The smart watch your character uses in the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will probably tell you which way north is, but it doesn’t have a moral compass.

Get a series of murders and the little Tamagotchi-like character on your screen will sing with joy, feeding on the death you have caused. And if you do really well, you will be rewarded with a killstreak weapon: white match.

It is not new for Call of Duty to take its military spectacle out of the headlines, but the context of celebrating this inclusion has dragged many down the wrong path. White phosphorus is a deeply controversial material: sometimes weapon, sometimes not, has been in the headlines for 150 years.

Boiled urine Nothing good starts that way, and that’s what Hamburg alchemist Henig Brandt started 300 years ago, burning the residue until it became highly toxic. It was not long before the white phosphorus became a popular poison for the murderers of the time. Unfortunately for them, it glowed in the dark, and the detectives learned to look for it in their forensic investigations.

By 1867, Irish Republicans had bottled white phosphorus for use in grenades; These “infernal machines” scared the British Ministry of Interior enough to send agents to Italy and Paris to investigate their manufacture. And after the start of the First World War, its use in a fire caused twelve union workers against recruitment imprisoned in Sydney. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the British army was preparing phosphorus-based weapons for war.

phosphorus is causing controversy for Call of Duty

American, Commonwealth and Japanese soldiers used white phosphorus grenades during the conflict, and it is here that our contemporary controversy was first established. While the material could be used to create clouds of smoke and camouflage movements, the armies also discovered that it could be used to hurt people in quite horrible ways.

In an initial explosion, the element can adhere to the skin, where it burns for a while until it is completely consumed. Worse, phosphorus can be absorbed through wounds and cause potentially lethal damage to internal organs. And the smoke that makes white phosphorus such an effective screen? It also irritates the eyes, nose and throat, and causes severe burns in high concentrations.

In other words, white phosphorus has an accepted and much more controversial military use. The difference is not defined by the type of weapon but by its context, just like a large knife could belong to your kitchen but cause alarm in the street.

As such, it is not a substance prohibited by international law. Instead, its use is restricted. The Geneva Conventions prohibit firing incendiary weapons in civilian areas, but no law regulates the use of white phosphorus against military targets. US field manuals UU. And the teaching texts on the subject are contradictory and confusing.

If the use of white phosphorus sounds morally complex on paper, it only becomes more real in reality. At the beginning of the Iraq war, local doctors described the melted skin on the insurgents’ bodies. At the end of 2005, a general from the United States affirmed that white phosphorus was a tool to “mark and examine”, while in the same month, a military spokesman confirmed that it had been used directly against enemies to remove them from the deck .

This is the kind of murky ambiguity that the Modern Warfare series has long stood out in a single player: think of Death from Above, the AC-130 gunboat mission that addresses the awkward distance of contemporary battle. If white phosphorus were used in this year’s Call of Duty campaign, it would probably be part of a distressing sequence that would leave us questioning our mission, just as it did in the most spooky scene of Spec Ops: The Line. But the multiplayer mode has long been a strange fantasy kingdom considered exempt from moral obligations.

“Our game is about more than two sides,” Infinity Ward multiplayer design director Geoff Smith told VG247. ‚ÄúThere is no good or bad boy, you play in either. We’re just creating this playground to play. ”

This philosophy is familiar. The shooters have often fetishized the weapons of the military they imitate, creating sandboxes where their audiovisual impact can be enjoyed away from their use in the real world. The white match is not even new in the FPS competitive scene: it appears in the incendiary grenades No. 76 of Battlefield 5, where you will see the flames stick to the players. Even cute and colorful worms have their cluster bombs, presented alongside the Super Sheep and Banana Bomb, banned by international law and controversial enough to fill their own article.

However, perhaps, as the single-player campaigns become more sophisticated in their narration and the developers commit to show the cruelty and guarantee of their actions, the joyful celebration of death in their multiplayer counterparts will only become more jarring

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