Some critics may be tempted to write off the genre, and the CoD series specifically, as meat-head fly-paper, a self-devouring Ouroboros of bro-tense gamers who are taking a break from their MMA-themed circle jerk to play some Team Deathmatch. But this would be short-sighted, and a massive oversimplification of the cultural juggernaut that Call of Duty has become. Sure, some of the titles may seem shallow, even disturbing at times. And the charge that story and plot take a back seat to action is probably a valid one. But have you seen a summer blockbuster in the last decade? Leaving nuanced plot with the babysitter, and figuring out how to incinerate the bad guys with a laser-guided flame thrower appears to be what most Americans want. We're surprised that Explosion: The Movie hasn't been made yet.

 

 

Chad Ochocinco proposed to his girlfriend while playing Call of Duty—without ever putting down the controller. 

 

As Americans, if there is one thing that we love more than blowing shit up, it's celebrities. Actors, rappers, comedians, and athletes of every stripe can be found talking smack about their abilities as gamers on Twitter at any given moment. The FPS, and the Call of Duty franchise in particular, has been embraced by a near endless list of celebrities: Aziz Ansari, Chad Ochocinco, Aubrey Plaza, Olivia Munn, Will Arnett, Ice-T, Jimmy Kimmel, Warren Sapp, Andy Murray, Michael Boley, and Tito Ortiz are just a few of the celebrities who can be found aiming their sights at the competition.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jonah Hill were featured in the live-action trailers for the last two Call of Duty titles. Ice-T has openly claimed that he is a "beast" at Modern Warfare, and has gone so far as to give out his gamer tag to take on any would-be challengers. Chad Ochocinco proposed to his girlfriend while playing Call of Duty—without ever putting down the controller. 

What else could bring together such a wildly varied cross-section of celebrities? Playing this game has become the cultural equivalent of seeing a summer blockbuster—either you're a part of it or you're out of it. Celebrities and video games are a perfect marriage. Celebrities have gotten behind gaming because it's a ton of fun, and yes, because there is gold in them hills. Any major AAA release is choreographed in the exact same way as a Hollywood premiere. And no wonder: there are billions to be made in the gaming industry. It's only a matter of time, and technology, before the industry merges with Hollywood completely. With all the cross-pollination that's going on, it's inevitable that the two industries will breed, and their progeny will lay waste to the entertainment realm. 

Competitive eSports, through outlets like Twitch, have transformed video games from something done casually between friends to a spectacle that can attract over 5,000 active viewers watching matches at any given time. Those 5,000 people are just watching how the pros do it—they're not even playing. And that's not even taking into consideration the prizes that some of the competitions throw at pro-gamers.  The notion of being an avid gamer is no longer something that has to be mumbled about while the cute girls stifle snickers. There is no 'gaming culture' any more; only pop culture. This fact has shattered the stigma of gamers being shut-ins allergic to the sun's rays. If you're good enough at it, gaming can even be your career.

 

The FPS genre is a perfect reflection of our national identity. It has become as American as celebrity worship and gaming itself. Like it or not, you have to admit that emptying a clip into some stranger's face could become a new American tradition. And how new is it really? After all, this is the nation that gabe the world cowboys, gangsters, and Rambo. The fact is that the FPS genre will be with us far into the life cycles of the next-gen consoles and beyond. Celebrity and mere mortals, athlete and accountants, rappers and high school students—there is no one type of FPS enthusiast anymore. It has become a vehicle where ordinary players can become professionals in the realm of eSports, attaining their own measure of celebrity in the process. Regardless of what critics may think of the content of these games, it's time to accept the fact the FPS genre has become our new national pastime. So why not just relax and heed Biggie Smalls' immortal words of advice: stay low and keep firing.

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