COD-M: My love-hate relationship with the game
October 2019, lying on my bed right after my mid-term exams got over, I had nothing to do. Right then I turned on my phone to play some games, “Oh wait, I don’t have any!”, I exclaimed. I was quite excited to see COD Mobile on the AppStore (keeping in mind the prior exposure to games of this genre) and was so desperate to download it, I climbed all the way to the roof and used my 4G plan to download it ASAP. For some context, I live in a hostel whose WiFi works if you aren’t downloading content larger than 500 MB. I’m sure it’s because 800 people are crammed in a building, using the same network, but who cares?! The fact that we live in a hilly region means that I don’t get the cellular signal on the ground floor, I’ve to go to the terrace.
Moving on, I downloaded this game and returned to my room where I played for 3 hours STRAIGHT. I advanced to level 50 or something. Not gonna lie, this game’s controls felt like an extension of my hands. The controls were perfectly placed, and my opponents didn’t know how to play (bingo). I’ll admit here that I’ve played mobile FPS games like Critical Ops before which means I had a few moves of my own. That’s until I met the MONKEY MAN.
In a nutshell, I call a player monkey-man if they keep jumping and sliding on the map. I find it extremely annoying and feeling like going into the screen and slapping their faces but you can’t be stoic if you can’t expect the unexpected. A quick search on youtube showed me thousands of videos teaching how to slide and apparently these guys use their iPad to pull these stunts (I play this game on my phone). Smart? yes. Implementable? Maybe. Hotel? Trivago.
This is the part where I started hating COD-M. I believe this was around December 2019. Being the fine businesspeople they are, they gave me a solution- Ranked Match. I started playing ranked matches and all of a sudden I LOVE THE GAME. It does feel weird to know now that all it took was a new name of the same thing to like the game again. I played a lot of ranked matches before I met Monkey-men again, so I moved to battle royale.
For those who don’t know, Battle Royale is a game where a hundred players are thrown on an island with no equipment whatsoever. You have to pick them up as you go and kill your enemies. The last player/team standing wins the game. This is one game style where the Monkey-men couldn’t outplay me because of the availability of high-quality snipers and ARs. You could decimate them in seconds. But there’s the problem with battle royale. You find good weapons and apply some real-world war strategies (nothing complex, just the basic ones like staying on higher ground), you win the game without breaking a sweat.
To no one’s surprise, COD had another trick up its sleeve — Playing with friends. The year is 2020 and the world is in complete shambles. Youngsters who already had limited places to visit had such opportunities sequestered by the smallest kind of living, kind of dead creature — a virus. The coronavirus or COVID-19 (called as such by the fancy folks) wreaked havoc across the planet. No one knows how the virus came into being, it just exists… like it fell from heaven or something. This virus forced authorities to enforce a lockdown. Now, I could have been Issac Newton and discovered a new branch of mathematics (Lol who am I kidding 🤦♂️) but a wise man (ofc it was me) suggested COD as an alternative. I teamed up with a couple of mates and played like there was no tomorrow (which at the time was true). Holy crap, this thing became so addictive. Being glued to your phone for 4–5 hours a day (social media not included) brought in a whole new set of problems.
1- My productivity crashed big time. I couldn’t accomplish anything.
2- I couldn’t think of anything else. My brain was a 100% COD only.
This is when I started Operation-Smoking Cactus. The objectives? Get rid of the neural pathways that force me to play COD. This included things like going for a run, starting projects (CS projects) and improving relationships with people. On the surface, Smoking Cactus was a resounding success. I went for a run for like 2 seconds then I went walking. I completed version 1.0 of one project (Android app, deployed on the Amazon Store) never followed through with the subsequent versions. And I did build great relationships, at least with the people I played the game with.
There’s one place where Smoking Cactus actually succeeded and that was me recognizing that I didn’t have a healthy relationship with this piece of software which led me to believe that video games could be some sort of an escape mechanism for people, kind of like alcohol, drugs and other addictive stuff. The World Health Organization classifies video game addiction as a ‘disease’ or a ‘disorder’.
Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.
This is a serious health condition. Like any addiction, the first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem. Some may have it extremely severe, others won’t. The only reason I still have this game on my phone is that it’s the only way I can actually have fun with people without physically endangering anyone (especially the way cases are exploding in India rn).
As I’m writing this article, I’ve completed two matches on COD-M. This is the second time I’ve downloaded it this week. This on-off relationship does bother me… only when I am not playing.