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It's that time of year again. People everywhere are clammering about the latest Call of Duty game. People I know, like my coworkers, will ask me "Hey, Josh! You're a gamer, are you getting that new Call of Duty game?" I give them a look that is filled with disgust, and I have to explain to them that I couldn't give a flying squid-bear about their beloved game.
I am not a hater. I don't want to go out of my way to yell at people about how I think that Call of Duty is just a poorly designed game with expensive coats of polish and a multi-million dollar marketing budget. If it's your type of game, then go and enjoy it. I promise you that I won't care.
What I do care about is that people expect me to like it. Yes, I am a gamer. I love video games. I play a lot of video games, and I love all kinds of different games. But, I don't like Modern Warfare. The Call of Duty series are to gaming as Micheal Bay films are to movies. They are both well polished, they have huge budgets, they have insane marketing campaigns, and they are very successful commercially. All of that doesn't really mean that they are good. While watching Transformers might be a fun way to spend an afternoon, I don't think you'll find many people willing to call it a great piece of cinema.
The Call of Duty games have become formulaic. It's simply A+B=C, then market the hell out of it and ride on the success of previous games. At this point, it could be a steaming pile of turd and it would sell at least 5 million copies just because of how popular the series is. I completely understand why this type of game exists. Executives need to make the most profit possible from their product. If there is data to show that making this type of game will sell millions of copies, of course they are going to make more of them. I don't want to play them, but there is a perfectly good reason why they exist. Just like a Micheal Bay action flick. They are made to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Anything that could possibly leave a bad taste in the mass consumer's mouth is cut out. We are left with a simple game, that lacks innovation, creative story telling, and complex game design. It is just a collection of what is known to sell, and it's done well.
I am OK with movies doing this type of thing, but I really hate playing games of this nature. A summer block buster might be a terrible piece of cinema, but it's over soon and I can laugh about it with my friends. I will probably just watch it when it comes out on Netflix, so it really won't cost me anything. I admit, that I enjoy watching giant robots fight each other, or crazy heroes fight stupid villains. I know that they aren't great, but that won't stop me from enjoying movies like Green Lantern, Sucker Punch, or Kick Ass.
Am I a hypocryte for wanting more from my games than my summer movies? I don't think so. Games cost a whole heck of a lot more than seeing a movie does. Movies are over in a couple of hours, while a game will last me at least six or seven hours. Summer blockbusters don't have multiplayer with stats and leaderboards. I can't dive into a multiplayer game when I feel like it's just a bunch of over-the-top nonsense. Games can be a huge investment of time. It takes time to learn how to play, and trying to get all of the crazy unlocks and levels can be a like having a second job. Movies can be like popcorn, but games need to be a little bit deeper to get me interested in them.
The general public has this preconceived notion of gamers where they expect us to play and enjoy all of the big titles that come out. My coworkers see commercials for Modern Warfare 3, or they hear some kids talking about it, and they automatically assume that I will be all over it. Even other gamers that I work with act shocked when I tell them that I'm not interested in it. Apparently, gamers should have exactly the same taste in games. If it gets a 9.5, I must be crazy for not wanting to play it.
It's perfectly fine for people to have different tastes in movies. I don't like horror films or chick flicks, and people can understand that. Sure, The Blind Side might be criticality acclaimed, but people don't freak out on me when I say that it was a pile of emotional drivel. The masses accept that there are different types of movies. I can say to a friend that I like sci-fi and fantasy movies, and they will know exactly what I am talking about, and they will probably know what some of my favorite movies are.
Games have not quite matured to this level yet. By being a gamer, whether it's hard-core or casual, I am expected to own an Xbox, play Call of Duty, be excited for the next Grand Theft Auto, and be hyped up for Bioshock Infinite. Here is a public service announcement for the universe: Gamers are allowed to have different tastes. It doesn't mean that your game sucks, and it doesn't make my games better. They are just different. I don't expect you to like Risen or Red Orchestra 2, and please don't expect me to play every single Call of Duty game that gets shoved down the pipe.