(This is another edition of </RANT>, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
CODphobia is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty to the game industry without evidence to back it up, the only “evidence” being that the accused plays Call of Duty. The term originated during a famous historical period in the United States, known as the Second COD Scare, which arbitrarily began somewhere between November 10, 2010 and November 8, 2011 and is famous for capturing the fears and alarm that associations with Call of Duty brought out of American gamers — specifically the idea that COD players would negatively influence the game industry and subvert its ideals.
Pundits coined the term to criticize the actions of community policing agents from the likes of N4G and GameFAQs, who would fuel the wave of anti-COD sentiment throughout the United States and hold gamers to trial for the suspected crime of enjoying Call of Duty. At first, this started small. Reviewers criticized for being sympathetic towards the COD movements. Friends being removed from Xbox Live if it turned out they had any history of association with an Infinity Ward game. Eventually, “Loyalty Review Boards” were instituted to groom gamers and ensure they remained true to the industry by only buying original, innovative games such as New Super Mario Bros. and Urban Champion 3D. It all came to a head, however, with the so-called “Reddit Trials,” where members of the industry task force known as R/Gaming would arrest customers browsing GameStop without warning and take them to a secluded trailer for questioning.
The phrase, “Have you now or have you ever been a member of Call of Duty Elite?” has become synonymous with the CODphobic cause and is famously known as the “$60-per-year question.” Many gamers attempted to use the fifth amendment so they didn’t have to answer the question or implicate others as COD players, but it was a lose/lose situation. As game reviewer Sharky Marbles put it, you’d either have to “hold down the crouch button to be an informer” or become known as a “Fifth Amendment COD player,” a term favored by Reddit to shame those who would neither confess nor implicate.
Interestingly, the roots of COD hysteria can be traced back much further in history, to an even darker period of America’s past. In the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, a series of events known popularly as the Salem Bro Trials would put over 150 people under scrutiny as a wave of hysteria swept the land. Under the stress of extreme religious rule, social isolation, and intolerance, the people of Salem, Ipswich and Andover were gripped by fears that supernatural entities, that they called “Bros,” had quietly taken control of the population. The creatures were said to invade the souls of the living, causing them to drink Red Bull for breakfast, say “Wazzup” to people many years after it stopped being funny, and use lamb’s blood in an arcane ritual that would turn their sackcloth shirts pink.
Not only do the Bro trials indicate just how terrible a price mass hysteria can have on a community, the inhuman portrayal of the malevolent spirits in question bears a shocking resemblance to the way in which the CODists attempted to dehumanize Call of Duty players. The average COD player was depicted in a manner very similar to the Bro — a beer guzzling simpleton who can only communicate in the simplest of terms, possessed of a naive and childish view of the world. The irony, of course, was that the CODphobics themselves were possessed of no less a childish and simplistic world view, their broad strokes painting all accused COD players in one color, and their accusations often taking the form of alarmist propaganda images that reduced COD players to one-dimensional characters and often ignored the hypocritical nature of the accuser’s single-minded and attitude. In the mind of a CODphobic, ALL Call of Duty players were exactly the same, incapable of appreciating anything deeper than what they called a “casual” FPS, and unable to appreciate the complex and philosophically deep games that were enjoyed at the time, such as Mario Party 8.
Of course, CODphobia did not enjoy unanimous support, though it took quite some time before the dissent was heard. Many feared retribution or were afraid that any support for Call of Duty would label them a “COD Baby,” just one of many insulting slurs used at the time. Humanity’s fear of association is one of the oldest and most exploited traits in human history, and the instigators of CODphobia were masters at manipulating it. However, some did find the courage to speak up. Prindle Brambles, for example, wrote that anti-COD rallies had extended far beyond its stated cause, beginning to attack all first-person-shooters, and eventually, any game with a gun in it. Left unchallenged for so long, the excesses of anti-COD extremism reached a new low when four-hundred copies of Battlefield 3 were burned in New Orleans. A police investigation later revealed that protesters were unable to tell the difference between Battlefield and Call of Duty, a revelation that indicated just how far the movement had gone. This incident, along with the savage beating of game developer Will Wright when it turns out that he once drew a picture of a gun, helped create a backlash against mainstream CODphobia.
Eventually, CODphobia waned as fears were revealed to be unfounded and journalists spoke out against it. The final nail in the coffin came when Comfortable Mallow, a university professor, was fired from his job after Reddit questioned him on his gaming habits. Mallow sued the board of education and it was ruled that people cannot be fired simply for the assumption that they have played a brown-hued military shooter. After this ruling, almost all popular support had drained. The era of scaremongering and prejudice was finally over.
That is, until everybody remembered that Angry Birds was more popular and they all decided to shit on that again.