Adventures with CODBLOPS: My journey to the center of the Call of Duty storm. From zero to prestige and beyond.
Three and a half months have passed. I set out to play some CoD, I told myself. But it was more than that. I wanted to amputate my reactionary statements and preconceived notions at the knee. I wanted to see what the game really offered, not what the Internet told me. I wanted to give CoD a big second chance, so I dove in. And, while I never prestiged, I managed to peel back the curtain, looking into the mouth of one of gaming’s most divisive beasts. What was there?
With the big caveat being that I played the PC version and exclusively public matches, no campaign, no competitive play, my experience is not the definitive Call of Duty one or even the academic one. But it might be the most true one, the one which looks at its subject without a preset hypothesis or expectations. What was there shocked me; time and time again it was humanity.
What I thought I was going to get – or, at least what Reddit and comment sections told me – was petulant brats cheaply killing me ad infinitum. In their noble defense, yeah, it happens to everyone at times. But instead of slamming keys and slurred insults, the most common reaction was a simple “lol” in text chat, usually by the dead person. In fact, I’ll go out and say it: BLOPS 2 is a damn funny game.
It’s a game that – by no fault of its own – is taken waaay too seriously by everyone who doesn’t play it. Scooting away from a scrum half-bloody and watching the frowny faces appear in chat is a thing of singular hilarity and everyone knows it. It’s a place for fart jokes, not threats for the vast majority of its players. In addition to the shockingly accepting and friendly community on Steam, there is humanity in the very bones of the game.
The game is an embarrassment of user experience riches, where every click, menu and feature is admittedly perfect. Granted, when you release a game every year, you hopefully get good at it. Still, BLOPS 2 is a remarkably easy, fun and fluid game to play. I really don’t even jive with shooters much anymore yet I had real fun exploiting the various shenanigans in the game. One gun with maximum attachments? Sure. A class based around stealing others’ goodies? Yes. Multiple throwing axes? Heh, okay.
The long and the short of it is this: what you know about Call of Duty – those bratty campers and grey-brown deserts – is surprisingly absent. What’s more is that my tone has changed; I have learned to keep my mouth shut. That old adage about walking a mile in another man’s shoes has repeated over and over again as I admit my wrongly-held assumptions. It’s not a bad game. It’s not even an uncreative game (maybe the numerous games that have aped are, though). It’s an imperfect game, certainly, but it does the big things right. And I’m okay with that.
See, if I’m to call myself a game writer, can I remain willingly ignorant, resting my assumptions on the CoD of yesteryear? No. That’s what I aimed to fix. Steam says I put in 38 hours – roughly more than Journey, Walking Dead, LIMBO, To the Moon and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy combined – but it was worth so much more than those hours. Even though it’s been uninstalled for weeks, I won’t easily forget when I was so wrong or happy to be.
To close, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is a game indicative of the growing void we place ourselves in. It’s a void that values assumption over experience; extremes over honesty. In the process of discovering that, I found a game made by talented, competent people that has been misunderstood by me for years. It’s not evil, it’s not bad. It’s silly, sure, a big spoonful of silly-willy fun. But at the end of the day, a lot of people want that and find it in CoD while the rest of the world is miserable because people enjoy a big spoonful of silly-willy fun.
I can’t change the world’s people, blindly admonishing the CoD community because because because. But I can change. It’s been a strange journey and it’s definitely over now; BLOPS uninstalled and lessons learned.