I should probably first point out a few key details to anyone who isn't familiar with the game. The Call of Duty games are the ones you hear people talking about around the water cooler. They are the games people on TV are playing when they're pretending to play games. The concept is simple: first person point of view, point your gun at bad guys and kill them. The story is always told in a convoluted, messy narrative that overcomplicates in order to seem highbrow, even though the game is clearly geared toward brahs, Matthew Brah-dericks and brah-min. That said, the series has been a benchmark for what video games can do in popular culture. These suckers sell more than nearly all other forms of media. They're popular in a way that very few musicians or movies can be. Basically, everyone and their mother wants the new Call of Duty game.
Don't believe me? Look at this picture of Ice-T tweeted yesterday, sporting the biggest shit-eating grin of all time.
So when I started hitting up the midnight launches around town last night, I was prepared for some fanatics. What I got was one of the most diverse crowds I've seen collected in one place. These were people who by day are law clerks, cooks, retail clerks, accountants and every other job imaginable, but by night are top-ranked players.
"At least there will be tons of people to play with tonight," commented a guy next to me, who seemed oddly worried that a game that had over 500 pre-orders at one store alone might not sell enough to give him some gaming buddies.
"It's about being here first, man," said a kid who couldn't have been over sixteen who told me his name was Chris, but did so in a way that I didn't exactly believe him. Perhaps he was a real-world Black Ops character, shifty-eyed and worrisome of the nerd with a camera asking for his name. He'd spent the evening running around in between cars, seemingly playing the game in real life, or in his head.
"I've met tons of people, man. This is going to be the bomb. I've got a shitload of pop and I'm gonna stay up all night," hollered a kid named Ethan, who was either incredibly hyped or slightly drunk, it was hard to tell.
And so it went for the hour that people waited in line in the brisk fall weather. The strangest thing about the whole evening was the fact that there was not a single "type" of person. When you imagine a midnight release of a video game, you think a collection of nerds and dorks acting dweebish. That was certainly present, but for every solitary geek playing his PSP in the corner, there was a hipster smoking cigarettes and talking about owning his enemies. For every mini-van, there was a fixed-gear. It speaks to the game's universal appeal, but it's really weird to see in action.
For the hell of it, I asked a few people how they felt about the Supreme Court hearing last week, which put video games on the floor to be protected under the First Amendment. A couple people had no idea what I was talking about, but a few were passionate: "It's fucking ridiculous they'd even consider banning violent games. If they do, we'd have to fucking ban books and shit," said a kid who only gave me his Gamertag, which I won't list here. I wondered what would happen if the Supreme Court did make a surprise decision to ban violent games. Violence in games, people seemed to agree, doesn't make us make violent in real life, but banning them might.
For all the stereotypes about gamers, one didn't hold true: This was a group of people who were there at midnight not only because they wanted to play the game, but because of the community. I overheard tons of conversations where strangers were giving each other their Gamertags and PSN IDs. The commonality -- shooting digital people in the head -- reigned supreme last night. Of course, the male-to-female ratio was somewhere around 25:1, so at least that stereotype held true.