Mr. PanTT‘s recent post about application for a news position stirred some thoughts into an already percolating pot I’d been cooking. News is important, and so is the dissection and blunt analysis of it, but gamer culture is news to me, at the very least. YouTube is becoming- some might say it already is- a haven for the gamer to make his voice heard more so than gaming blogs and “news” sites. There are certainly official companies that vouch for gaming, like the Video Game Voter’s Network and the ESA; their fight is a worthy one, but the common gamer has a voice to share with his preeminent vocational provider, publishers and developers.
As many jokes about Bobby Kotick and the big companies as we make, they are, for the most part, only the monetary providers for the developers. And as much as we don’t like to think so, developers listen to their fan base. Companies like Treyarch, DICE and perhaps most impressively Valve don’t have community managers and don’t make changes to their games for their own sake. They do it because gamers, you, me, Mr. PanTT, all of us, ask, beg and cry for them. They do listen.
But I’m getting off my point here. What I propose is a monthly or weekly* take on the state of the YouTube community from an outsider’s perspective. I’m not a part of it, else I’d not have time for this or any real writing, but I watch a fair bit of it. If this is something all of you want, I’ll undertake it and cast my net wide, searching for the biggest names I’m not yet aware of, comb them for the overall feelings in the community as I see them, and report them here to you with my commentary on the commentary community (and I’m done with that word now).
Every Year They Answer
To get started, let’s talk about the shift of CoD fans from game to game, at least from a gamer who began with CoD Black Ops and who can only look on from a distance. I might be barking up a tree ten miles from the one I want, but what I see is that with each Call of Duty game that comes out, something about it drives a portion of the gaming population back to the CoD previous. For example, CoD4, which rivals, and might still have BO for the title of “Best CoD ever,” came out and everybody loved it. Some who came from CoD2, the game that sort of started it all, and played CoD4 didn’t like it, so they went back to 2. The modern setting, the addition of powerful full auto weapons and the ever-pwning M16, red dots and scoped sniper rifles and what have you pushed their limits and they gave in. They learned they preferred CoD2 to Modern Warfare. There are still gamers playing 2, though in the severe minority.
Then World at War launched, and it was by no means CoD4. But a large group of players love it. They enjoy the return to WWII, the addition of zombies, the graver and greyer art style. They remain in World at War for its lifecycle of a year. There is that, perhaps larger, group of players whose eyes are clouded by Modern Warfare and the marvels it brought. They find themselves unable to stay in the past and return to the modern day presented in CoD4.
Let the Hate Begin
Moving on, Modern Warfare 2, the game to end all games, comes out and everyone, even those dedicated to the original Modern Warfare, finds themselves unable to put down their FAMASes and ACRs and Tar-21s. The game’s life rolls on, and the wrinkles start to show, or as the YouTube people put it, the “honeymoon stage” of pure awesome runs its course. One Man Army becomes an issue; Marathon Lightweight Commando rears its head. Danger Close shows us how overpowered the tubes are. The complaining once again commences, and grows louder than ever before. Heralded as a failure of a game by the larger portion of the Call of Duty fanbase, they clamber for Black Ops, which has at this point been announced with reveal trailers. The Boosting and the MLC and the OMA NoobTubes will finally be over, says the CoD player base.
And so for Black Ops, also experiencing the same “honeymoon stage,” where nothing could be said against the game. Two months roll on and the wrinkles start to show, as they have before. The game becomes, of all things, boring to a fair number of gamers. The maps are routine, the game modes tiresome, the add-ons only a momentary relief. The game looks to be dying even before it can grow up. New maps come out and new life appears. Still, though, MW2 becomes something to look back on with fondness. People swarm back to Modern Warfare 2, some even returning to CoD4. World at War dies a slow death.
Does Infinity Ward make better Call of Duty iterations? I can’t say, and here’s the objective reason: they’ve always had more money. Even Black Ops, Treyarch’s best funded game, paled in comparison, I’m sure, to MW2. Games today, at least in the AAA slot, require an infusion of capital the likes of which most people can only dream. Infinity Ward always had that open to them; they had the time to write a whole new engine for CoD2, revise it whole-sale for CoD4 and upgrade it for MW2. Treyarch had eight months, not even a third of the time necessary, to make CoD3, and what I can assume is probably less than half the funding IW had for Modern Warfare. With the collapse of Infinity Ward early last year, Activision put their full force behind Treyarch, but it was one year after the design process had begun. Modern Warfare 3 might have been in development, with full support from Kotick and his cronies. Now West and Zampela are out the door, what to do? Put our faith in Treyarch, the studio we dumped with the hardest jobs with the least pay. It worked. Black Ops released to a larger fanbase than ever before at record profits. Now people call it boring. They’re going back to MW2.
Returning to the topic
The YouTube gamers are a flighty lot, one for whom the whole story means little when easy arguments can be made with little effort. Even the biggest names, Woody, Wings, Ons1augh7, Hutch, SeaNanners, don’t see the whole picture. I certainly don’t. We are all blinded by our own biases; unfortunately for Call of Duty developers especially, their games are YouTube gold, and the stars of that community have voices with serious weight. A complaint from one becomes the complaint of a quarter million, all of whom clamber for an immediate and sweeping fix, which realistically is impossible. So they return to games they once hated with a passion rivaling few things in life.
Phew. That turned more into a rant than an examination of the YouTube community (dammit!), but I think you get my point. If you guys like this kind of thing, for my next post I’ll talk about the power of the commentator, and I’ll drop some familiar names.
*If I’m particularly un-busy for a few weeks