Black Ops III often borders on the intangible and avant-garde, but only because warfare has evolved so rapidly that it seems unreal and fictional. Soldiers and terrorists hacking into and controlling armed robots is not merely action spectacle, but a fearful reality. Evoking the language of videogames, the real human targets of drone warfare are marked and dehumanized as “objectives.” Data is compiled for self-learning algorithms to react more quickly on the battlefield. Such technological developments suggest a modern war zone that is no longer recognizable as a straightforward conflict between human bodies; experimental media and mechanics have obfuscated once clearer lines in the battleground. Black Ops III responds to this changing face of the military, directing conflict inward towards a cognitive battlefield that allegorizes these new digital front lines. Gone are the transnational campaigns across borders and against specific countries and military bodies, instead pitting the player against more obscure entities often left unseen and potentially nonexistent. By setting sequences in the simulated space created by the player-character’s direct neural interface (DNI), the game interiorizes its action and thus renders it suspect as scenes are filtered through the haziness of memory, trauma, grief, and mental breakdown.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.