Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the launch of Call of Duty: Ghosts was a little bit of a disappointment. Gamers are tired of run of the mill war simulations. We have to push forward, to break new ground. My proposal for the next Call of Duty is a little unorthodox, but our franchise that has never hesitated to push boundaries, and that is exactly what this company needs right now.
I’ve interviewed a cohort of veterans, and I am delighted to report our next title will be, without a doubt, the most realistic military simulation in history. In fact, this won’t rehash the familiar portrayal of war. It’s life at its most extreme. Without further ado, I present: Call of Duty: Homeland.
As you know, President Obama has diminished our military involvement across the globe. He’s promised no boots on the ground in Syria. Soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in waves. You are one of these soldiers.
You’ve received your last, most difficult assignment, and it is a doozy. You’ve been pulled from combat, brought back to American soil, and debriefed. You’re at home. Everything is the same as when you left it when you were deployed. Your house. Your dog. Your wife. Everything’s the same except you. You’re… different.
You’ve leveled up, if you will. You’re a supersoldier, a killing machine. But you’re unfit for life’s day-to-day grind.
Your first mission begins. Fade in: You sit at the dinner table in silence. Jennifer, your wife, sits across from you. She’s young, beautiful. But she’s exhausted. She hasn’t been sleeping well. Neither of you has. You tell her you want to watch the news. And then: GAKGAKGAKGAKGAK.
Is that the sound of machine gun fire? No. Worse. Nagging. Jennifer says she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have the news on. You’ll get all worked up. You tell her, calmly but firmly, that you’re a goddamn grown man and you can watch the news in your own goddamned house if that’s what you goddamned want to. You are about ready to lose your shit. Your heart rate rises. You snap into action.
Remembering the cognitive behavioral therapy you learned at the VA hospital, you count backwards from ten. You use an “I-statement” to tell your wife how upset you feel. You let her know how much it means to you to watch a little television while you eat dinner. She gives in. You want a beer, but you don’t drink one because it would become a whole big thing. Every beer you don’t drink is worth major experience points.
You love Jennifer, you love her so much, but something is wrong. Not with her, with the whole goddamn world. She says you can talk to her if you want, but of course you can’t. You can’t tell her about the things you’ve seen, the things you’ve done. She can never know the horror inside you. You lie rigid beside her as she drifts into a fitful sleep. Objective: Complete.
That’s just the beginning. There’s a whole immersive world to explore. Next mission: You wake up, still bleary-eyed. It’s Sunday. Jennifer bought you tickets to see your favorite football team. You’d rather watch at home where you don’t have to worry about crowds or parking. Where you don’t have to pay nine dollars for a friggin’ hot dog. But, she bought the tickets, which was really sweet, so you go.
The stadium overwhelms you. Each fan that bumps up against you as you make your way to your seat fills you with anxiety. When the opposing team scores, the crowd lets out a collective moan. You sigh with them, but your loss is deeper. You’ve lost the illusion that any of this even matters.
Each burst of music from the stadium’s sound system rings in your ears like an explosion. But of course it’s not an explosion; it’s “Who Let The Dogs Out.”
You’re losing hit points, fast. Your vision blurs. You stand up and grope your way to the end of your row, up the stairs, into the bathroom. You press your face against a cold stall door until the room stops spinning. It’s only the beginning of the second quarter, but you text Jennifer that you want to leave now and beat the traffic home. As you drive, she rests her hand on your knee. You want to move it away, but you don’t. Objective: Complete.
Previous games have showed that war is hell, but none have gone into quite this level of detail. The level of choice you’re given will lend itself to incredible replay value. But yes, every choice leaves you nauseous in a men’s room stall. The stall is like this level’s boss fight.
Next mission: You’re at the VA for your PTSD support group. Roughly half of the missions are therapy sessions. They’re very important. You tell the group what happened at the game. Great opportunity for multi-player interaction here. It feels good. Good to be seen, to be known. A tear creeps down your cheek. Then another. The graphics on these tears are amazing, by the way. You cry and cry, wondering if this is just your life now, if it goes on and on like this.
I know. Super intense, right?
You meet the eyes of your group leader. You trust him. Looking into his face, you think that maybe things will be…not okay…but something close to it. Objective: Complete.
No, your character never picks up a weapon. Don’t you get it? HE’S LEFT THAT WORLD BEHIND! But you do get asked to leave a child’s birthday party after the birthday boy asks you if you’ve ever killed a man. Then later you become sexually aroused by images that frighten and disgust you.
You’re worried this won’t appeal to “casual gamers?” This isn’t a casual game. This is life and death and the crushing banality of what lies in between. This is Call of Duty: Homeland.
Fine. Whatever. Let’s just make a game where the Cold War escalates into a nuclear winter, and you have to fight Russian zombies.
Oh you do like that? Let’s do that one then. It sounds more fun anyway.