On Tuesday afternoon, the official Call of Duty Twitter rebranded itself as Current Events Aggregate and began posting something a bit different from its usual PR banter.
I glanced at my Twitter feed and saw reports of an explosion in Singapore alongside this red globe icon.
“I hope no one was hurt,” I thought, until I looked back a minute later and saw the person who’d retweeted it criticizing it.
In a way, this isn’t entirely unlike the classic radio show War of the Worlds and the way people responded to that. In that situation, listeners tuned in part way through a broadcast and were hearing about an invasion via this very new medium called radio. They freaked out, because they weren’t used to hearing dramatic stories through the medium.
In the case of Call of Duty’s Twitter, there’s clearly a narrative going on, especially from the point of view of the people running it. Most of us just glance at our Twitter feeds, though, so when the “Current Events Aggregate” is posting about an explosion overseas with a generic little globe icon, it’s something we take as real until we get the chance to read more about the event later and find out the event never happened. If Call of Duty hadn’t disguised its account – a flimsy, but functional disguise – there wouldn’t be much to talk about here. It would’ve been a cool little peek into the fiction Treyarch is trying to create in Black Ops III.
They looked a little too real, though, to quite a few people, giving an opportunity for false news to spread. Twitter has become a huge platform for spreading news quickly, especially in areas where official news sources are unreliable or unreachable, and for Call of Duty to co-opt that feels like a poor decision at best. The account has received plenty of attention from fans and otherwise, so maybe the end result could be considered a success, but many followers and non-followers of the account have a negative view of the short-lived campaign, so it’s not like it won the brand a ton of new fans.
Recreating the tone of breaking news can lend dramatic productions a feeling of realism, but masking it as being real when it’s not ends up making it look like a scare tactic, simply confusing and angering people.
This was a glimpse into the future fiction of #BlackOps3.
— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) September 29, 2015