Memory of War. Remembering Hollywood’s Vietnam War in Call of Duty: Black Ops

Anh-Thu Nguyen


The Call of Duty franchise is well-known for its setting in historical warfare and is frequently discussed under the themes of realism or its treatment of history. Whilst this is helpful to address historical inconsistencies and the often-resulting lack of critical perspective on warfare in general, it is perhaps more accurate to refer to Call of Duty as a site of memory. Call of Duty is not interested in an accurate historical retelling of war, rather, it is to evoke cultural memories usually produced by (popular) media related to specific events, repurposing them for entertainment. By analysing Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War through its Vietnam War missions, I explore the formal and narrative qualities of the game to examine what the game chooses to remember. Two key aspects can be found in its gameplay: the game takes on an exclusive U.S.-American perspective on the Vietnam War. Second, Vietnamese characters are largely absent or only exist as enemies. I will then discuss the game’s use of the Vietnam War as a catharsis for its storytelling and how it fails to live up to any subversive potential it has concerning its treatment of memory. This essay will then conclude with final thoughts on how the Vietnam War is remembered in international politics and how its remembrance is also related to intergenerational divides within the Vietnamese diaspora.

Słowa kluczowe: first-person shooter, memory, war, Vietnam War, Hollywood

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