A long time ago, my grandfather’s house was in danger of being bulldozed due to some zoning violations. The actual demolition never took place, the disaster being averted through a last-minute court order; but an interesting thing happened the day before. My mother once told me of how, on the eve of the bulldozing, a distant cousin of my grandfather’s came to their house in order to console the family over the fact that their home was to be demolished in just a few hours. However, rather than sharing in my grandfather’s grief, his cousin sat there and mockingly laughed at the fact that my mother’s house was about to be knocked down. My family just stayed silent, too depressed to even tell him to stop. I heard this tale from my mother when she was recalling that cringe-inducing moment with her brother and this was the first time I had heard of this relative. Understandably, he made a bad first impression in my mind. However, what surprises me about this whole incident is that my mother still insists that he was a good person, this one action being an uncharacteristic blemish on an otherwise clean record. I disagree with my mother, believing that a good person cannot laugh at someone else’s pain; such an act is indicative of a flawed character. Ever since then, I have asked myself whether this was just a bad-intentioned, petty act or was my mother’s uncle a bitter, petty person? It was this very question that I asked myself when I looked at the Metacritic user score for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Considering the fact that the game set first day shipping records and reached the billion-dollar milestone quicker than James Cameron’s Avatar, one would think that the first-person-shooter from Activision Blizzard was well received. However, while critics largely loved the game, the user score on the review aggregator’s site was abysmal, prompting Glen Schofield, Studio Head of developer Sledgehammer Games, to seek fan support regarding the “suspiciously low” score.
While Schofield’s wording may initially sound a bit conspiratorial, there is a notable discrepancy between the user and critical score. Although I am personally not a fan of first-person-shooters and therefore only have experience with the title at friendly gatherings, I can still see that it is a solid game, offering varied multiplayer options, realistic graphics and fluid gameplay. The bad user reviews, when analyzed carefully, demonstrate that gamers are not complaining about the game itself; their issue is with the game is their perception of Activision as a greedy company.
And in here lies the simple truth: because fans don’t like Activision’s policies, they are not even willing to judge a game on its own merits. Yes, Activision’s hostile attempts at taking over the beloved Take-Two Interactive Software are unforgettable and they regularly produce games that are the death of innovation. However, the actions of the developer do not justify needlessly degrading the hard work of hundreds of employees and thus endangering their livelihood. Also, as far as innovation is concerned, Mario has been looking in the wrong castle for three decades but no one is sabotaging Nintendo’s ratings because saying anything against legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto is blasphemy in the gaming world.
I am not saying that a bad game deserves an excellent score, but a product should be judged on its own merits, not the character of its company. Also, while a lack of innovation is something that I consider unforgivable, a reviewer should still take into account that a game still sets industry standards in terms of gameplay, graphics, sound design and even marketing. They may be too similar to the installments that precede them but Call of Duty games are still considerably better than most of the competition; anyone who refuses to recognize that, and it is a refusal because I do not believe that anyone with a pair of working eyes can fail to see that Modern Warfare 3 gets a lot of things right, is being resentful and intentionally working to hurt the livelihood of all those attached to this project. Perhaps, this is an uncharacteristic action that does not really reflect on who these people are as a whole but, as it stands, this is remarkably petty and can be quite hurtful.
My mother’s uncle was seemingly punished that very day because the same bulldozer was later ordered to destroy his store. Perhaps, these gamers will one day work diligently on something necessary for them to attain or keep their job, and someone’s misplaced criticism will cost them that. I certainly hope that this isn’t what it takes for anyone to learn that when it comes to matters of someone’s employment, be fair in your comments. Call of Duty continues to grow and is now going viral in China as an internet game, allowing purchase of in-game items while also avoiding the inevitable piracy that results from releasing physical copies in that region. Therefore, it can be said that these comments did not hurt Activision, but one look at the truly depressing fate of 38 Studios and its employees works well to illustrate what might have been had people actually listened to these bitter, petty individuals.