Geek Revolt

Art Imitating Life: How COD Multiplayer is Like a Loyalty Rewards Program

Modern Warfare 3


I recently reached level 80 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer. The first time I have ever done so in the Call of Duty series. I know what some of you may be saying, “Weak! I’ve gone to level 7 Prestige already and am well on my way to reaching level 10 Prestige before July!”, True, this isn’t a feat of strength by any stretch of the imagination but for good or worse this is the first Call of Duty game that’s made me want to go the distance in multiplayer.

So much so, that I toyed with the idea of Prestige-ing myself. In the days before I hit level 80, I talked with friends about whether I should or shouldn’t hit that button and rest my stats to zero, all for that Prestige token and a cool emblem. I soon worked out that I had no interest whatsoever in losing all the cool gear I’d unlocked, all the gold guns I had, the perks and special items. But I loved hearing the guitar riff. Slaying that 1000th player on the SCAR-L and hearing the sweet, sweet sound of the heavy guitar. It was addictive. I can imagine it’s what goes through the head of someone playing a poker machine (albeit, a lot more is at stake when gambling with money). I decided I wasn’t going to be sucked in. Diablo III was on its way and I had more important things to worry about.

It was the day after I hit level 80 though, when I was at work, that I had a stunning revelation: The points you earn in Multiplayer Call of Duty are like receiving points on your loyalty rewards card at your local supermarket chain.

A co-worker was proudly pointing out how he’d bought 12 packets of tissues, not because he had kids home sick with the sniffles, but because he received an email from his preferred supermarket rewards program advising him that if he did, he would earn 1000 extra points. My mind immediately turned to pictures of me using Recon and the M4A1 with the Heartbeat sensor in Modern Warfare 3. Not because I wanted to, but because if I did, I’d get 1000 XP points for getting 10 kills with each.

Gaining points soon over took how I played the game. Now I no longer enjoyed a round of Domination if I ended up with an even Kill Death ratio and a couple of captures. I had to get the most captures, the most kills, the most assists and do it with perks, weapons and attachments I had no desire to use again.

But because points are king, I persevered.  Deep down, we all know that it’s not only Call of Duty games that do this to us. All video games have some score keeping mechanism, whether that’s a meta game, the game itself or the achievements/trophies that come with it. It’s in every gamers heart to seek out as many points as possible, and keep striving for that next score based milestone.  But, of course, video games weren’t the first to spur man to collect more points. And nor will video games (or reward programs, for that matter) be the last.

I’m glad to say that’s behind me now. I’m content with the unlocks I have, the status I have attained within the online world of Modern Warfare 3. I don’t hear that guitar riff anymore.

And I’m done with chasing points.

Although this email I received says if I buy 3 packs of toilet paper I’ll get 1000 reward points to put towards my next flight… hmmm…

Hey guys, I'm Paddy Gilliland, a freelance writer from Australia. I love video games, pizza and Red Bull. Follow me at Twitter @PaddyKoan and connect with me on PSN or Steam at Paddygezus.