This past Monday was a holiday in the United States celebrating the day in 1776 when the American colonists officially declared their independence from the British crown and the establishment of their own nation. Nearly 250 years later, Americans celebrate the holiday by gossiping about the British crown.
In all seriousness, July 4th is my favorite holiday because it is all the fun of a relaxing holiday without the stressful obligations that come with the big holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays. Follow a simple formula and reap the benefits on the best holiday in the U.S.:
- Eat BBQ.
- Watch fireworks.
- Feel innate satisfaction for being a citizen of the country whose greatest cultural achievements are Hollywood and Fast Food.
I also like to spend July 4th thinking about patriotism and how it affects our lives. This particular July 4th, I thought about how video games and patriotism are related. It was originally my intention to write a very broad article about patriotism in video games, but I quickly became mired in countless possibilities. The fact is, too many games have qualities that are related to patriotism and I do not want to write another thesis any time soon. I was stuck: how to write about patriotism in gaming, when the topic is so broad?
Thankfully, I did not have to answer my own question. Valve’s Steam service, a digital retailer of PC games, had a big discount on a game I had always meant to play: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This title is a very popular among even relatively casual gamers earning it a reputation among more hardcore gamers as a “simple” game for members of college fraternities. This assessment always bothered me because it reeked of the kind of criticism hipsters have towards mainstream music (i.e. if it is popular, it is worthless). What hardcore gamers miss about COD4 is that it is a popular game for a reason.
I want to play through COD4 and analyze it as a commentary on patriotism in the United States. I want to see what tools the developer used to exploit feelings of patriotism in the player and hopefully make bigger statements as to why a game such as COD4 is so popular, even among players who do not play a lot of different games. I am also hoping that by playing through Call of Duty (I have honestly never touched the game before now), I will be able to draw parallels with other games and forms of media.
Starting next week, I will write articles about my experiences playing through the single player game. I will not touch the multiplayer component for three reasons:
- My internet connection is not up to the task of playing online games.
- Even if my connection was up to the task, the online community for COD4 has been broken up by the release of its sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
- I do not think multiplayer games have much in the way of artistic merit, since so much of the experience is dictated by competition, not narrative. This is not to say multiplayer games are devoid of material for critical analysis; rather, single player experiences are richer in narrative and characters, and are easier to deconstruct.
I will however touch upon some of the reasons why the game was successful, and since its multiplayer component was a huge reason for its popularity, I will discuss multiplayer as a separate topic.
Stay tuned for next week’s article on COD4 and patriotism.