On the evening of October 26, popular streamer Jack “CouRage” Dunlop issued a public apology to his girlfriend. In a tweethe said, “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 launch tomorrow. You will not see me. You won’t hear from me. I will play until my hands drop. I’m sorry for what I’m about to do.
The tweet was about his excitement for the next installment of the popular first-person shooter and served as a cheeky way to let his girlfriend know he’d be away for days after it launched. He also summoned other self-proclaimed Call of Duty boyfriends who commented on the tweet in support of the Call of Duty boyfriend’s behavior. In the days to come, TikTok would come to be filled with girlfriends mourning the loss of their boyfriends in the new game, sharing posts like, “Saying goodbye to my boyfriend…he’s not dead, the new COD is coming. to go out yesterday.”
Call of Duty is one of the most commercially successful video game franchises. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 surpassed $1 billion in sales within 10 days of release, Activision announced, breaking the global sales record previously held by Call of Duty Black Ops 2. Critics have covered the games’ political ideology and the messages about war they communicate, but less attention has been paid to the real people who play these games and how it shapes their lives – or, perhaps -to be more precisely, the way in which this take over their lives.
Being a COD boyfriend isn’t really being a literal boyfriend. Anyone can be a COD boyfriend if they want to, regardless of gender identity or relationship status, according to self-identified “Call of Duty boyfriends” I spoke to. Still, the idea of Call of Duty boyfriends has taken over social media, as couples play up – or playfully push back – gender stereotypes of the “gamer boyfriend”. But some of these boyfriends bristle at the label.
“I can be quite competitive in games, so I guess nothing is as magical to me as queuing up with friends and just collaborating to get W’s haha,” said Maxine, who considers herself a COD boyfriend, via Twitter. They’ve been playing Call of Duty games since 2009 and they planned to spend modern warfare 2the launch day of online with friends, even canceling plans with a romantic interest to do so. Call of Duty and video games have long served as a way for Maxine to connect with friends.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best relationships I have aren’t with my immediate family or my real friends, but with people I play with,” they said. “Specifically, my relationships are better when we genuinely care about each other, play games together, and are both too busy to want more from each other.”
On TikTok, however, “Call of Duty boyfriend” is often a way for couples to shed light on gender stereotypes, dipping into men who play video games or women who can’t. games. A popular video spoofs a clueless girlfriend who picks up the game after her boyfriend hastily hands her a controller; she then follows her teammates’ instructions in voice chat. Another popular video format highlights how disruptive late-night gaming sessions can be, parodying times when the sound of game gunfire wakes a girlfriend. Another trend is teaching cuddling positions that allow for physical contact with a “gaming boyfriend,” but only in a way that doesn’t completely interfere with his ability to continue playing a game.
There are plenty of COD boyfriends who find ways to balance their relationship by playing tons of games. “I haven’t really played the game to the point of ignoring it or avoiding it,” Rafay said of his girlfriend. He first played Call of Duty as a teenager on his Xbox 360, and he’s been following the games ever since. “I sometimes sacrificed some sleep to play and hang out with her too.”
He told me that apart from a few fights here and there, it hasn’t really interfered with their relationship. “She found it violent and doesn’t really understand the appeal, but I understand why she thinks that way,” he said. According to him, his girlfriend sees him as a “typical guy” game, but she understands that he’s also into other games that aren’t what a typical gamer sibling might play, like Pokémon.
The violent nature and politics of the games have led some COD boyfriends to question their love of the series. The ideologies portrayed in Call of Duty, in addition to sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits filed against franchise publisher Activision Blizzard, led Maxine to consider dropping out of the series altogether. In the end, they started playing again mainly because of the friends they had made there.
“What changed was that enough of my friends and family were going to get the game that I thought I should too, to help sustain relationships. As I got older, I became a bit pessimistic, I guess If I was younger I might not have bought the game on principle, but I work a little more and it’s become more difficult to keep in touch with people.
And then there are the COD buddies who finally put down their controllers. Collin, who has been playing Call of Duty since high school, shared his experience growing up apart from his friends who played it. In high school, he skipped the middle of the game playing Call of Duty: World at War – Zombies go see his girlfriend.
“I told my friends I had to go, but I still wanted the feat!” he said. “So I’m just AFK in the game and stood in a corner, hoping that my friends could carry my dead weight and finish the last stages without me. But the space was tight, the difficulty was sized for 4 people , and they eventually failed and all died.The issue caused a falling out in the group of friends, who said they “put her above them”.
Collin’s predicament in high school hits a larger dynamic that underpins the COD boyfriend. Underneath it all is this idea that doing something else takes time away from “Call of Duty and the Boys.” But the boyfriends of COD I spoke to mostly identified with the label in any way they wanted to — using it to spend more time with friends, finding ways to have a life outside, or get away from it altogether. Collin said embracing life with his girlfriend – whom he has since married – opened up the joy in his life, and now he lives with her and shares the joy of games with her.
“My wife is amazing and understands that games are important to me and encourages me to make time for them and play with my friends when I can,” Collin said. “She listens to me talk about any game I’m currently playing or any industry news that day without knowing exactly what I’m talking about, but since I’m passionate, she cares. .”
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