Social Hierarchy…and an AK-74U

There is someone behind a shattered brick wall.  They are moving in and out of view.  They are armed.  You are armed as well but, completely unafraid.  You raise your weapon and take aim on the area they will be moving to next.  They move as you launch a grenade from your under barrel GSN-19.  The explosion sends the target spinning into the air as you turn your head to look for another target.  Forgetting them instantly.  Your communication device cracks to life with voices alerting you to the fact that you are a “noob.”

This is Black Ops-More specifically Call of Duty: Black Ops.   Leading up to its release the game play leaks and the hype surrounding it were talked about for months.  Commercials with Kobe and Jimmy Kimmel were on TV.   Everyone wanted it – including me.  On it’s release  it sold 5.6 million copies in North America alone.  Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard projected:

“There has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records for two consecutive years and we are on track to outperform last year’s five-day global sales record of $550 million. The game’s success underscores the pop culture appeal of the brand. Call of Duty: Black Ops is the finest game that Treyarch has ever made and raises the bar for online gameplay by delivering the deepest and most intense Call of Duty experience yet.”

By November 18th, it had bested Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s 550 million 5 day sales record by over 100 million dollars.  Impressive to say the least.

Now that me and most of the gaming world own a copy of it- something has happened.  It not only provides a fun and overly violent release, it provides something else. It has created a virtual social construct where your “prestige level” and “K/D Ratio” dictate how big a stick you swing.  All of this posturing centers around stats gathered by game play.  The better or more efficient you are at the game the faster your levels build and the more loud you become.  A 14 year old, shut in can debase and humiliate a 22 year old athlete and there is nothing the 22 year old can do about it except tell them to “shut up,” yell  at them, or quit the game.  Results are the only measuring stick for who can walk the walk and talk the talk. Unlike reality, where ones appearance and attitude can influence another persons reactions, everyone looks the same here.  Every one has the same advantages and disadvantages- it is all about the skill on the controller.  The more skill the more you can talk.  Rarely have I heard anyone who is obviously a weaker player (according to the all defining stats) talking noise to a better player and seriously believe they were better.  It simply dosen’t happen on the most part.  On the RARE occasion that there is a disagreement over who is better (obviously ignoring the all defining stats)- they simply play against each other like a modern version of a 19th century duel.  Winner talks- loser shuts up.  Clean and simple.

There is a deeper more important aspect to this whole digital battlefield world.  It has built a community- a real community.  Similar to Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter- these people share common interests and enjoy talking to other people who like what they like.  There are in depth converstaions about game play, load outs, and real life in general.  Complex discussions of speed of movement vs. gun damage and best Capture the Flag set ups would confuse many non-players.  The community has developed its own language around the core concepts of the community.  Some terms that are used inside of the game community are as follows:

Noob: New player, unskilled, or one who uses a grenade launcher Ex:”You are a such a noob!”

Owned: Completely beat, embarrassing defeat  Ex: “You were so owned!”

Epic: Having great value  Ex: “That was an epic kill.”

Fail: it means fail Ex: “Watch this noob’s epic fail.”

These terms float around often.

Most of these people using these terms have made up names like “IntoxicatedDuck” and “Thr333Dogg.”  The names are some indication of their personalities, I suppose, but are largely unimportant to the interaction aspect.  Age also is irrelevant, as language norms apply to all ages of player.  Some of the most foul mouthed (and honestly funny people) I usually play with/against are younger players.

As for the social hierarchy and it’s function- your family, social status in the real world, your income, your car, your physical body’s fitness, your acne, your school, and your job do not matter at all.  Only your performance and outcomes dictate where you fall into the pecking order.  It is a beautiful, even if unintended, level playing field/social atmosphere where anyone can get better and garner more respect from their peers.  It is a odd version of the American Dream set in a world of explosions, machine gun fire, spy planes, choppers, and varying levels of thumb dexterity.

About Matt

I was.

Posted on January 25, 2011, in culture, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So true, and you made Duck’s day dropping his name. Also I like how no one ever really know someones age, everyone thinks i’m 15 and Thr333dogg is 19. so far off. haha.

  2. Good read – loved the opening paragraph! 🙂

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