If you play a videogame often enough and well enough, it starts to feel as though you’ve actually committed Grand Theft Auto  for real. It’s a trick of the mind that’s practically unavoidable. After spending so much time sharpening a skillset, though, somewhere deep down, most gamers secretly wish they had the opportunity to test out their mettle offline. Now, one gamer will, ostensibly, get the chance.
It may sound like the premise for another Shia LaBeouf movie directed by Michael Bay, but gaming audio equipment outfit Turtle Beach seems pretty serious about its latest campaign. The company teamed up with the New Zealand office of agency Droga5 recently to launch what they’re calling Mission: Iraq, an operation that, according to the premise, will potentially send one lucky (?) button-presser to embed with troops in an active war zone in Iraq, for combat experience that cannot be paused.
Speaking of Michael Bay movies, the teaser that kicks off the campaign has a pretty familiar feel for action flick aficionados. It starts off with a disturbing voiceover. “Yeah, I just like running around, shooting people,” says Phil, a New Zealand gamer, who spends what one could only imagine is far too much time playing first-person shooters. He further specifies the goal of simulated gunplay: “Killing [people], making sure they know who’s boss.” It sounds like a hauntingly apathetic confessional that news outlets would rerun endlessly, post-massacre.
“He loves realistic war games,” a title card says. “So we’re taking him where it’s real.” Cue pounding percussion, the sound of gunfire, and tribal chanting, as the action moves to Iraq. There we see Phil (gamer name: StatiC) looking wildly out of place with his Bieber-ish haircut amongst the soldiers. After an obligatory night vision goggle shot, we hear some talk about landmines, and you might begin to wonder whether someone is going to be told to drop and give us 20. The last image shown, however, is Phil walking down a dirt road with his arms raised above his head, followed by a gunshot sound and a fade to black. Game over?
The audio company responsible for Mission: Iraq designs, manufactures, and markets ancillary items that enhance one’s gaming experience. It specializes in precision headphones like the aptly named Ear Force, whose Charlie model allows Call of Duty gamers to sonically isolate the sound of their enemy approaching. (We’ve come a long way since the days of Duck Hunt on Nintendo.) Turtle Beach’s equipment exists in service of providing the most realistic audio experience possible, and if the teaser is to be believed, and we're not sure it should be, one gamer is about to discover the only place where the sounds of warfare come across even realer.
“Will StatiC make it to Iraq?” a caption ultimately asks. It’s hard to say, given the mystery surrounding this project (the teaser showed up on Turtle Beach’s custom YouTube channel this morning, with the promise of more videos to come). One of the creatives behind the campaign would only tell us to stay tuned. The question that will likely overshadow that one is: Is it an ethical lapse for a game company to use Iraq and the war there as an "edgy" premise for selling earphones?
[Image: Flickr user USArmy ]