And where are they?
By Toby McCasker on May 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm
For a long time I thought tall poppy syndrome was a uniquely Australian construct, or that we at least suffered from it to a far greater degree than other nation or culture. We are, after all, the only human cattle on earth raised from penal colony stock: if one prisoner were to escape, the rest would be beaten. So the fear of those looking to liberate themselves, shall we say, from the safe average might be hardwired into our ‘Straya.
Nowadays we aren’t getting around the yard in balls and chains, so it translates to: Rampant success = You’ll keep, mate. Maybe we’re more globally influential than we thought. Shame it’s not in terms of Vegemite or servo stick-ups with bananas.
A panicked editor from a reputable gaming publication came to me yesterday and said, “Toby. You like Call of Duty, right? I need someone to write an article on Black Ops II.” At this I could only fondly reminisce over a billion hours spent toasting nooblets on Black Ops, after which I cut my CoD cord and haven’t reattached it since. I was just over it and felt, “Self, if you wanna pen missives complaining about the unenviable status quo as purveyed by this clone machine business model, you can’t be a part of it.”
So I stopped literally putting my money where my convictions were. I have no idea what CoD is doing right now, and I don’t care. Neither did this editor. Neither did the multitude of staff members he’d asked to write this thing before he turned to more mercenary options like myself. Who is actually playing Call of Duty?
Evidently, lots and lots of people. I’d reference some statistic about how much this thing still sells but the zeroes stretch off very far into the horizon and it hurts your eyes to look at it. Lots and lots of people, but seemingly very few within the industry (and its close followers) itself, where it draws incredible ire for continuing to exist and, I guess, prosper, against the hopes and dreams of these men and women.
It has become somewhat the Nickelback of video games, sometimes hated for reasons as baseless as every game of Domination I have ever played. Frequently it’s derided because it’s there, because it’s always there, and because it keeps guaranteeing it’ll be there again soon regardless of what it actually is. It’s at the point where it doesn’t even have to try anymore. I remember looking at the back of a box for Black Ops II and it just had about three images with three dot-point exclamations, only one of which came from a publication: “A Must Have!” Then, attributed to nobody at all, “The Best-Selling Xbox 360 Franchise of All-Time Returns!” and “The Biggest Game of 2012!”
It’s created an interesting and cyclical schism: Those who must write about it might abhor it but must do so because a large percentage of those who read what they write are assumed to love it. If a game is so incredibly popular on paper but has a notable dearth of actual correspondents the least bit interested in investigating it, it is now Nickelback. Or Justin Bieber.
CoD is pop music, I realised. It will keep selling records because it’s more or less social currency on the playground by now and it doesn’t matter what gets said, by itself or other selves. If it was an artist on Twitter it’d have millions of fans illiterately defending its honour, and would exclaim upon a visit to the house of Anne Frank, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have played Call of Duty.”
“Maybe,” I hoped after the editor had left, punching walls, “We can just follow CoD around now and write about all the things it does and says in its public and private life and this will suffice as coverage.” It really only had one song anyway. Plenty of people still digging this one song; enough so that it could just put its face on a lunchbox? Cheque please.