After three years of anticipation, the wait is officially over for the latest Call of Duty: Black Ops. This recent release, which can be played on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, is sure to be at the top of many teens’ Christmas lists this season and has received mostly positive reviews from those who have already purchased the video game. However, there is another aspect to Black Ops III that has been kept in the dark until one mother, Georgette Quintero, brought it to our attention.
Quintero bought the video game a few weeks ago, almost immediately after the November 6th release, for her 12 and 16 year-old boys, who are avid fans of the Call of Duty series. After playing for a mere five minutes, her 16-year old explained, “We have to return the game, they ruined it mom.” Quintero went to see what her son was referring to and noticed a sexually suggestive scene in which a scantily clad woman approached a man sitting on a bed. The woman subsequently got on top of him and the two proceeded to grind sexually, potentially implying intercourse.
In addition to reaching out to NCOSE, Quintero wrote a letter to Treyarch, the developers of Black Ops III and returned the game to her local Game Stop. In the letter, she details the lack of admission to the sexual nature of the game—the mature rating of video games is required to disclose any sexual content, innuendos, or situations. And disregarding such content is “not only misleading to unsuspecting parents, but it is also a violation of ESRB standards.”
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings provide detailed information about the content of video games and apps so that their consumers, especially parents, can be informed before purchasing. These ratings consist of three parts: rating categories (age appropriateness), content descriptors, and interactive elements (i.e. users’ ability to interact, sharing of users’ location with others). There are many content descriptors that reference sexual material, such as Nudity and Sexual Violence. However, Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s rating reads: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, and Strong Language, thus completely failing to mention any form of sexual nature in the video game.
Upon further investigation of this scene, the woman is a character known as Jessica Rose:
“She belongs in motion pictures, but instead works as a burlesque dancer at the city’s most ‘upscale’ nightclub – where she inevitably attracts the attention of many powerful men, manipulating their weaknesses and desires for her own ends.”
Apparently, Jessica sought revenge on the press member (the man in scene) who witnessed an affair with her movie producer. She accomplishes this by first seducing him, handcuffing his wrists to the headboard, and beginning to simulate sexually suggestive actions with the press member. In an act of sexualized violence, she then picks up a pair of scissors from the bedside table and stabs him, causing blood to splatter on her face as she grins with delight.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III has two main story lines: Shadows of Evil and The Giant. The scene to which we are referring occurs in Shadows of Evil, which is set in 1942 in Morg City and centers on zombie invasion. Thus, the sexual nature of the game seems superfluous with regard to the overall theme. Clearly, the developers at Treyarch support the pornification of our culture as they had to weasel the concept of sex into an action-packed video game about zombies, whom are not inherently sexy by any means but rather scary. The violence in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, along with all of the sexual undertones, simply reinforces the fact that society associates violence with sex. Additionally, this sexual scene differs from previous ones as it heavily relies on violence—mixing revenge, sex, and BDSM, with the use of the handcuffs and scissors.
Therefore, we at NCOSE are thankful for caring parents such as Quintero who inform us of such pertinent issues in mainstream media. This game, whose ratings directly violate set standards, exposes innocent children and teens to an exploitative and twisted view of human sexuality. Both the developer Treyarch and publisher Activision of Call of Duty: Black Ops III are perpetrators of sexual exploitation and prove that society still has a long way to go with regard to the pornified culture in which we live.