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An effort that began with the box art for Bioshock Infinite, the push to refine the tastes of everyone who plays Call of Duty games has taken the next big step.
“It seems that pandering to the Call of Duty crowd with the mainstream box art was not enough,” Infinite creator Ken Levine said, reflecting on his reasoning behind the cookie-cutter box art. “The critics absolutely loved the game and I have no doubt it will sell well with intelligent players, but I always knew that sophisticated group would play it.” Levine went on to describe his disappointment after attending a midnight launch for his game at a local GameStop. “I saw all the expected people there: the cosplayers, the groups discussing the themes of the game, people in a circle playing Mario Kart together who made sure the guy with a Vita couldn’t sit with them, the people casually sipping wine from glasses, and I thought to myself, where are all the frat boys? We plastered that gun-toting box art all over the place.”
“So where were they, the people who chug beer, yell obscenities at each other, and compare death-to-kill ratios like their penis sizes? They weren’t there because they weren’t going to buy the game…and never would.”
“I knew that I couldn’t allow this to happen.”
Levine didn’t know what exactly he was going to do to make the Call of Duty players of the world play his smart shooter wrapped up in political, class, and religious commentary and critique, until he saw Cliff Bleszinski’s tweet: “We should pass a law forcing all the COD players to beat Infinite.”
“I sent Cliff a private message and said to him, ‘That’s exactly what we need to do.’”
“At first I thought he was joking,” Bleszinski talked about Levine’s reaction to his tweet. “I thought, ‘No way, we can’t do this,’ but he was right. We had to try.”
The two legendary game designers sent an email to Michael D. Gallagher, the president of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) asking him to pass a law requiring all Call of Duty players to play Bioshock Infinite’s campaign to completion, detailing in their letter that the law is a necessary measure in order to preserve the artistic integrity of the industry as well as the tastes of future gamers. Here is one excerpt from the email: “People that play Call of Duty are not engaging with games as an art form. Rather, they are participating in an interactive shooting gallery with that has no meaning to it other than running around generic maps and shooting each other in the head, unlike the Bioshock franchise that has a depth of meaning to it behind all the shooting.”
Within two hours of sending it Gallagher responded saying, “You are absolutely right. Call of Duty is tarnishing the whole industry with its shallow gameplay and story. People who play those games are also not much better as they obviously don’t appreciate deep and rewarding experiences and stories that only Irrational Games provides.” The ESA President went on to say that from now on anyone purchasing a Call of Duty game will be required to also purchase Bioshock Infinite. “If someone adds a Call of Duty to their cart on Amazon, Bioshock Infinite will also be added. If one is removed, the other will be as well. All electronic stores will have to bundle every Call of Duty title from the past, present and future together with Bioshock Infinite and be sure that people can’t buy one without the other, unless you’re just buying Bioshock Infinite.” When questioned how he can enact, let alone enforce such a policy he responded, “Because I’m the President of the ESA, and as we all know, the ESA calls the shots in the industry.” GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon have all been confirmed to be on board with the new policy.
Many gamers praised the policy when Levine and Bleszinski announced the success of their policy proposal. User Green_Alienz_lulzy posted on Reddit, “Finally all those dumb CoD gamers will finally play a real game! Games shouldn’t just have shooting. They should have deep themes, challenging gameplay, and no multiplayer, because that’s how games are supposed to be.”
Other gamers were critical of the draconian measure. One critic asked Bleszinski why he couldn’t just package Bioshock Infinite with his violently bloody franchise, Gears of War.
“I resent the comparison of my franchise to the shallow, mind-numbing experience that Cod is,” he responded over Twitter. “My games are about the strength and willpower humanity has against an alien invasion, the bond between comrades, and other deep subjects connected to war. Besides, people who play GoW multiplayer are nothing like the CoD community.”
Activision sent out a response in lieu of this new policy:
“Activision and the developers of Call of Duty, Treyarch and Infinity Ward, are deeply disappointed to see that the ESA and retailers are limiting player choice. No one should be forced to play a game that they have no interest in or be discriminated against for what they enjoy playing. Rest assured that Activision will take all legal measures to get rid of the discriminatory policy and give back consumer rights to players.”
The internet swiftly responded to Activision’s challenge to the policy with poorly spelled insults, a chorus of “CoD SUCKS” and such language that would make a professional Call of Duty team balk.
~Arnulfo “Arnie” Hermes
Originally posted to Game Informer Online on March 28th, 2013.