Have you ever been in a situation where you see a game and think to yourself ‘that’s not for me’? Maybe you have a good reason for it, or maybe it just never managed to grab you. What about those games that you keep saying you’ll never play, but one day, for one reason or another – maybe a friend buys it for you or it’s part of a sweet deal on Steam, whatever – you end up trying it and… actually… it turns out to be actually kind of all right? Well here’s one of the games I said I’d never play, but did, and why I changed my mind.
Everyone knows about Call of Duty. I would defy you to find a single person that has genuinely never heard of the franchise either as CoD, Modern Warfare or Black Ops. Like Halo in the good ol’ days, CoD is a household name, but for those few that somehow managed to fall through a crack in reality and even then have somehow managed to avoid all references to the bestselling game franchise, Call of Duty is your conventional first-person shooter game, designed primarily for quick and easy online play. It has been praised and occassionly criticised for being what I would term a casual and/or social game, and while there are plenty of people who do play it competitively, it has always been popular with casual gamers.
CoD was one of the first games I played online. I was introduced to it by a friend at our local cyber-cafe. Right from the start I found the idea of the game a little unsettling. I’m not against shooter games, I’d been playing Dark Forces 2 for a while by then, but there was something about playing as a “real” soldier in a setting intentionally based on real events that I found unsettling. I’ve always been very confused by games like Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Medal of Honor and more recently the Modern Warfare series because of their willingness to turn the reality of warfare into an entertaining pass time. I can’t begrudge them for it, as these games have all been massively successful, but I do wonder what it is that makes realistic warfare shooters so popular.
Now I’m certainly not a prude, and I’m happy to say that I have come to terms with these things, but it is certainly food for thought. Games, like films are forms of escapism. They take you out of your day-to-day life and place you in someone else’s shoes for however long you play them. That being the case, why would people want to escape to a modern warzone? Why is it more fun to play as a real soldier in a real setting than it is play in a fictional one? I can understand war movies that portray the horror of war in bleak and often graphic detail, these films claim to have a deeper meaning, but what’s the deeper meaning in fragging your enemies online? I’m not saying it’s not there, I’m just curious.
In spite of this, the original Call of Duty remains one of my all time favourite shooters. The simplicity of gameplay and the fast-paced action kept me entertained for many hours online. The single-player campaign isn’t half bad either, and its split narrative makes for an interesting attempt to show multiple sides of the fight. If you can stomach older games, it might be worth a look.