Duty Calls

All opinions stated by Truman Capps are not necessarily the opinions of his former employers; all facts stated by Truman Capps are not necessarily facts.

Yeah, you're welcome.

For somebody who enjoys violent video games as much as I do, even I’m kind of surprised that I was never able to get into the Call of Duty franchise. For my more well-adjusted readers who aren’t in the know on video games, the Call of Duty series is essentially one grand celebration of the storied institution of violence, spanning eight games in multiple wartime settings, most of which are simultaneously exploding and on fire, wherein players run around with high tech weapons trying to kill each other.

As of late 2009, the CoD franchise had sold roughly 55 million units and earned $6 billion worldwide, making it as profitable as three Avatars, six Titanics, or approximately 9.154 Ice Age 2: The Meltdowns. The game has spawned a robust, somewhat hostile fanbase united by their love of shooting one another in the back of the head and their hatred of any gameplay features they consider unfair, unbalanced, or ‘noobish.’

The Call of Duty games have single player campaign modes that attempt to tell a story, but they’ve generally got weaker plotlines than most of the scripts I pass on at my internship, and the enemy artificial intelligence is about on par with the paper targets at a firing range; by and large, the games are carried by their chaotic, fast paced multiplayer mode.

My roommates last year were avid players, and they coerced me into buying a secondhand copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 so I could game with them. I joined in a few violent, profane afternoons, but ultimately I lost interest in the game and exchanged it a couple months later to get a copy of Portal 2, which I found far more rewarding.

My problem with the Call of Duty games, I think, is that these meticulously researched military shooters are a little too realistic. Every game of Call of Duty I’ve played usually involves me running around, confused, disoriented, and scared, until I suddenly die, sniped in the back of the head by an enemy I never saw – which, I’m certain, is exactly what would happen to me were I ever placed in an actual wartime scenario; the only difference being that the Taliban is probably way less homophobic than the Call of Duty community:

From IGN.com:

First-person shooters and war games like Halo and Call of Duty seem to spawn the most homophobic behavior among players, notes De Marco. It's not the games themselves that are the problem; it's the kinds of players they attract.

"Derogatory words for gay are used almost constantly while playing online to insult other players, gay or not," he says. "If you make yourself known as a gay player, you can be snubbed, sent nasty e-mails, turned on by your own teammates, and verbally abused."

In short, playing Call of Duty online ensures not only that I’ll be hanging out with close minded douchecopters, but that I’ll be doing so in an environment where they can easily kill me. This is not my idea of a great time, hence why I stick to single player games like Fallout: New Vegas, where the most abrasive and intolerant asshole I have to deal with is myself.

I say all of this because I want you to get an idea of how ironic it is that what I was doing at my temp art department job for the past two weeks was converting a massive aircraft hangar into the venue for Call of Duty XP, the world’s first ever Call of Duty convention.

I’m really proud of the work that my coworkers and I did at this event – my department turned a couple of bland rooms into a gritty and atmospheric armory filled with prop guns from the Call of Duty series. We put a latex zombie head in a big plastic jar, and mounted replicas of heavy machine guns and .50 sniper rifles on the walls like big, dangerous trophies.

A lot of art department work, I should point out, is essentially interior decorating, and as such I’d say at least half of the art department was openly gay. Nothing faster refutes all the stereotypes about homosexuals you see in the media than two gay guys arguing about whether the 12 gauge shotgun should be mounted above or beside the bloody, severed zombie head.

This event was essentially Mecca for the virulently homophobic Call of Duty community, and a major portion of it was designed and built by hardworking, talented, friendly gay dudes with some token heteros thrown in for good measure. As hundreds of attendees played the multiplayer demo for Modern Warfare 3 and called each other fags, they were sitting on wooden benches built for them by gay people.

I’ll bet that the bulk of the people who play Call of Duty aren’t necessarily any more homophobic than any other given American – the combination of anonymity and adrenaline pumping life-or-death combat probably encourages a special brand of situational ignorance.

If anything, though, it makes me want to give Call of Duty a second shot, mainly so I can confront the XBox live trolls with this information and maybe prompt some sort of chagrined self reflection. More likely than not, they’ll just call me a fag too and then shoot me in the face, but that’d probably happen either way.

Truman Capps can only imagine how many people at CODXP said something about the 'call of doody' on their way to the bathroom.