Everyone had a different reaction to lockdown. Some people did daily quizzes, some people baked copious amount of banana bread, some people tried to learn an instrument before watching Netflix instead. I had two reactions. First, I fell even deeper into a depression. Second, I became obsessed with Call of Duty, and most especially, Call of Duty: Warzone, the now world-famous Battle Royale.
Most of the games I’ve played in the past 10 years have been RPGs, ones where I could sit alone and watch TV and be some bulky man with a sword who has to play on medium difficulty because hard was often too hard. I’d played COD when I was a kid, when my brother was literally in the 0.01% of players and I was in the complete opposite. I was awful, first person shooters have never been my thing, but for some reason, Warzone just clicked for me. I was good. Not amazing, I’m not going to be competing in the Call of Duty League any time soon, but I was actually good at something, and it felt great.
For context, when I say I was in a depression, it was actually completely separate to lockdown, it just fortuitous timing that the world fell apart as my mind did. I would stay in bed for hours a day, just listening to incredibly depressing music (shout out Radiohead) and accomplishing roughly nothing. I felt incredibly isolated, completely alone in the world. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to talk to people, but I felt awful for not talking to people. My friends from Uni had moved on from their lives, and when they had tried to connect with me, I’d turned them down, possibly out of misplaced pride, possibly because I thought they’d outgrown me. Now I was staring at an unknown period of lockdown, even more isolated, even more depressed, and I had no idea what to do.
So, the day lockdown was announced (it was literally announced 20 minutes after I got off my train), I packed my bags, and vitally, my PS4, and got on a train back to my hometown of Loughborough. For the first month or so, I felt the same. I felt alone, sad, awful. I was doing the same thing, but I just didn’t have to cook my own dinner. Then one of my friends from school told me to download Call of Duty: Warzone. It took up way too much of the hard drive, it was about 126GB, so I told him no. Within a week, I had.
I had a really great group of friends in school and while we occasionally spoke about football in our snapchat group, or met at the pub on the very rare occasion some of us were home at the same time, we were growing apart. The 5 of us had essentially gone from talking every day to not really being close at all anymore. So despite the fact that Warzone hadn’t even put in a four player mode at this point, we all downloaded it and whenever some of us were free, we’d jump on.
I have an obsessive personality. In a literal sense, I’ve been told by a doctor I have OCD. And for whatever reason, it just clicked with Warzone. The game just made complete sense to me. And I wanted to be the best at it. To spoil the possibility before we get there, I’m not the best at it. I’m very much not the best. To be generous, I’d say I’m probably in the top 1% of players, which for a game with tens of millions of users is pretty good. I think it worked because it added some sort of rigid easy goals to what I was doing. There was a win you were chasing in every game. You could set your kill records and then work on improving it (I had a 19-kill game 3 times before I got 20). And the way you were improving was easy. First you bring in different guns, ones which are better, at the time it would have been M4/MP5. Then you learn movement techniques, slide cancelling, jump shotting, whatever helps. Then you practice aim, which definitely doesn’t revolve around me spending hours at a time with literal robots in small multiplayer maps improving my shooting and reactions. That’s what life is when you’re allowed to go outside one time a day.
In a world where it felt like any time you went outside you could be struck down by a deadly disease, when I didn’t know what was happening with university, or jobs, or anything much at all, Warzone was a rigid thing to believe in. It made everything easier. It let me connect with my friends again. Now we literally talk constantly, every day, not just about warzone, but about everything. It let me have a better relationship with my brother, who still comes to me for advice about loadouts. Where I had been literally suicidally depressed, I managed to breakdown my breakdown into manageable chunks and slowly improve. I’m genuinely happy now. I genuinely feel good. I can approach my days with some level of joy, some level of happiness. And it’s not because of Warzone, but it came from having that. That thing probably could have been anything. It could have been daily quizzes, it could have been banana bread, it could have been learning an instrument. But for me, it was COD. It was this stupid thing, undeniably stupid, but it made me see life in a better way. It made me understand there was more to everything that I had been dealing with. It made me appreciate each thing I did.
I still get annoyed now when I get killed by some camper with two claymores on the door. I get annoyed when I miss shots. I get annoyed at the state of the game as a whole. With everything going on, I don’t get to play for five hours a day, like me and my friends used to. But when I think of Warzone, it makes me happy. It made me feel better about myself, it made me care about what I was doing. I can’t forget that. I can’t forget that the worst year of my life was turned into one of the best. I think we all have things like that out there. Regardless of what it is, I know we can all find it. And it actually gives me hope to know that. Whether it’s car knowledge, or making fake horror movie makeup, or baking banana bread, everyone has something that makes their heart soar. It all adds a little more joy to the world. And I have to thank COD for that. For saving me. Because it genuinely did save my life.