Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, let me make it clear that is post has nothing to do with putting the Call of Duty series down. It’s merely used as a metaphor for something that I consider to be a greater problem in the gaming industry, so read on to catch my drift.
In the world of gaming we see plenty of games in all genres with all kinds of varying characters, themes, storylines, and gameplay mechanics – or at least we think we do. Relatively recently, as in within the past couple of years, I have seen a shift in creativity among game developers, and not the good kind of shift. Developers are buckling down to make more and more money on each game release, that is the name of the game (no pun intended) and quite a few big name developers and publishers are following this business model. Instead of creating new games with refreshing new features, developers are trying to appeal to larger crowds in an attempt to sell more units and make more money. This has greatly affected the survival horror genre, for example, as AAA developers have pushed their games in more of an action-based direction (which is the bigger consumer market) such as with Resident Evil and Dead Space series’.
I have dubbed this recent and recurring phenomenon the “Call of Duty Effect” due to the fact that the Call of Duty franchise continues to blow sales right out of the water, inspiring others to follow suit. The Call of Duty series remains wildly popular even though they release games annually with little deviation to the general game outside of a couple new features and improved graphics (sometimes). It’s a trend that is damaging the gaming industry at this point, in my opinion. Many developers seem to be scared to think outside of the box and create games that are original in both storyline and gameplay, or any other aspect really. They want to make games that sell and knowing that the Call of Duty franchise sells causes them to follow in the footsteps of more successful developers (money-wise) and hold back on innovation.
A lot of game developers have broken through the “Call of Duty Effect” by creating new, original games with innovative aspects. These games include Bioshock Infinite with its greatly in-depth and detailed storyline and The Last of Us with its fresh take on the post-apocalyptic world. These games received great reviews and stole the hearts of gamers around the world, yet other developers seem to have a hard time following that example, creating the same humdrum games over and over again. This brings me to other major aspect of “The Call of Duty Effect” – game reviews and their impact on gamers.
Gamers read reviews and base their opinions of the game off of them, which can be both good and bad. Reviewers hold way more power than I think they realize. They have the ability to make or break a game in the eyes of the consumers through a simple number attached to a synopsis of the game and it’s mechanics. Some great games have received mediocre or negative reviews due to obscure developers or reviewer opinion which in turn caused a certain group of people to brush these games off and play other, more positively reviewed games. This makes a problem when big name reviewers become bias, as most are, and review games poorly by comparing them to their favorite games. Consumers tend to lose sight of the fact that reviews are based on opinion, and that goes for all reviews. Reviews are written by humans, and humans base anything they rate or score off of some amount of personal thought or opinion. It is impossible for them not to be opinionated and it’s not a bad thing until people let these reviews influence them more than they should.
Reviews are meant to give gamers some basic information and opinions about the game in order to educate but should in no way be a determining factor on whether or not to buy/play a game. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a person become super excited about a game then never purchase it due to less that spectacular reviews that they weren’t expecting. If you want a game, go get it! Don’t let someone else who you don’t even know make the decision for you. This all comes back to the “Call of Duty Effect” as Call of Duty games typically receive positive scores from big time reviewers, setting some kind of invisible standard for many other games. For some reason a select set of reviewers compare every first person shooter, or even third person shooter, to Call of Duty which is not fair. I hope at this point you catch my drift, so let’s get into what we the consumer can do to counteract the “Call of Duty Effect”.
For one we can express our interests in innovative new games in mature ways on social media websites and online video game forums. Saying “Capcom are a bunch of morons for making Resident Evil 6 more action-based” helps no one since the game is already made and the condescending tone causes the comment to lose credibility. Having a blog (such as the one you are reading now) or posting on game company message boards/Facebook/Twitter in a mature and intelligent way can help. You’d be surprised by how many companies and individual developers actually look at their own message boards and Twitter/Facebook feeds. They want to hear our feedback in order to make their next game better.
We can also do the simple thing and “vote” with our minds and our money. While the Call of Duty games may be great, stop buying them over and over again if you just think they are the same as past games in the series. I know I am not the only one who hears people say they are tired of Call of Duty being the same every year yet they consistently buy the game. I’m not saying to boycott that franchise per say, but if the lack of innovation bothers you then do something about it. Stop letting reviewers decide what you buy or what you don’t buy, stop giving in to the Call of Duty type games, and use your own free will to make game purchase decisions.. After all, it is your money that you are spending, spend it wisely.
I hope that with the next generation of video game consoles comes a plethora of fresh new ideas. They say that one new change can lead to many more so I am hopeful. We have already seen a few new games announced at E3, GamesCom, and other gaming conventions that have taken place this year. These games include (but are not limited to) The Order: 1886, The Division, Titan Fall, Ryse, and Destiny. Maybe these games will break the “Call of Duty Effect” and bring about a new era of innovative ideas. Indie games are also a great way to get some originality, currently and in the future, and they tend to be less bound by sales and more bound by variation as far as general design and story goes.
What do you think are some other ways to counteract the “Call of Duty Effect” from a consumer standpoint? What are your hopes for the future of gaming? Let your voice be heard!