COD XP: The Bug and the Windscreen • Page 2

From the archive: A true story about guns, money, Kanye and the biggest game in the world.

"I don't have a yellow pass. I'm in the f***ing tournament."

There are two sides to COD: XP. This guy, the one without the yellow pass, is here for the money - or the glory, or the drama. He's one of the hundreds of Call of Duty players from around the world to have won his way here through skill and focus, primed and ready to compete for the $1 million cash prize at stake for the competitors. He is, if you like, one of the upper class of attendees at an event that is all about establishing hierarchy.

"I'm in the f***ing tournament." Don't you know who I am?

The corridor is full of bodies. Five minutes earlier, Infinity Ward's Creative-who-knows-what-he-actually-does-Strategist Robert Bowling left the stage having outlined to a home crowd of a few thousand attendees the multiplayer features of the forthcoming Modern Warfare 3. Now, info load received, attendees have the chance to try those features for themselves and fully absorb them.

Those with a yellow wristband get half an hour with the game before anyone else.

Why are those 30 minutes so important to this guy?

Because the weekend's tournament is to be played out in Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer, which nobody competing has sampled before today. With a first prize of $400,000, every second spent learning the layouts of the maps, the balance of the attachments, perks and new game modes decreases the chance of your team being the bug splattered on the other's team's windscreen.

Modern Warfare 3.

"Gentlemen, elevate your soldiers please."

There are two sides to COD: XP. This guy, the one with the military-themed double-entendre, is here for the paintball. In an inspired move, Activision has recreated the virtual multiplayer map Scrapyard outside the event hangar for those who paid their way to the event, rather than earned it. Two lines of attendees snake around the wire fence that borders the area. When you reach the front of the line you are given a toy solider to hold, either light or dark green, depicting the team you will play for.

When 16 players have their soldiers, a dress-up marine requests they walk forward and hold them aloft so that the organisers can sort the teams. From there, both teams head into a briefing tent where a dress-up sergeant barks rules of real-life Domination. In the virtual game you capture the three flags on the map by standing in their immediate vicinity for 10 seconds. In the bricks and mortar fire version, you hoist a rope to raise your team's flag and lower the opposing team's, hoping that you don't take a ball of paint to the head while doing so. The team with the most of their flags raised at the end of the game are the winners.

"One German journalist cocks his head, unsure of the term. Another obliges with a definition spelled out in lewd downward thrust motions."

The rules are one hit one kill. If you're shot by a paint pellet you must raise your M16 and walk, head lowered, to the respawn area, where a dress-up squaddie counts out ten seconds after which you are free to head back in. As we pull on jumpsuits and adjust the straps on our protective helmets, jokes are cracked about tea-bagging downed opponents. One German journalist cocks his head, unsure of the term. Another obliges with a definition spelled out in lewd downward thrust motions.

Everyone else tries not to think too hard about how they've squandered their lives.

The game lasts for 12 minutes. For the final two of these, the soundtrack from the game is blasted through speakers to heighten the tension. If you're hit during this final phase, you must exit the map. Game over.

As 16 sweaty, exhilarated men and women pull off their clothes and compare bruises-to-be after the finishing klaxon sounds, one player rounds the corner, paint running down the back of his bald head.

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Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.


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