Today marks the release of the next game in the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts. And your social media feed is probably throbbing with hate for the game… but why?
Catch Me Up, Here. Call of Duty?
It’s a first-person shooter where you play a soldier. He has a name, but he will be eminently forgettable. It’s best known for its highly popular and widely played multiplayer feature, which is really the centerpiece of the game.
So Do Gamers Hate The Players, Or the Game?
Both! This is the Internet! There’s plenty of hate to go around!
OK, So Why The Game?
Depending on who you ask, it’s essentially the same game, with minor tweaks, year after year. In fact, the executive producer of the latest game admitted as much in an interview. And yet, every year, it sells millions of copies and is often one of the best-selling games of the year. If you believe the series is a bastion of mediocrity, this can be… frustrating.
Is It A Bastion of Mediocrity?
Eh, it’s subjective. They’re fun enough, for what they are, but the games are on such a tight release cycle, with a new one every year, that it’s difficult to be creative. The games are more interesting for their multiplayer and their alternate modes than as a single-player experience, to the point where you kind of wonder why they bother with a single-player mode at all.
Are There Other Criticisms Of The Franchise?
Dozens! It’s a game where you play an American soldier who guns down non-Americans, and it’s got the moral complexity of a cartoon. This is the stuff of a graduate thesis. Suffice to say if you want complicated storytelling or realistic geopolitics, this is not that game.
And The Players Of This Are Hated Because…?
Penny Arcade really put it succinctly, that with the new COD game and the new Eminem CD, today is Christmas for @$$holes. COD players are widely seen as a group of homophobic whiny children who don’t play anything else, a worrying percentage of which are actual, biological children. And to play multiplayer, which is the only reason these games exist really, you must, however unwillingly, try to play a game with these people. It’s like being annoyed by frat boys at a sports bar with a $60 cover.
Is It Really That Bad?
Not really. It’s a lot like, say, Texas. Yeah, there are guys with five guns in their belt, a gigantic hat, and a smug and unearned provincial attitude, but most Texans are normal people who are embarrassed by that idiot. The same is true of the enormous COD multiplayer community, which encompasses millions of gamers. Yes, there are jerks, partially because playing multiplayer video games all day is largely the province of people who have too much time on their hands, but most people just want to play a deathmatch and have some fun.
And there is a bit of self-loathing in that worldview. I’d be far more inclined to mock these macho power fantasies if I hadn’t just finished sucking every scrap of joy out of a game where I am Batman and am about to really start digging into the side missions of a game where I am Batman and also a pirate. I’m in a bit of a glass house, here.
In short, complaining about COD is really more about tradition. All the accusations leveled at the franchise were once leveled at Halo and Counter-Strike. Really what matters is that people have fun, and that they don’t kill the dog.
Wait, There’s a Dog?
Yes. No, I won’t tell you what happens to it.