Yesterday, when we all met Call of Duty Dog for the first time, the first thing I said was, "Aww, a dog!" The second thing I said was, "Good thing they are going to kill him."
Every comment, every video, every Call of Duty Dog joke made has been accompanied by the logical conclusion that, yes, this dog is totally going to get shot. Why else have a dog in a Call of Duty game? They get us to care about this dog. He becomes part of the team. We'll become attatched.
Then BANG! He's clipped by a stray bullet. Or maybe a supply truck runs him over. Some assume he'll die in a slow motion cutscene, but I think it'll have more impact if the death of Call of Duty Dog came not as punctuation to the game's dramatic climax, but rather in the middle of a random mission.
When I was growing up, our painful animal deaths were limited to non-interactive forms of entertainment. We couldn't stop Bambi's mother from dying. We couldn't magically cure Old Yeller. Where the Red Fern Grows was not a choose your own adventure book -- Old Dan's intestines were destined to become out-testines.
There is a unique opportunity in gaming, especially as the graphics and situations become more and more realistic, to really drive the trauma home. I cried for days after Old Yeller was put down for the first of several dozen times throughout my childhood. Imagine how long I'd cry if I had to pick up a virtual rifle and do it in first person, or if it were a cuddly kitten and not some big, slobbering hound?
I can see the gameplay segment so clearly. You're trapped behind cover, Call of Duty Dog at your side. Gunfire pours in from all sides. Desperate, you reach to your belt pulling the pin on a grenade and lobbing it in a slow, graceful arc towards the enemy. It rolls to a stop inches from their feet, and here comes Call of Duty Dog, tail a-waggin', scooping up the metal ball in his fluffy jaws. "Bad dog!" you shout, but he's already bounding back. You raise your pistol...
I swear to God, they had better kill Call of Duty Dog.
Most of us have had a pet die in real life. I lost the best cat ever last year, and the year before that we buried our family dog. It hurts, a lot. So much so that we barely have time to ponder important messages about mortality and responsibility. That's what books and movies are for, and what games can be. Just look at Fable II, or Fallout 3, or Duck Tales.
So, time to shake things up, Infinity Ward. Forge a connection with us by giving us human characters we can believe in. Make them love the dog as well, so when the end comes they can share the experience and support each other. If you need to move us emotionally, take out the dog. Let us watch our team grow closer, then tear us apart and test that friendship by having one of us have to put a puppy down. Don't just give us a fucking awesome dog, let us hang out with him, then kill him to make us sad. Give us a fucking awesome dog, let us hang out with him, then kill him to teach us an important lesson about being sad.
I mean, it will work. I'll be super sad if you kill Call of Duty Dog, but not as much as I would if you killed Call of Duty Cat.
I guess we'll just have to wait until the game comes out to see if we're going to grow as people in exchange for the life of an animal. In the meantime, what do you think of Call of Duty Dog's survival chances?