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This fall, two juggernauts in the world of video games will engage in an epic battle for supremacy. Each side claims its product is superior and there has already been a fair amount of good-natured smack talking emerging from both camps.
The fanboys are already in a frenzy, filling up message boards and comment threads with praise for their preferred entry in the race and fiercely savaging any scrap of information that comes from the enemy’s camp.
This level of fervor is usually reserved for console launches, but this year the big competition is not between to hardware makers. Instead, it’s a battle for superiority between two remarkably similar pieces of software: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Each of these games is a military shooter with a renowned multiplayer component. The major difference between seems to lie in their respective fanbases.
Battlefield 3 is the more cerebral of the two games, arguably requiring more careful tactics and teamwork, while Modern Warfare is the more visceral experience, a game where a single player’s skill can turn the tides of a match.
Each game has a reputation for attracting certain types of players, and each fanbase has a reputation for stereotyping those who enjoy the opposing game. Keeping these stereotypes in mind, let’s take a look at the typical player for each respective game, through the aiming reticule of the other game’s fans.
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Douchery in First Person
Do you live in a house with thirty other men, throwing “wicked” keggers every weekend? Do your daily conversations include over a hundred instances each of the words “bro,” “dude,” and “dog?” Are you confused by multi-syllable words and do you spend your non-gaming time on various sports fields and in locker rooms?
Do you drive a Jeep and drink PBR (hopefully not at the same time)? Congratulations, you’ve just qualified to purchase a copy of Modern Warfare 3. Please head to your local Gamestop and try not to teabag any “nerds” you find there.
You’ll rush home and start playing, despite the fact that you know that everyone besides you totally sucks at the game, except for the cheaters who somehow manage to get a higher killcount than you. You see no reason not to threaten those who interfere with your quest for online domination with physical violence, despite your inability to follow through owing to them possibly living somewhere across the country.
Go ahead and scoff at those nerds who “spend their whole lives online” just before strapping on your headset for an epic, 30 hour gaming marathon. You and your buddies in clan PBR will mop the floor with the competition while filling their earpieces with taunts about how they will never get laid if they spend all their time playing video games.
This is all true, at least according to fans of the Battlefield series.
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Revenge of the Nerds
Have you ever had a heated discussion over the relative stopping power of various caliber weapons within a video game? Does it bother you that the Makarov does more damage than the 1911 in Black Ops? Have you ever thrown your controller in frustration at the unrealistic nature of vehicle handling in a game, shouting something like “the HMMV has independent suspension, it would never bounce that much going over a speedbump at 40.69 miles per hour!”
Realism in a video game is important to you. It’s just plain stupid that certain games measure the condition of a wounded soldier on a scale from 1-100. You think that the location of a bullet wound should affect the way your character interacts with the world, so when you shoot a guy in the right arm he should be unable to return fire.
You’ve spent hours pouring over damage and recoil statistics for in-game weapons, and feel that studying the real-world control systems of an Abrams tank will make you a much more effective vehicle driver.
You despise the “Rambos” who charge directly into buildings and rush toward enemy fire, usually taking a passenger-free vehicle with them. There are times when you would like to teamkill the moron flying the UAV who refuses to spot enemy positions or the idiots in your squad who refuse to stay alive long enough for you to spawn on them.
Team tactics are important, and anyone who isn’t willing to read your multi-page battle plans has no place in a game with you. Repeatedly rushing in to an enemy position isn’t just foolish, it’s detrimental to the success of the team.
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The Debate Goes Ever Onward
These are extreme versions of the way fans of each game characterize those who support the other, but they do illustrate some key differences between the two games. Yes, the settings, weapons, and objectives of the two games are simliar, but when you examine them closely, Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are entirely different games, and they appeal to different types of people.
I’ve seen dozens of articles singing the praises of one game over the other and treating the competition between the franchises like the Super Bowl of online shooter supremacy.
The truth is, these games are like Elvis and The Beatles: while it’s possible to enjoy both, you’re always going to prefer one over the other. They aren’t as similar as they might seem. They can’t compete in a Super Bowl of shooters because they aren’t even the same sport.
As crazy as the above characterizations are, they do contain some nuggets of truth regarding the differing natures of the two games.
Call of Duty is an action game, catering to fans of twitch-based shooters like Quake and Halo. Fast reflexes and individual skill make all the difference. It’s a more visceral experience, and that has an effect on the types of gamers who are drawn to it.
Battlefield has always been a team-based shooter. Teamwork and tactics influence overall success more than individual skill. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a gifted sniper on your team, but it’s not often that one talented player can completely turn the tide of a battle. He needs a solid squad behind him.
Yes, both games feature modern military action; yes, both feature team-based online modes; but that’s where the similarities end. At their core each game has its own unique appeal, and the debate between them is really a debate between two differing schools of thought regarding gaming. Both equally valid, but worlds apart.
The reason the debate rages so strongly and each side is so willing to grossly stereotype the other is because of this fundamental difference. Of course perceptions of each group are going to be disproportionately skewed, you’re talking about two groups of people who don’t understand one another to begin with.
- Images from Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.