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Call of Duty Warzone 2.0 faces backlash over cultural misrepresentation, Arabic translation errors

"This is embarrassing to game development as a whole."

Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward has been criticised for its use of the Arabic language and cultural misrepresentation in Warzone 2.

Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail was among those who spoke out about the game, and who shared a detailed thread of criticism posted on ResetEra.

"Why don't you for once just hire some Arabs [and] locals to ensure the places you seem to insist you gotta blow us up in would at least pass the critical gaze of say, a three-year-old," Ismail wrote on Twitter. "This is embarrassing to game development as a whole."

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In the detailed ResetEra post shared by Ismail, user Dance Inferno began: "I made a thread a while ago about how Modern Warfare's reboot frustratingly had non-Arabic speaking actors performing Arabic-speaking roles, which meant that as a native Arabic speaker I had to resort to reading subtitles to understand what the fuck a supposedly Arabic speaking character was saying (their accents were horrendously unintelligible).

"I had some hope that Infinity Ward would have addressed this for this new outing, but alas based on the Warzone 2 footage released yesterday it seems like their handling of the Middle East is still as comically inept as it was in 2019."

The poster then went on to highlight several aspects of the game, including its new Al Mazrah City map, which is located in the game's fictional take on Iraq known as the Republic of Adal - that they claim are a "complete bastardisation of the Arabic language".

Dance Inferno noted the developer has shied away from having the city's billboards written in Arabic. Instead, they are predominantly written in English, something Dance Inferno stated is unlikely in an Arabic speaking country.

"The vast majority of citizens speak Arabic as their primary language, and it would be downright bizarre to have no Arabic billboards whatsoever in the main downtown area. At the very least you'd have billboards in BOTH Arabic and English," they wrote.

Meanwhile, the Arabic that does appear in Warzone 2 has been poorly translated. Dance Inferno highlighted the Airport here, acknowledging the two signs for 'International Departures' and 'Local Departures'. While Dance Inferno stated the translation for the International Departures is "passable", they called the Arabic translation of the Local Departures sign "a blunt force bastardization of everything that is holy". Infinity Ward has translated this sign as " المغادرين المحلية".

"The best way I can translate this to English while retaining the excruciating nails-on-chalkboard grammar is 'Departing Passengers Domestic'," wrote Dance Inferno. "It's even worse than that because the word for 'Domestic' isn't even conjugated properly - it's a singular adjective attached to a plural noun, which is a big no-no in Arabic."

The signs in Warzone 2's airport.

Dance Inferno also drew attention to a sign in Warzone 2's Taraq Village that, when translated into English, reads "Halal Hookah Bar". Dance Inferno blasted Infinity Ward for using "Western" words on its Arabic signs, stating: "No one in the Middle East uses the term 'bar' to refer to a place where you have hookah... The fact that the word 'bar' is showing up in an Arabic billboard in an Islamic country where bars as a concept don't exist is just absolutely mind-blowing to me. And the fact that it is part of the term 'hookah bar' shows a remarkable lack of any modicum of cultural awareness or research."

The user finished their post by comparing this setting with the game's Mexican map. "What makes me even more sad is that their treatment of the Mexico map looks so authentic and they clearly had hispanic devs working on this map," they wrote. "[Infinity Ward] clearly has the resources to do an authentic representation of a foreign country, it's just a shame they didn't bother applying that effort to their main Middle Eastern map."

This is, sadly, not the first time a Call of Duty game has made headlines for its disrespectful representations of other nations. In 2012, Activision apologised to the Muslim community after hanging a painting above a toilet in Modern Warfare 2 that had holy teachings written around its frame.

More recently, Activision made an apology for its depiction of the Quran in Call of Duty: Vanguard.

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About the Author

Victoria Kennedy avatar

Victoria Kennedy

News reporter

Victoria developed a deep love for video games since watching her brothers barrel their way through Goldeneye 007. She will unashamedly spout forth all sorts of niche Zelda lore to anyone who will listen (and even at times to those who won’t), and makes the best pancakes you have ever seen.

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