In This Week’s TIME: Modern Warfare 3 vs. Battlefield 3 … Fight!

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If your computer were this week’s issue of Time, you could read a piece I co-wrote with Evan Narcisse of Kotaku on the upcoming retail rumble between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3.

But it isn’t. Is it? So you can’t.

One reason I was interested in this stuff is just the huge scale of it. When Modern Warfare 2 came out it made $310 million on its first day. Just dollarwise, that’s the biggest entertainment launch in history. Since the franchise started in 2002 people have spent a cumulative 229,000 years playing Call of Duty online. That’s insane. And it’s insane how little attention the media pays to this huge cultural phenomenon.

Now Battlefield 3 is going to try to knock MW3 off the throne. I’ve played some levels from Battlefield 3. It’s very, very good. It’s definitely competition.

But it’s not just the scale of it, or who wins Christmas at GameStop. The other part of it is the weirdness of the fact that we are playing games that simulate wars that the U.S. is still fighting, right now, and that real people are dying in. I mean, some of the clips from Modern Warfare 3, and Battlefield 3, look like Wikileaks just leaked them from Iraq. Is that…OK? I remember when wargames were historical only. I remember when it was considered edgy to make a Vietnam game.

But that’s all over with. The virtual wars have caught up with the real ones.

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