Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Call Of Duty — The Gateway Drug Of Gaming
It has finally happened.
After all these years of annual Call of Duty releases, it has finally gotten to the point at which previously steadfast supporters of the series have stood up and said, “Enough is enough.”
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Or maybe that’s just in my circles…
Still it’s kind of a weird position that I’ve found myself in, having always erred on the side of enjoying Call of Duty titles each year. They have their place in gaming, after all, and I’m one of those people who never quite minded their existence in the industry. Even if I could see the complaints others were raising about how it was more harmful for the industry than beneficial. But that’s the point at which I always differed to a lot of naysayers. See, as much as Call of Duty promotes the idea of annualising games, not really innovating a whole lot and glorifying checklist mentality, the profits that the franchise boasts are not intrinsically linked to the quality of the offering. And yet, each offering is of an adequate level of quality.
That is to say, with each Call of Duty title, you know exactly what you’re getting from the moment you are made aware of its existence. Maybe more, but almost definitely not less.
However while Call of Duty games continue to reap the benefit of an idea that took off one day, it is not the fault of the franchise that other developers and publishers have seen the successes of the franchise and decided to be selfish about their own franchises, manipulating gamers and favouring greed over customer service. You’ve seen it all over the place, so I don’t even need to really elaborate on this with examples. Some publishers will fuck consumers over in order to take their money and make themselves rich. This is the way of business, and has always been, since time immemorial.
I’ve never actually taken issue with the Call of Duty series for this because those games, while not entirely innovative, I will grant, continued to deliver a certain standard of quality that I could depend upon. Yes, they were expensive, unnecessarily so, but Activision’s successes with the franchise have always granted some monopolistic power in the gaming market, so fair enough. Still, when I bought a Call of Duty game, I knew that I would get a thrilling, action-packed rollercoaster campaign experience, and the potential for lots and lots of hours of multiplayer, either online or split-screen with friends, in various modes.
By now you will have read our review of Call of Duty: Ghosts. It was not the kind of game that the Call of Duty series is known for, which tells me that standards have slipped and this shadow staff left over at Infinity Ward have fallen behind Treyarch in terms of development quality, producing a subpar Call of Duty game. And that troubles me, given just how much of a reach this game has. Yet Call of Duty: Ghosts is boasting sales that will break your brain.
How is that even possible?
That’s right. It’s the mainstream appeal that the Call of Duty series boasts. You see, a lot of those people who bought Call of Duty: Ghosts don’t really play games on the same level as you or I might. In fact, they probably only ever play Call of Duty. Just like how we all know someone who only ever plays FIFA, Need for Speed or DotA. Likewise, there’s a large number of people who only ever play Call of Duty, and Call of Duty: Ghosts was their latest gaming purchase. Sure, there are a lot of people who play other games too, but then they buy games all the time so who actually cares about them? I joke. They don’t help with the point I’m trying to make, so let’s just assume they’re busy enjoying their gaming.
However, the others, the ones who only ever play Call of Duty games. There is a decent number of that group which I might hypothesise would actually play other games if introduced to them. In fact, I’d say that a large contributor to the growth of gaming over the past few years has been the likes of Call of Duty with its mainstream appeal. Nowadays, gaming is cool and Call of Duty is the ‘cool’ game of choice. But then it becomes more than just a ‘cool factor’ game. Suddenly you indulge this newfound guilty pleasure and you try out something else. You see a Batman game, or you hear about this other game called Assassin’s… something. And you try it out. Four or five games later, you’re hooked.
In that sense, I look at Call of Duty in the same way that I look at weed. That’s marijuana, not unwanted garden growth. You see, weed is regarded as a gateway drug by many people. (They’re misinformed.) The idea is that smoking weed makes it seem okay in your mind to indulge in some slightly more drastic form of intoxication, and therefore sets you up for something stronger. Think heroin or cocaine. In that sense, smoking weed is similar to Call of Duty for me. Call of Duty is a sort-of gateway game. We’ll leave the argument of whether or not weed actually is a gateway drug for another website, but what I’m trying to say is that if you play enough Call of Duty, the chances are good that you might try out other games.
In that sense, I cannot possibly dislike Call of Duty. Even Ghosts, the most recent title. For all the complaints gamers have, they’re very willing to accept HD remakes and GotY editions of games, I mean fuck, Nintendo has made an entire business model out of putting out the same idea over and over again, with new visuals plopped over everything to make it look shiny and new. And you know what? Nintendo was that thing that non-gamers were into before. A lot of them still are. Once upon a time you would have heard people say ‘playing TV games’ or ‘playing Nintendo’, nowadays it’s ‘playing videogames’ or ‘playing Call of Duty’. That’s a sign of change for me. A sign that the non-gamers of this world are ready for something a little less childish — even if the online community is equally as childish — and a little more aligned to what we as the core gamers know to be gaming.
So while Call of Duty: Ghosts is a needlessly unimaginative rehashing of previous Call of Duty titles, even to the point of copying endings, it’s okay for me. Not because it’s my default setting to defend Call of Duty games — I mean, this is the one and only time that I’m okay to pass on playing the game for myself, and that’s saying something for a ‘play ALL the games’ kinda gamer — but rather because it’s not a game meant for gamers. It’s a game meant for making more gamers. It’s a gateway game. And in my book, that absolves it of the kind of criticism that gamers would level at it. That makes its existence in this world okay.