Every year I surrender sixty dollars to experience the thrill of the games in the Call of Duty franchise. I put in hundreds of hours into both the multiplayer and campaign modes, each mode fueled by vastly different motivations. I play multiplayer to kill as many opposing players as possible, all while being completely detached from my in-game actions. Conversely, I play campaign and get immersed into the story and framework presented to me, with the story and relationships that I build with the characters all feeling very real. Both modes consist almost entirely of me controlling my character to kill another in game character, yet the two feelings I receive from each mode are nothing alike.
In the multiplayer of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a large goal of mine was to reach master prestige, which comes as a result of putting a lot of time into the game and leveling up over 500 times. To reach this goal, I load into game after game, killing as many opposing players as I possibly can, using whatever killstreaks or other egregious methods I can to complete that task. Whether the method is sitting in a window on Nuketown, or calling in an attack helicopter to slaughter the enemy team, I commit these acts without a second thought of the act itself.
Chopper Gunner on Black Ops’ map WMD
However, I can turn to the campaign and feel entirely immersed in every mission I play. I feel direct connections to every character in the story, and when those characters die, it hurts me. (Spoilers incoming for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2/3 ) On the multiplayer battlefield, both my teammates and I die with regularity, and I respawn unfazed. Yet, when my long standing partner John “Soap” Mctavish dies in battle, I am brought to tears. Or when I compromise a mission as the player that I control, I feel as though I have let my comrades down. Even the death quotes make the game feel as though you are being faced with real consequences and lessons for every mistake you make.
Post death screen in Call of Duty: Black Ops’ Campaign
I begin to bond with the people I run alongside; I understand their motives; I yearn to protect them, and carry out the mission assigned to me. This growing feeling of trust and companionship with my comrades makes every mission feel increasingly important leading up to the end of the campaign. These feelings of trust and companionship make General Shepherd’s betrayal in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 feel so real. They create genuine feelings of triumph when I am the one to kill him.
Final Mission of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. “Endgame”
The duality of this gaming experience of war is what brings me back to play a new Call of Duty title every year. I truly believe that the games I have described are each masterpieces in their own right. The ability of these games to evoke two completely different levels of attachment to the experiences within the games is something incredible. There are even elements of the individual modes from which I am both immersed and detached simultaneously. No matter how invested I am in my experience, I am still detached from this virtual world.
Atop these feelings stands the sheer enjoyment and entertainment value I receive from playing these games. No matter which mode I play, I can sit back and escape from my own world and responsibilities all while thoroughly enjoying the experience. This is what I believe makes video games a work of art. The possibility to directly interact with a world that is so distant while feeling so real is remarkable, and my desire to experience this feeling brings me back to these games time and time again.