It looks like Infinity Ward has removed the “OK” gesture from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone. Neither the studio nor Activision has officially confirmed the removal at this point, but its absence was noticed last week by players on Twitter and Reddit.
Gestures in Call of Duty are exactly what they sound like: They enable players to make gestures with their off-hand toward other players—make a fist, give them a thumbs-up, throw the horns, or whatever. They’re the sort of thing you see in action movies, where special forces dudes communicate complex strategies and orders to one another with nothing more than hand-waves and finger-pointing, although in videogames they tend to be used more for taunts and silent smack-talk.
It’s all fairly harmless (no, you can’t flip the bird at other players) except for the “OK” gesture, with the thumb and forefinger circled and the other three fingers extended, which ended up being co-opted by racists and white supremacists following a 4chan “hoax” in early 2017. The Anti-Defamation League notes that its long history as a gesture meaning simple, “okay,” means that “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol,” but it also explains how the gesture has been adopted as “a sincere expression of white supremacy” in more recent years.
“The overwhelming usage of the ‘OK’ hand gesture today is still its traditional purpose as a gesture signifying assent or approval,” the ADL site says. “As a result, someone who uses the symbol cannot be assumed to be using the symbol in either a trolling or, especially, white supremacist context unless other contextual evidence exists to support the contention.”
I haven’t seen any evidence that the “OK” gesture is being actively used by white supremacists in the game, but the potential is obviously there. Infinity Ward has recently acknowledged that it needs to do more to combat racist abuse in Modern Warfare and Warzone, and while some players aren’t happy about its removal, under the circumstances I think it’s a simple, obvious, and very understandable move.
I’ve reached out to Activision for comment on the removal, and will update if I receive a reply.