki's claims, but in the meantime it's hard not to see a game that "bears a resemblance to the geopolitics of the world we live in today" ("Hell yeah") as entirely apolitical.

You can watch the interview for yourself below:

Watch on YouTube