Anyone who’s been following UK politics over the past few months will be familiar with the concept of the ‘shy Tory’. It’s a term used to explain why the Conservative Party often performs better in elections than polls suggests it will. Essentially, what’s happening is that voters who agree with the Conservatives’ right-wing policies are shamed into keeping their opinions private. Tired of receiving ear-bashings from left-leaning colleagues, they keep their intentions to themselves until they cast their votes.
Back in the land of games, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t such a thing as a ‘shy CoD-er’, too. Whenever talk turns to Call of Duty on the website, or on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, the comments threads underneath are almost universally negative. Let’s take a poll, shall we? Our readers’ thoughts on an article titled ‘How Black Ops 3 will overhaul the series’ AI’: “If by overhaul you mean ‘be the same crap as the last few years’ then yes. Yes it will.” “Overhaul, how about retire?” “Try overhauling it six feet under.” Eek. And those are the ones fit to print.
That’s the exit poll, but in reality gamers have voted with their feet – namely, to use said feet to boost-jump the equivalent of 14,000 times around the globe – just one of dozens of mind-boggling Advanced Warfare stats released by Activision to show that Call of Duty is still staggeringly popular. That’s backed up by our figures, by the way – last autumn’s OXM Call of Duty cover was easily its best-selling issue of the past year.
So, people like CoD. You like CoD, it seems. And even if you don’t, you probably know someone who does. Maybe you wake up next to a CoD-er in the morning. But why the secrecy? Maybe there’s a sense that Call of Duty is the embodiment of everything that’s gone a bit wonky with our hobby in recent years – annual sequels, tacky special editions, DLC packs up the wazoo. Then again, maybe it’s just not cool to back the big dog in the yard. It’s why everyone loves to hate Manchester United or the New York Yankees, and I presume it’s why women never message me on Plenty of Fish.
Another explanation is that the CoD fanbase don’t always shower themselves with glory. No studio knows this more than Black Ops developer Treyarch. A small multiplayer tweak in 2013 saw designer David Vonderhaar receive a torrent of abuse over social media – including death threats. That’s the side of the fanbase the media likes to report on, but during a recent visit to its LA HQ, studio head Mark Lamia revealed a very different side indeed: “This morning, we put up a Snapchat code and I believe someone found a Morse code embedded within six minutes. It was embedded pretty deep!”
Treyarch has been teasing Black Ops 3 details via a cryptic campaign full of riddles and puzzles, which its loyal army of fans proceed to pick apart with rabid passion. Via the wonders of crowdsourcing, the community have drawn an exhaustive amount of details from a few short series of trailers – from the possibility that Black Ops 3’s campaign will feature a volcanic eruption, to matching scenery with real-life locations in New Zealand. “Our fans prove time and time again they are engaged, passionate and resourceful.”
It’s a far cry from the common perception of the CoD fanbase as boorish and belligerent – and it makes me think they should carry themselves with more pride. I’ll start the movement by officially coming out as a Call of Duty player. I’m going to make little rosettes and everything. And remember – it doesn’t matter who you vote for, as long as you vote. Unless it’s for Nuketown.