As explosions tear apart a downtown Los Angeles freeway, Robert Downey Jr. hovers above the battlefield, guns at the ready in the cockpit of a fighter jet. When the smoke and fire clears, a horde of zombies stumble out of a darkened tunnel to mindlessly pursue the surviving combatants.
It's not the plot of a sci-fi movie, but a commercial for Black Ops 2, the latest iteration in the wildly-popular Call of Duty video game series.
Black Ops 2 is on sale today, but the game's Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board means gamers will have to prove they are at least 17 years old or bring a parent to area retailers to secure a copy.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Daniel Carrieri, 12, of Altoona wasn’t taking any chances and reserved his copy of the new Call of Duty Black Ops II at EB Games in the Logan Valley Mall.
That's because the Call of Duty series is known not only for its award-winning campaign missions and multiplayer, but also for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language - part of the ESRB's justification behind the M rating.
"If you as a parent don't want that kind of violence in your house, then that's a perfectly reasonable decision to make," said Eric Charles, an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Altoona.
For parent Kim Carrieri, the concern is centered mostly on her 12-year-old son Daniel's interactions with strangers while playing the multiplayer features of the game online.
"It's a blood-and-guts-type thing," Kim Carrieri said of the game. "But we had a good talk with him and he's only allowed to play with friends. He knows it's only a video game."
With the help of his mom, Daniel pre-ordered a copy of the game at EB Games on Monday. Daniel said he has about 10 friends who play the Call of Duty games online.
"I just thought Call of Duty was more fun than the other ones," Daniel said, adding that he also plays Madden NFL and other sports games on his PlayStation 3.
While researching the psychological effects of video games on players, Charles said most video games require cognitive skills such as teamwork and problem solving for players to complete missions. But the link to violent video games and violent behavior is still up for debate, he added.
"There's a lot of mixed reactions about the effects of violent games on violent behavior," Charles said. "Research is suggesting there isn't as strong of a link as many people thought," but the effects depend on the content of the games.
In Black Ops 2, the player battles through a first-person shooter with multiple story lines set in the Cold War and a near-future conflict in 2025.
The player typically assumes the role of a "one-man wolfpack" tasked with dispatching an entire enemy army singlehandedly - a "superficial" view of what the military does, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Eichler, a Marine recruiter based in Altoona, said.
"At the end of the day, that's just not what the military is," Eichler said.
Eichler, who was deployed in Afghanistan for seven months in 2011, said he does not play games like Call of Duty.
But Eichler and his fellow Marines are aware of the huge impact the games and movies have on teenagers and young adults. In the past, Eichler said recruiters have attended midnight launch events for the games to generate interest among gamers about joining the military.
But at the end of the day, potential recruits needs to understand military life is far removed from the scenes depicted in video games, he said.
"It's a fake deception of what reality is," Eichler said. "We let them know this is not like the video game. They have to have a clear understanding that the choice they're making is a choice that could change their life."
Thousands of gamers were expected to turn out at midnight release events at retailers across the country. Tony Bartel, GameStop president, previously said "Call of Duty is on track to break records and is likely to be our biggest game launch of all time," spokeswoman Beth Sharum said.
Gamers of all ages have embraced video games, Charles said, so much that a large demographic of all video game players are adults.
While the games are sometimes violent, research has shown games such as Call of Duty don't have an impact on violence in players - and have joined the ranks of movies and television as a main form of entertainment for consumers of all ages.
"It's a normal, cultural sort of thing," Charles said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.