Thursday, November 10, 2011

True Call of Duty

You’ve just boarded your chopper after a narrow escape as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, but you’re not out yet. You must navigate your way to freedom by following a meandering river through a treacherous mountain way. Fluttering up and down to deke and dodge enemies on the ground and in the sky, you start taking enemy fire. The controls become less responsive as the screen begins to blur. Turns out the seven rockets and 235 bullets you let fly at that last chopper only left a scratch. Since you decided to play on Veteran, the hardest difficulty setting with the least forgiveness, wiggle room is at a minimum. Too late. Mission failed. You took just a tad too much microscopic damage and now you must start over. Okay, slam the controller, describe with many expletives the various ways in which you have been cheated, have a smoke or a toke, and then start over. Must be nice to simply just “start over.” The most pain you have suffered is a $60 dent in the wallet for a new controller.

While the graphics and game play are so remarkable that it almost feels real, this is about as real is it ever gets for the vast majority of Call of Duty followers. With Veterans Day approaching there is no shortage of brave men and women who can inform you that in real life there is no restart button. When the enemy begins to engage you, one cannot simply turn the power off and walk away. Regardless, the Call of Duty series has millions of fans across the world. Roughly 7 million people log in and play online every day. Last year’s release, Call of Duty: Black Ops, generated over $650 million in worldwide sales in just five days, and reached the $1 billion mark before Christmas.

Are there any positive connections between this remarkably profitable franchise and the men and women it bases its game play on? Does it give back in any way? Yes, thanks to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, the Call of Duty series lends a helping hand to veterans. Disappointed with 2008 labor statistics that showed high rates of unemployment amongst veterans, Kotick, and the publisher Activision Blizzard, founded the Call of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E.) in October of 2009. The foundation is funded through proceeds from the Call of Duty games as well as events sponsored by the franchise. The non-profit’s focus is to assist veterans with both job training and placement while raising awareness about the issue. The C.O.D.E board is headed by experienced veterans and their inaugural donation to the Paralyzed Veterans of America Foundation provided resources to build a new Vocational Rehabilitation Services Center.

The endowment, like the Call of Duty franchise, has been very successful. C.O.D.E. continues to reach out and raise awareness, through grants and the media, about the difficulties of employment that many veterans face. The newest installment in the series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, sold 9.3 million copies in its first day Tuesday, 2.2 million more than last year’s record. More record-breaking profits for the game franchise will hopefully lead to even greater success for the C.O.D.E. While most gamers will be too glued to their HD television on Tuesday to think about the veterans whose sacrifices turned into storylines for their videogame, real-life soldiers will not be forgotten. For more information please visit callofdutyendowment.org.

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