Castle Hill RSL has cancelled a Call of Duty: WW2 eSport tournament, scheduled for Maybe, for being offensive. The Video Gamers League (VGL), who have hosted more than 60 eSports events, were running the tournament. VGL were offering $300 cash prize for local winners until locals took offence to war setting of Call of Duty. The ABC reports that the veterans and ANZACs would find the tournament “distasteful” and “inappropriate”. The tournament was to take place on the 7th and 8th of May. This is less than two weeks after Anzac Day. While the RSL had hosted eSports before, they were happy to remove the promotion. David O’Neil at the Castle Hill RSL says they accepted that “the WWII focus of this promotion is not an appropriate one for an RSL club”.
Was the promotion offensive or did audiences misinterpret it?
The ABC reached out to David Elliot, NSW Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, to find out why he raised concern with his constitutes over the tournament. Elliot, who raised the issue with Paul Toole, NSW Minister for Racing, believed the promotion was distasteful. However his comments suggest a broader problem with the perception of video games. Despite admitting to never playing the game, he believed “Castle Hill RSL is offering up to $300 in prize money if you kill enough people.” From a gaming perspective, this is a serious oversimplification. However, it provides an insight into the average RSL patron’s perspective. Elliot states, “I do think promoting war as entertainment a week after Anzac Day, in front of veterans and war widows is probably just stepping over the line.”
At the heart of this issue is the perception, or misperception, about video games. Call of Duty: WW2 is not celebrating, condemning or insulting war veterans. The tournament and promotion itself was not celebrating, condemning or insulting WW2 either. The focus of the tournament was the community based competition harboured by eSports. As Mr. Elliot states, out of all the entertainment options, an eSports tournament was a “strange” choice for the RSL. Where a live band could sing about Khe Sahn and bring the local community together through music, games as a medium, in this case, are not perceived the same way.
While the promotion was an innocent and potentially successful tournament, the reaction to it highlights the misperceptions that still linger around video games. It wasn’t video games that were the problem, but as Mr. O’Neill said “as an organisation, we support and respect our veteran community and the last thing we’d want to do is to offend anyone,”.