Funny To A Point – The Call Of Duty Hate Has Gotten Embarrassing, Guys
If there's one thing the gaming community loves, it's ragging on Call of Duty. Every year, Activision announces a new installment in the long-running military-shooter series, and every year a dedicated contingency of gamers flock to the virtual dumping ground that is the Internet to revel in their communal disdain for it. Hating on Call of Duty has become one of gaming's most reliable and time-honored traditions. It's our demented version of Christmas – Activision slides another sequel down our chimney chutes, and we in return sneak into their living rooms and fill their stockings with as many CAPS-laden insults as our poor, abused keyboard can muster.
As with any longstanding tradition, however, it feels like we've gotten to the point where hating on Call of Duty is just a thing we do because we've always done it, and the reason behind it is just as vague and forgotten as why we're stuffing crap in each other's socks in the first place. This year's reveal of Infinite Warfare achieved parody levels of hate, which I love, because it makes my job that much easier.
Look, I get it. Hating on Call of Duty is fun. We parodied the series in this year's Game Infarcer (and were unintentionally right about the MOON WAR! to boot), and will no doubt continue to parody it endlessly in the future. Call of Duty is the Dane Cook of video games; poking fun at the series is unfairly easy yet still feels completely justified given how absurdly popular it is, because nothing* should be that popular. Even diehard fans have to be a little grossed out by the Scrooge McDuck-levels of gold Activision is swimming in courtesy of CoD.
Not only that, but Call of Duty filled Activision's vault by making Jerry Bruckheimer look like Andrei Tarkosvky (just click the link, alright?). Each new installment doesn't just jump the shark – it hangs over the shark Mission Impossible-style and does a six-hour tap dance on the tip of its nose. I mean, you actually fought sharks in Call of Duty: Ghosts, for crying out loud!
The shark attacks in Ghosts wouldn't even crack a top 10 list of batsh-- crazy moments in Call of Duty.
And you can't even claim to be surprised by Ghosts' aquatic escapades, because the series has always been that ridiculous. Modern Warfare literally went nuclear in its first installment – the game was getting rave reviews before the developers thought to ask themselves how they were going to top a mushroom cloud. Even 24 had the common sense to wait until season six to drop the bomb, and the show was off the air two years later, because at that point what else is there for Jack Bauer to do than drunkenly tackle Christmas trees? (Again, just click the link.)
So to reiterate, I get it. Call of Duty is such deliciously low-hanging fruit that it's not even hanging – its big, ripe butt is resting comfortably in the grass, just waiting for hungry haters to take a bite. But this feels like the year when the branch finally snapped back up and slapped them in the face.
Activision revealed Infinite Warfare with a widely panned announcement trailer that I'll get to in a minute, but the community's first real look at the game came via a surprising gameplay demo during Sony's E3 press conference. I say surprising because many viewers didn't actually realize it was Call of Duty – and I can't blame them. The first half of the demo focused on an unrevealed pilot exploring the deck of a starship and plotting a course through the galaxy, then transitioned to a massive fleet-on-fleet dogfight in space. When the ship was finally ditched and the battle rifles came out, the combat was defined by zero-G spacewalking, grapple hooks, and gravity grenades. It wasn't until the very end of the demo that the Infinite Warfare logo outed the game as Call of Duty – a "stunt" orchestrated by the mad scientists at Activision to "trick" gamers into being "excited" for the "game" (admittedly that last use of scare quotes might be gratuitous). Some of the curious lab rats who took the bait were none too pleased.
Massive ship-to-ship battles in outer-space? Awesome! It's Call of Duty? BOO!
I was neck-deep in the insanity at G.I.'s E3 booth during Sony's press conference, but Reiner enthusiastically recounted the audience's reaction to us after the show. Like the rest of the showgoers, two viewers sitting behind him were fully on board with the demo's action-packed sci-fi shenanigans, but as soon as the Call of Duty logo appeared, their oohing and ahhing was replaced with a perfunctory declaration of "Lame!" Other CoD haters raced to social media, spewing out hasty insults in overdrive after getting caught with their guard down like a surprised Internet lolcat.
For us at G.I., the bald-faced reversals – while comical – came as no surprise. The indiscriminate hate for our recent look at Infinite Warfare spurred a wonderful new social-media trend of Cover Flushing – i.e., readers posting videos of themselves tearing the cover off their newest issue and flushing it down the toilet. Because it says Call of Duty.
What's the message here? That your illogical hatred for a series is so strong that you're willing to clog up your own toilet? Isn't that the kind of blind fanaticism that usually garners its own gleeful mocking? For more than a decade, gamers have disparagingly recounted the time journalists cried over a new Zelda announcement – crying that Call of Duty still exists is just as embarrassing, and you shouldn't need a plunger to see why.
None of this is to say that you have to like Call of Duty, or that Infinite Warfare is above reproach. The aforementioned announcement trailer was justly derided for being set to a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" – I'm sure the recently deceased rock legend would be thrilled to know that a lackluster derivative of his groundbreaking song is being used to hock the latest billion-dollar military shooter. Everything I know about Bowie suggests he was a huge CoD fan.
I also sympathize with gamers who aren't thrilled by the fact that Activision is holding its current-gen Modern Warfare remaster as a No-Russian-style hostage for those who buy the deluxe edition of Infinite Warfare. Wanting to the option to buy it separately is entirely reasonable, and unless Activision is literally the dumbest publisher ever (haters need not reply), I'm sure you'll be able to eventually. But as far as a reward for longtime fans goes, a remastered version of the most beloved entry in the series is a pretty awesome pack-in for Infinite Warfare – way better than novelty RC cars or cheap night-vision goggles. Isn't that a good thing?
Getting your hands on Modern Warfare Remastered has its...Price... Muahaha!
And ultimately, that's kind of the point: Activision is catering to its fans. Not the people who hate Call of Duty and vow to never buy another installment – or the people who hate Call of Duty and buy it every year anyway. Activision is appealing to the people who happily buy, play, and enjoy each new game, every year, in record numbers. That sure beats the alternative of trying to court those who incessantly claim that each installment is "exactly the same game!" Because let's be real: The CoD trolls won't cede the same-game argument until Call of Duty has been transformed into a Gone Home-style walking simulator, at which point they'd probably complain that Activision is cashing in on indies, or lost sight of what the series is "truly supposed to be."
But Activision isn't the one that's due for an eye (and/or head) exam, and no matter how high #RIPCoD trends on Twitter (because that's a thing people apparently care about now), the series is in no risk of dying. Every year, Call of Duty charges ahead with one of gaming's biggest development teams and budgets, and ends up delivering some of its most polished gameplay and stable launches. This year they've even got Jon Snow – a cash-in on Game of Thrones hype to be sure, but if the game doesn't end with him rising from the dead and hanging off the ass of a dragon as it flies through the final level, I'll be sorely disappointed – and you know you can't rule out the possibility!
Whatever the game entails, Infinite Warfare will undoubtedly give fans exactly what they want: more Call of Duty, along with a steady stream of multiplayer maps and ludicrous DLC to tide them over to next year's installment. If you're thinking, "But that's not what I want!," it's because you're no longer – or never were – the target audience. Whether that calls for congratulations or condolences is up to you. I've certainly fallen in and out of love with the series over the years, but never once has Call of Duty's success ever made me angry, and I can't fathom wasting my time trying to come up with spiteful ways to stick it to the men and women who create the games, and the millions more who enjoy playing them. If you can't say the same, maybe it's time to find another focus for your attention. Your plumber will thank you.
*Notable exceptions that fully deserve their respective popularity: Pizza, naps, and napping after eating pizza.