Recently a company named Infinity Ward was responsible for creating the fastest-selling videogame of all time. It was called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. You may have heard of it. Since its release, it has remained at the top of the sales list and is currently the hottest game on Xbox Live, itself the top online gaming service. It would be fair to say, then (if somewhat of an understatement), that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the most popular game in the world right now, if not ever made. So then why do so many people hate it?

Could it be because the game is pushing boundaries? Perhaps. A level towards the beginning of MW2 allows you to take part in a terrorist assault on a Moscow airport. You may opt not to fire on the civilians if you choose (and you can opt out of the mission altogether), but the game doesn’t shy away from showing the carnage and terror. You and your fellow terrorists will shoot people in the head as they attempt to surrender, in the back as they try to flee and in the gut as they lie bleeding, waiting for it all to be over. The level, called “No Russian,” is a terrible and awesome spectacle, and no matter how jaded you pretend to be, it will affect you.

Perhaps it’s this, then, that’s the cause of so much hatred for MW2. Fox News would have you believe so, but then, the Fox News audience doesn’t really play games. And they hate lots of things. No, that wouldn’t account for the sincerely-felt ire of actual gamers.

Maybe we can trace the ill feelings from actual gamers to the controversial decision to “hobble” the PC multiplayer version of MW2 by not providing for dedicated servers. As for why this is a big deal, omitting dedicated server support makes the PC version of the game play like the console version, which, to speed-addicted PC gamers, is like riding in a sedan vs. a sport car. It’s a difference a lot of gamers wouldn’t even notice, but to those who do, it’s an incredibly big deal.

Yet, in spite of the ire, the PC version of MW2 has still sold more quickly than its prequel, making it, like its console cousin, one of the fastest-selling games of all time. This would seem to indicate that the very people who are most upset about this game are nevertheless buying it in huge numbers, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. People don’t actually buy things they hate, do they? Really?

They do. Or, I should say: You do.

Considering the gamer subculture is the same subset of people who ushered the word “meh” into general circulation, this should come as no surprise. Gamers love to hate, and, ironically, they hate to love.

Case in point: the console war. Never in history, outside of professional sports fanaticism or perhaps the war in Northern Ireland, have different groups of people with so many common interests been so completely unable to see eye-to-eye. Microsoft or Sony? Nintendo or Sega? Honestly, who the hell cares? They all make games. Games are awesome. Shut the f**k up and enjoy the surplus. Seriously. The only way a fanatical ire against one console fan base vs. another makes sense is if gamers genuinely believe that the success of one spells doom for another – or “theirs.” And yet, even then, with so many games available on multiple platforms, what does the failure or success of one over another really mean apart from the potential loss of a relatively minor number of proprietary features?

It’s a straw man argument, which at the end of the day serves to obfuscate the glorious fact that there are no fewer than three powerful companies engaged in the business of making the things we all, as gamers, enjoy. And yet, in spite of this overabundance of entertainment options, devices created ostensibly to perpetuate the act of “having fun,” the battles rage.

Jade Raymond. Bungie, Left 4 Dead 2, The Wii on The Today Show and yes, PC vs. consoles. The history of gamer culture is littered with meaningless disputes over this or that, and the only conclusion one can draw is that this contentious, petty group of people wants it that way because, one can only assume, they have nothing more important to fret about.

Which brings us back to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the most popular game ever made and why, in spite of that fact, it’s currently the most hated. Or, at least, the most popular to hate. One must assume that there is a meaningful number of people who simply don’t like the game. After all, not all games are to all gamers’ tastes. But there’s a vast gulf between disliking something because it’s not to your taste, and developing a searing, abject hatred for it because it betrays your core values.

One wonders if the problem isn’t so much the game, but the gamers themselves. When a game sells as many copies as any game ever made, one has to assume the audience for that game includes gamers from almost all walks of life, from the hardcore to the mainstream. Which, in itself, means that at long last gaming has achieved what so many have for so long claimed to look forward to: mainstream acceptance. And yet instead of joy, this seems to create ire. As if the very fact that a game is mainstream makes it somehow more distasteful to gamers who aren’t.

One can only infer that there is a subset of gamer culture that does not, in fact, want gaming to be mainstream. That these gamers, who love to hate the popular game du jour, would much prefer games remain the exclusive club inhabited by the smart and nerdy. That they wish The Today Show and its soccer mom audience had never heard of videogames. Or that, when the acceptance came, they themselves, the gamers, had been accepted along with the Wii. That they would not still, in spite of the subjugation of “their” hobby into the gaping maw of mainstream consumerism, be viewed as “other.”

I have news for this group of gamers: No matter how popular videogames may become, to the inhabitants of the demographic known as “mainstream,” you, with your tenuous grasp on life outside the confines of your comfy chair, with your reluctance to adopt mannerisms and behaviors which will allow you to blend in with polite society, with your encyclopedic knowledge of videogame plots and characters, will always be a nerd. Even to people who now also play videogames, in addition to laughing at you on the bus. Because videogames, for them, are simply one of many pursuits, whereas for you, they are a lifestyle.

Is this a bad thing? I guess that depends on your point of view. If, for example, you are the type of person who believes that everyone should be like you, have the same likes as you and play the same games as you (on the same machines), then you’re going to have a hard time adapting to a world in which people who are not like you nevertheless share some of your interests. If, however, you’re capable of accepting that people are different, yet nevertheless, ultimately the same in spite of their differences, then you should probably get over yourself. You may be a nerd, but who the hell said there was anything wrong with that?

Russ Pitts

Eight-Bit Antiquities

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