As Activision start getting ready to dish out this year’s Sledgehammer Games flavoured Kool-Aid to their millions of quick scoping, rage quitting, energy drinking, stupid glasses wearing, jerky eating, modded controller wielding fundamentalists. It felt like a good time to have a deeper look at phenomenon that is Call of Duty and the lengths that the most ardent players will go to for the highest K/D ratio.
Call of Duty started life on PC back in 2003. Created by the now much diminished Infinity Ward, the original title and its expansion by Gray Matter Interactive; United Offensive, had a heart and soul that has been M.I.A since the first Modern Warfare. With most of the team coming from the once great Medal of Honor franchise, the first game, and the second numbered entry had a gravitas that can only be found by being based on the real world horrors of the Second World War.
1, 2 and 3 came over as an opus to the truly heroic and courageous men from all sides of the war…. Hell, even the Russians who are increasingly used as the go-to bad guys had a starring role. Sure, the chisel jawed American GI’s played a part as did the pithy Brits but they were not alone in their valorous endeavours. Polish, Canadian, French and Dutch all played a major part in the campaigns for the first 3 games, and the campaigns were all the better for it.
I’m not going to go on about what has happened to the franchise since those heady days, the people that care will already know, and those who don’t wouldn’t be interested. Call of Duty, just think about those words and try to forget the games for a minute. The fact that they still use the name has become an insult to the games that came before and, more importantly the people and ideals the first few entries originally venerated. Team America saves the world really has been done to death now, the franchise if rife with cheese, plastic American cheese that comes in a squirty can, super-sized.
Much has been written about the declining stands of the games, and with each new instalment the complaints get louder, even from their dedicated fan-base. Believe me having played all of the games to date I truly understand these complaints. I hated COD Ghosts and, once I completed the campaign and had my fill of multiplayer after 10 or so hours, I haven’t touched it again. But the fans, oh the fans, instead of just not playing it and perhaps giving Activision pause for thought as the online numbers dwindle, they continue to play it! Sure, making constant YouTube videos about why it’s so bad for their 5 viewers, but they just can’t seem to kick the habit, if that’s not addiction I don’t know what is.
Whilst they might not be mugging grannies for their pension money just yet, being a follower of the Call of Duty fashion is becoming increasingly expensive. With the explosion of so called E-Sports and the Beetle mania that surrounds the “top” players, the faithful have to spend a pretty penny to emulate their generally foul mouthed, rather obnoxious idols. With modded controllers that give them an advantage over the everyday COD player like you and me, costing upwards of £100, that’s knocking on for £200 by the time you’ve got the game, the increasingly bizarre maps and expansions, not forgetting subscription fees for wherever you game. This is just the beginning of the craziness.
With pro-players being endorsed by just about everything from controllers, energy drinks, fancy sunglasses, headsets, snack bars and even beef jerky. Businesses are cropping up left right and centre to push unnecessary twaddle on the millions of players whose brains must surely be lacking some vital components to be taken in by such blatantly unnecessary cash consuming crap.
Whilst the controllers might actually give the zealots some actual gaming advantage the same cannot be said for everything else. Nearly £100 for a set of glorified sunglasses that you can pick up from your local £1 shop is mind boggling. Supposedly used to reduce eye-strain, there is of course a free alternative, put your controller down and step into the real world for 15 minutes every hour, controversial I know but it really works!
Fruity caffeine laced drinks that cost £1 a pop, but don’t forget the special £10 drinks bottle so that the two people watching your Twitch stream know that you only drink the best! Hungry? How about one of the vilest culinary inventions ever known to man? It tastes like shit but all the cool kids eat Jerky. There is no limit to the way that clever businessmen will make money from simple minded fools.
From the Koresh like Kotick, leading his flock to rapture every November, to the other business men and women who peddle their wares to the unthinking masses rubbing their hands with glee. Call of Duty is undoubtedly a billion dollar franchise, but it’s everyone who is earning millions on the periphery who are laughing all the way to the bank. Year after year internet prophets predict the demise of Call of Duty, and yet like some vast behemoth, incapable of correcting its course it thunders on, sweeping up a new crop of weak minded noobs, fresh fodder for the capitalist kingpins who mastermind this great machine.
Call of Duty died a long time ago in my eyes, and for the first time since the series began I won’t be buying this year’s entry or any others in its undoubtable long future that lies ahead. It’s time to let it go, let it rest in peace. I’ll be re-watching Band of Brothers this November instead of playing a rehashed 8 hour campaign, and instead of stumping up cash for map packs I will only play for a few hours I’ll be donating to Help for Heroes.