How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Call of Duty

I haven’t played or bought a Call of Duty game since 2010’s Black Ops. I was sick and tired of the same game every year and supporting this business model. So I took it upon myself to boycott Call of Duty…until now. A couple weeks ago, I popped in Modern Warfare 2 (one of my favorite games of the last generation) into my Playstation 3. I had day’s worth of gameplay on the game’s PVP multiplayer, which is a lot for a gamer that mostly plays single player games. I played a couple of matches in Team Deathmatch and suddenly realized that this is the most fun I’ve had playing video games in months. I was having stupid amounts of fun getting kills with an ACR, running around only knifing people like an idiot, and sprinting around with a shotgun as a sidearm because the developers of this game were insane.

Video games have been slipping away from me for the past few months and suddenly; I was really enjoying games again. I missed this feeling of excitement and rush that video games used to bring me, and now I went and did something I vowed never to do again: buy another Call of Duty game. I went ahead and bought Advanced Warfare (and wrote a review here…shameless plug) and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

The game isn’t perfect by any means. Some aspects of the multiplayer are ridiculous and absurd (System Hack scorestreak, awful spawns, the game maybe being a bit too fast), but the game is still some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a first person shooter online because of that ridiculousness.

Sure, the campaign and the co-op are same old, same old, and aren’t the reason you are probably buying these games in the first place, but I still have been coming back to the PVP almost every single day and playing for a decent amount of time each time. Is it that different from most COD games? No, not really. It adds some new gameplay elements and has probably the best class set-up system the series has ever had, but it still keeps the same core gameplay…and I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I’m okay with that. It used to piss me off, the laziness these developers had when they could make better games and I still believe they could be making better games, but I’m okay with it now.

I used to be one of those people getting angry with Call of Duty and its yearly bullshit, but I’m okay with it. People are going to love these games regardless of what I have to say about them and more power to them because I sort of understand once again. I’m having a blast with Advanced Warfare…and that’s okay that I am.

What do you think about Call of Duty as a franchise? Have you played Advanced Warfare? Do you boycott/not play Call of Duty like I once did?

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Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring writer who writes this stuff on these blogs to make you learn something or laugh I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally).

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Head In The Clouds Sunday: Reinventing The Wheel in Video Games

Head In The Clouds Sunday is my weekly post on video games that may get a little weird, a little personal, and a little fun. I talk about video games in different ways and about how we need to innovate games. It gets a little rambly, but hey, who cares? Enjoy.

We all love video games. I’ve always loved video games. I can’t remember a time when I was not playing video games. I was born in 1996 and had a Sega Genesis in my house as long as I can remember. But do we need to reinvent the wheel in video games? Are we stuck doing the same thing? Are we just running through the motions? Is it time for major changes? Is it? I’m not even sure. We have plenty of brown-colored first person shooters coming out every November. Hey, I’m not saying those games aren’t fun, they are, they really are, but isn’t this just the same thing? Don’t we need something a little different?

Trust me, I love some big, sweeping cinematic extravagances like Uncharted. The Uncharted franchise is near and dear to me, those characters are near and dear to me, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is by far one of my most cherished gaming experiences, getting the game on Christmas the year it came out, playing the entire thing within two days. I remember it crystal clear. But I get it. I get these massive cinematic experiences with great cutscenes, visuals, and fun gunplay and platforming. It isn’t like it hasn’t been done before; Naughty Dog just fine-tuned it and executed it just right. But can’t we get something a little more here?

Every once and a little while, we do. We get something like Journey. A game with no cutscenes and tells this story solely through gameplay and visuals and it’s an emotionally riveting experience. It is exactly what the video game medium was designed for. It is what video games can be like if pushed really, really far to differentiate themselves from movies and literature and become their own thing. Let’s face it: Uncharted is a movie with gameplay. Journey is a video game, a true piece of art in video games. How did that game manage to reinvent the wheel? It cut out all the same stuff that video games are known for. Stupid button prompts, bad tutorial sequences, cutscenes that force the player to stop playing the game, which is the point of video games in the first place, voice acting, everything. Just…everything. It is purely minimalistic. It is quiet and content with amazing music. It is…so purely a video game. It is taking the medium to its very core and rides along with it for around two hours and you get strangely emotionally attached to this character (or characters, depending on who you get randomly partnered up with online) that you do not know, who does not speak, who is nothing but something you control with an analog stick and buttons. It reinvents the wheel in nearly every way…by removing parts from the wheel. Isn’t that a little strange? Maybe…even really strange?

Have we gotten so used to the loud, brown shooting games or the long, melodramatic RPGs or the insane open-world games made by Rockstar, Sucker Punch, and Volition or the movie-like cinematic experiences provided by Telltale Games and Naughty Dog? Are we just…okay with this all? I don’t think we should be. Again, I enjoy these typical big budget games a lot…in fact I love them. They are still some of my favorite gaming experience of all time. I very much enjoy a solid game of Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty or hitting people with a giant, purple dildo in Saint Rows III. But we’ve become a bit too complacent as gamers. Maybe a bit too comfortable to what has been given to us year by year, especially during the holiday season where all of the biggest games are released. But let’s look at what has happened this year. A lot of people don’t love Destiny. Halo: The Master Chief Collection doesn’t really work. Call of Duty is still Call of Duty. Assassin’s Creed Unity is kind of, somewhat broken. Maybe it’s time for some changes. Maybe we really need a true, genuine reinventing of the wheel before we get a bit too comfortable with what is handed to us. I don’t want to cut out all the same “video gamey” stuff, I really don’t, I just think developers need to look back for a minute and realize we need to scale things down, go back to the basics, start from there, and then make something really, really amazing. We don’t want developers to just continue rushing into making the next great first person shooter that mostly plays the same as that other one released three months ago, I want something new and something that will challenge the gamer-not on a gameplay challenge level-but on a level of intellectual, artistic value, and really taking back what video games really mean: gameplay. And even more so, telling stories through that gameplay and nothing more. I want to see it more and I hope others do as well.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) He’s trying to be a video game journalist but is probably failing at that. You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally).

Are setpieces and pretty graphics taking over gameplay?

Giant setpieces in video games are an absolute blast to watch and play but they also manage to make games that aren’t as interesting…well, interesting. Some games that really benefit from this are 1st person shooters and their campaigns. A vast majority of 1st person shooters are very simple and generic: point and shoot at a flood of mediocre A.I. But one of the things these shooters do so perfectly, is having these massive, over the top setpieces with insane explosions and crazy things happening all at once.

The reason these setpieces don’t both me as much as they should is because I am controlling them, I am apart of them (sort of). Let’s compare this to action movies these days which are a bore, we’ve seen it over and over again and I don’t think (most) people want to see it anymore, but a dumb Call of Duty campaign can still be decent fun for a few hours solely because of these setpieces. We live in a very interesting time in video games where graphics and big, huge stuff looks so interesting…because it is pretty and we control it. And as much as I push for innovation in video games, I’m still willing to play these stupid, big set pieces every year. What exactly does that say about us as gamers? Do we just like to look at pretty graphics and sometimes care less about what the game itself actually is? Is this a good or a bad thing?

Let’s look at this from a hardware perspective for a second. Every time a new system comes out, what is the first thing that ends up being the conversation? Frame rate? Pixels? Polygons? How great that next gen game looks rather than how it might play? What is going on here? Why is this the first thing we care about? Shouldn’t we care about gameplay? As I said, I love look at pretty graphics and pretty set pieces, but should that be what a game is about? Absolutely not, we need to look at games way beyond that, but sometimes I think that factor is completely forgotten about as new systems and new big budget titles come out every year, and we all fall into this trap!

Hell, even if you look at Uncharted, that game is littered in cinematic spectacle that makes aspects of the game maybe better than they really are too. If we look at video games at their core, it always seemed to be about games progressing to look better and better and better, from 8bit to 16bit to 32bit to 64bit. It was always numbers, data, and things of that nature. Should it be? I don’t really know. As a whole, no, I would hope not. I want games to embody something more than being visual spectacles that you (sometimes) control. But sometimes it feels as though so many games every year fall into this trap. Games that are filled with cutscenes that go far too long, games that focus on how pretty they are instead of how well they play.

Sometimes, it may be necessary to look at the purity of video games and what they really come down to: gameplay. Gameplay is always the key factor to what games really are. If a game doesn’t play well, why would anyone want to play it? Are we reaching a point where gameplay is starting to matter less for figures instead, because these games are being “improved” (superficially) by graphics more than ever? I can’t answer the question fully, it’s a tough one to answer, but I can still be so easily amused by the first level of Super Mario Bros., so maybe it doesn’t matter as much as I think so, it just seems to be in the limelight. What do you think? Are we-gamers and developers-too focused on set pieces and how games look, have they taken center stage? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) He’s trying to be a video game journalist but is probably failing at that. You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally).

On Hatred: Why are gamers offended by it?

Hatred. It’s a game. And it’s coming out. And you kill things in it. And apparently that is bad because there isn’t a justification for that killing. Why is that suddenly a problem? Is it a problem? Personally, I don’t think so. I realize I’m a bit late to be formally commenting on Hatred, considering the trailer came out a couple weeks ago, but I still think it’s worth discussing regardless.

The trailer is essentially a complete psychopath going on a “genocide crusade,” killing people for absolutely no reason and he does not care if he dies either (as most psychopaths usually don’t care). It appears to be a top-down shooter of sorts. Hell, it might not even be good; amongst the anger people feel about the game, it could just be a generic top-down shooter that isn’t even memorable. Is this trailer using shock value in order to get attention? Absolutely. But here’s a thought, the people who are complaining about it and are angry about it and are talking about it loudly, aren’t you just helping this game get exactly what it wants? You could just, I don’t know, ignore the game? Maybe I’m crazy, but that seems to make the most sense to me. I’m personally commenting on the game because I’m not offended by the game whatsoever.

Why exactly am I not offended by the game? Well, have you ever played GTA and enjoyed shooting civilians? Or played Call of Duty and just enjoyed shooting at stuff? Or hey, played Uncharted where a guy murders plenty of people because he is the “hero?” I mean come on, why is this game even an issue with people? You are already doing exactly what this game expresses in other games! Is the concept slightly different by outright saying, “this is a game where the main character is a crazy psychopathic murderer who is killing for the sake of killing?” Yes, yes it is. But should we really care? I don’t think so. We’ve played so many games already where we senselessly murder people, as I already mentioned. But why is everyone so riled up about this anyhow?

Well, time to get political! Unfortunately, we live in this world where most things are deemed “politically incorrect” or “offensive,” (whatever that even means) so all the people who get offended by stupid garbage all the time are going to get offended by Hatred, but will willing defend GTA or Uncharted to the people who think all video games are “violent.” It’s extremely hypocritical and the excuse is, “but those games have stories!” Oh who cares? First off, GTA’s story isn’t exactly…umm…that great. It isn’t. It’s mostly stupid and over the top. All right, Uncharted has more of a story but regardless; the guy is still murdering 1,000s of people in his journey for treasure or something. But apparently the game where it is willing to skip the bullshit and just outright say, “this game is about murdering people…virtually,” is “offensive.” It’s silly and petty and a really crappy and useless argument without much basis. It’s being offended for the sake of being offended. Play Hatred. Don’t play Hatred. Ignore Hatred. Get angry about Hatred. I don’t care. I’m not going to play it simply because I don’t really care to play it, not because I’m super offended by a fucking video game.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring faux writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally). (I think I just said my book was shit.)

On Game Reviewers Getting Paid Off (and why it’s stupid)

A new Call of Duty game comes out. It usually gets around an 8.5 to 9.0 by most mainstream gaming sites; they must be paid off, right? Or could they, oh, I don’t know, actually enjoy the game? Trust me, I think a lot of games get far too high of scores than they deserve, but we have to realize something, games are subjective. People are going to like the games they want to like, if Call of Duty gets a 9.0, who cares? But on the top of every IGN post on Facebook, all they say is, “not COD 0/10,” or stupid garbage like that, which is really silly. Trolls are trolls though, I suppose.

But honestly, can we seriously say that video game journalists are paid off for reviews? I just find the concept incredibly silly. I don’t think studios or publishers are going to spend money on reviewers to pay them to write positive reviews. For one thing, people are going to buy Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed or Destiny or Halo or whatever regardless of reviews because they are brand names, they’ve built up a huge fan-base. (Well, Destiny is a new IP but it doesn’t matter because Bungie is a popular studio.) And I have my doubts on smaller developers and publishers having the money to pay for game reviews. I don’t know, as I said, the concept is incredibly stupid.

Are we not allowed to just respect and trust the opinions of the people who review video games? Sure, I disagree with a lot of reviews on major gaming sites and think a lot of games get far too high of scores (as I already mentioned), but the beauty of video games (and art in general) is people can decide what they want to love or hate. Besides if you’re just buying games solely based on reviews that isn’t the greatest idea in the first place, buy or rent games and experience them yourself to form a real opinion, game reviewers aren’t the be all end all of what is or isn’t quality. You make that choice.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring faux writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally). (I think I just said my book was shit.)

Why I love video game culture so much

This may come across as preaching to the choir or something of that sort. I don’t care. It also might get personal. I don’t care. I’d rather be sincere and honest about video games. I just love video game culture, let’s forget about the vile hatred that the community brings up sometimes: the console wars, #gamergate, making fun of COD (I ENJOY COD…SORRY), and all that other garbage. Let’s just talk about how great this culture is and how it’s kept me sane. First, some context:

I was at the gym, listening to a past episode of Podcast Beyond that I missed. (The #1 Playstation podcast on the Internet. Obviously. Why aren’t you listening to it?) Toward the end of the episode Mega Ran (a rapper associated with the Nerdcore Hip-Hop movement) performed a song called “Dream Master” and I don’t know, it just hit me. I fucking love video games. So much. I love this culture. I love EVERYTHING about it (even the vile hatred I told you to forget about). The song itself is a simple song, just Mega Ran talking about growing up and how video games impacted him and what they mean to him. It was so simple, utterly sincere, and it felt so good and refreshing. I adore sincerity more than anything and I guess that made me realize how much I truly love this culture.

I don’t know. Maybe it just has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been going through one of the most confusing points in my life ever. I left my home to go to college ten hours away and have never been more miserable in my life. So I’m leaving at the end of the semester, but one of the things that have helped me cope through this time is video games and writing about them. All I have with me is my Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita, but just sitting and playing Call of Duty, Sonic Adventure (you aren’t that good though, Sonic Adventure), Lumines: Electronic Symphony, etc. All of this has just kept me okay. Reading websites like IGN has kept me alright. Listening to podcasts like Podcast Beyond has made me feel less alone.

I never thought my dream of going to college where I am would actually end up being the worst time of my life. My ambitions had been to be a filmmaker for so long and that has changed. I do plan to go back to college as an English/Writing major but I’ve now decided, as a whole, that I want to simply write and talk about video games and video game culture for the rest of my life and I will make that happen. By posting here, by posting everywhere, by making video content, and I will make it my end goal to work in video games somehow. And I don’t think that’s ridiculous, for anyone else who is sitting here and posting about video games, don’t fucking give up. Keep doing this. Keep writing about this culture because this culture has kept so much of us okay. Has helped us find people with similar interests who can understand why we love these games so much. I feel like I’m part of the biggest cult culture ever and it’s fucking awesome.

It’s just as long as I can remember, it’s video games I go back to. Video games have always been the constant force in my life that remind me that everything is alright and that the people surrounding this culture are wonderful and I love that. I love it so fucking much. I hope people get what I’m trying to say here. I’m trying to be as straightforward and sincere here as possible. Keep playing games. Keep talking about this culture. Keep all of this alive. Because it’s pretty beautiful and means so much more than most people can completely understand. All of you people on these gaming sites and even the people starting their own damn sites right now as I speak (or write this), you’re awesome. I hope you know that. Life is pretty good. And so are video games.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring faux writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally). (I think I just said my book was shit.)

Awkward Cut Scenes and Bad Voice Acting: Video Games and Growing Pains

Sonic Adventure is a frustrating piece of shit. Sorry. I’m just really angry. For some reason, I decided to buy the game during Sega’s sale on Playstation Network. And now it’s time to talk about the growing pains of video games! The early days of 3D games are strange. Very, very strange. We had plenty of bad voice acting, awful story writing, and broken gameplay mechanics! How fun! Just listening to any of the dialogue in Sonic Adventure makes my brain want to explode. The weird, awkward pauses that make you uncomfortable, the awful, nonsensical storyline, and the borderline broken gameplay mechanics that are emphasized throughout half the game. We had plenty of growing pains back in these days of gaming and it’s pretty insane to see how far we’ve gone. (Okay, maybe Sonic has gone that far. Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors were pretty good though, right? Oh, but that new Sonic Boom game is supposed to be garbage. Sega, what is wrong with you? MAKE UP YOUR MIND! DO YOU WANNA MAKE GOOD OR BAD SONIC GAMES?

But it isn’t just Sonic Adventure. Remember Goldeneye and how much you think you love it? You probably don’t. The game barely works too. It does not hold up. We live in an era of well-developed first-person shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo. And beyond that, the Nintendo 64 controller is incredibly awkward (even if I almost sort of love it for its awkwardness) and isn’t really designed for shooters in any way whatsoever. But at the time, Goldeneye was praised to no end (and so was Sonic Adventure). It’s almost hard to believe these games were incredibly well received at the time, which really shows how different video games were back then. There was almost an absurd amount of growing pains games had to go through in the era of Nintendo 64 and Playstation One.

Even looking at Super Mario 64 which is one of the few games that does hold-up really well from the era, it is still littered in glitches and other problems, including camera ones. Most games in this era had mediocre to awful cameras that really just didn’t work so well. I’m not claiming Super Mario 64 is a bad game by any means, it’s actually one of my favorite games of all time, but it still couldn’t be prevented from being hindered from the age of strange 3D games that sorta kinda worked.

If we go ahead and look at a lot of Playstation One games like Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, they are filled with blocky graphics that don’t look so well today. Again, not bad games, (I’m actually not crazy about Final Fantasy VII, and I’m not afraid to admit that) but the age of shitty 3D graphics prevent them from aging well. And really, Metal Gear Solid is one of the few rare examples during this era that actually had a great story, great voice acting, and was very “movie-like” just in terms of storytelling qualities.

I’m not saying that the PSone, Sega Dreamcast, and Nintendo 64 era didn’t produce any quality. I just think it is really easy to signify this era as a strange one filled with an excessive amount of “growing pains.” Video games were still trying to find their footing and have now, for the most part, reached an era where that footing is pretty balanced. Games are now absurdly movie-like and have massive sweeping stories and gameplay elements that are making them the most interesting medium available. Uncharted is better than Indiana Jones. (Yeah I said it.) I just find it really strange to look back at the mid to late 90s and how ridiculous some of these games are. We were a lot more forgiving back then. I don’t know if that was a good thing. Seriously, fuck Sonic Adventure.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring faux writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally). (I think I just said my book was shit.)