Despite my lukewarm response upon its initial release in 2008, I have kept up the tradition of playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare exclusively during the winter holiday season for years now. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the arcade-style, fast-paced FPS action that keeps me coming back. Although the military propaganda and gun violence stand in stark contrast to the traditional Christmas aesthetic, I find it fills a hole in my holiday spirit that can only be satisfied by hiding from relatives and repeatedly queuing for Shipment over and over.
To make things better, the original Modern Warfare had holiday-specific maps and special effects. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” signals the coming of Santa on his sleigh, ready to airstrike your opponent’s position at your command. On specific holiday-themed maps, players explode in puffs of red and green smoke and snowflakes. Lots of games have holiday content, but there’s something oddly appealing about the way that the original Modern Warfare decked the halls despite it being over a decade old and glorifying US military imperialism.
Taking advantage of the influx of new players around the holidays is definitely a perk, but there must be a reason I’m not coming back to Counter-Strike: GO, Apex Legends, or other, more modern FPS to get my fix. What about COD: MW has created this permanent connection in my mind with an otherwise wholesome human holiday?
It could certainly be the map familiarity, but if that was the only case I would be playing cs_office or de_dust on a 24/7 server instead. My previously established legacy skill could be another factor, but I am traditionally a PC player, am currently playing Call of Duty on my PlayStation 4, and have a tough time mastering the controller.
After wondering why I’ve associated Call of Duty with Christmas for years, I think I may finally have a grasp on the situation. First, I suspect that for something to be considered a guilty pleasure, it would have to be outside of the norm for that specific individual. For myself, jumping over to Call of Duty from Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, and Quake 3 Arena was enough of a step out of my comfort zone to qualify. Now that I’ve come to love Modern Warfare, playing it on a console brings back fond memories of grinding for prestige over holiday breaks when I was younger.
The instant gratification of Call of Duty’s signature arcade-style approach to FPS also helps keep the good times rolling when combined with soy eggnog and Christmas cheer. Explosive damage, the potential for racking up huge killstreaks, and near-instant respawn timers help grease the wheels a bit, making the bad times feel less bad while accentuating the good times with flashing lights and fanfare. Being able to turn my brain off, not feel as invested in my kill/death ratio, and relax while fragging randos online is my Christmas guilty pleasure, I guess.
I hope you’ve had a very happy holiday and an eventful New Year!