I’ll Only Play Black Ops: Cold War If I Can Shoot Ronald Reagan

I’ve been a Call of Duty player since Modern Warfare 2 – and no, I don’t mean that I’ve kept a casual interest, checking in from time to time. I mean that every single year since 2009, I’ve plopped down $60 (sometimes more) to get my yearly helping of Activision’s jingoistic blockbuster franchise.

In those eleven years, a lot’s happened to the franchise – much of it good. The series wisely started to move away from contemporary conflicts, which it handled with all the poise and grace of a rhinoceros on roller blades. Instead, Activision banked on futuristic warfare for a while, which gave us killer titles like Advanced Warfare, Infinite Warfare, and Super Warfare II Tournament Edition.

Okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point. The series that originally traded in gritty, patriotic recontextualizations of WWII now centered around robot exosuits, wall-running archers, and going to fucking space. It was all very silly and very fun, and I put more time than I care to admit into most of these things. Black Ops 4, in particular, was a game that I played until it felt like there was nothing else to really do.

But last year, Activision had aspirations of going back to their roots – and by “roots,” I mean the first time they rebooted this series with 2007’s original Modern Warfare. The corporate giant took that title, slapped it on a new game, and delivered a modern military thriller that uh… well, it wasn’t that great. Multiplayer was still bang-up, and Warzone has since taken on a life of its own, but there wasn’t really much there for me like there had been in Black Ops 4. The campaign was jingoistic tripe, the combat was less entertaining, and I just straight-up didn’t care for the guns.

I was hopeful, then, that Black Ops returning this year would be exactly what I wanted from the series. Less Zero Dark Thirty propaganda garbage, more fun apolitical  shooting. See, I’m usually all for politics in gaming, but the bad faith re-contextualization of history by a multi-million dollar corporation? Nah, miss me with that, thanks – that’s what I’ve got Assassin’s Creed for!

Unfortunately, Black Ops: Cold War looks to continue on that same trajectory. What I’ve seen from the game’s plot has left me fairly unimpressed, and the beta didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence on the mechanical front. But neither of those are why I’m abstaining from this year’s release – god knows I’ve bought one or two of these things that looked like complete ass.

No, it’s Cold War’s insistence on including Ronald Reagan in its narrative that’s ultimately dissuaded me from picking it up. Reagan is, without a doubt, one of the worst things that’s ever happened to this country. From his systemic slaughter of queer people, to his continued subjugation of black Americans, to his nationalistic rhetoric, to his weird jelly bean fetish… god, do we have all day? There’s just not enough time in the world to explain why Reagan was a terrible president and a pox to his own country.

But it’s especially troubling, to me, to involve Reagan in any story centered on covert military espionage on foreign soil. This was the guy whose decisions helped to train Osama Bin Laden, and who sold arms to terrorists – not exactly a sterling example of good foreign policy. While Black Ops: Cold War might look at Reagan in a more critical light on this front, I just kind of… doubt it? Trailers have spun Reagan as convervatives and liberals have always mythologized him: a patriot who wants to save and unify the world. In the first trailer where the Gipper’s sagging, uncanny valley face pops up, in fact, he implores players to help him save the “free world.” Yikes.

However, I do think there’s a way that they can salvage this. Much in the way that Sniper Elite has let you blow Hitler’s brains out for years at this point, I think it would be a wise move to tweak history just a bit. Instead of just serving Ronny and doing his nefarious bidding without an ounce of introspection, it would be a great narrative decision to have this whole “save the free world” spiel turned on its head. In my opinion, Treyarch needs to take a page from Advanced Warfare’s book and have an endgame twist where your boss is actually the real baddy.

And you know what that means: splattering Ronald Reagan’s rotten brains all over his lacquered Oval Office desk.

Imagine, if you will, one of the franchise’s hallmark breach scenes. Ol’ Ronny’s just sitting at his desk, eating a handful of jelly beans and ignoring Rock Hudson’s calls. He’s smug, comfortable, and unaware of what awaits him in the hallway. Your character, motivated by revenge of some sort, kicks down the door and opens fire, completely tearing apart the Oval Office in a hail of bullets. Reagan’s frail body flies backwards like a ragdoll as he’s torn to ribbons by gunfire, and the impact of your high-caliber big boy gun knocks him backwards out of the White House window.

Perhaps this sounds uniquely cruel or sociopathic, but think about this for just a second. How many times have you done this in Call of Duty? How many leaders have you overthrown? How many fighters have you massacred? Don’t you like the violence? Does it really matter who you’re doing it to anymore, just so long as it feels good? After all, how  much of a difference is there really between shooting Reagan or xXFootSimp420Xx? Not much, in my mind.

So, Activision, the gauntlet is thrown. I know you’re busy rewriting history to make America look good, and consulting with far-right conspiracy theorists to inform the twisted worldview you’re espousing. But you’d make a lot of money, garner a lot of controversy, and make a lot of people happy if you just let us shoot Reagan. Next-gen consoles means next-gen thinking, after all, and what’s more next-gen than shooting bigoted fascists?

Plus, Reagan’s already dead! You’re really just accelerating the process, if anything.

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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.

She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.

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