There’s been a sea change. It’s undeniable and it’s been brewing for a while now. Cats vs Dogs, a battle fought across multiple different battlegrounds throughout history: cinema, real life, mother nature. But this eternal struggle is now being contested on a strange new digital domain: the internet. And there’s been a shift in the tide.
I Can Haz Cheesebuger has become Shibe Doge. YouTube clips of cats have been replaced by Vines of puppies being monstrously cute. And Infinity Ward and Raven software have seized the zeitgeist by its tail and are currently wagging it furiously with Call of Duty: Ghosts via Riley, the SEAL dog who has taken the internet by storm.
Derek Racca is from Raven Software, the support studio working with Infinity Ward on the first next gen Call of Duty game, a game that has become increasingly defined by a dog. Derek is fine with this. He likes dogs.
“I have two dogs,” he says. “I have a dog named Dutch and I have a stepdog, that my wife brought to the marriage called Georgia!
“Dutch is like a boxer… beagle mix? Georgia is miniature pinscher.”
Derek Racca likes dogs. He has two dogs, but he also has another incredible connection to Call of Duty: Ghosts.
“My kid’s name is Riley,” he laughs. “And my kid is a girl!
“Riley in the game is a boy, and sometimes I can’t help but refer to it as a girl! Because of my daughter. It’s so fucking confusing.”
It almost seems as though it was meant to be but, according to Derek, no-one at the studio really expected that Riley would take the video game world by storm: memes, a hilarious twitter account, news stories across multiple sites. The idea was to create something new for the Call of Duty universe, not an internet superstar!
“We watched the dog come to life,” he explains. “It didn’t just appear one day. I think everyone was stoked on the dog. We were all really shocked by how much people outside were into it. We didn’t think it was going to be a big thing!”
But where to now? Riley is a big deal. He’s a phenomenon. We asked if Riley’s super stardom had resulted in any developmental shifts? Will he now have a bigger role in the game? We have, after all, just watched Riley take down a goddamn helicopter!
“We already had the dog scoped out before everything hit,” says Derek. “We knew where the dog was gonna be, how it was gonna look. We knew Riley was always going to be a lot of work. That was part of the plan. A dog is a quadraped, so it’s a big job to animate and make him look good. I’m sure you’ve heard how IW brought in the mo-cap dog. It’s really cool.”
A final pointless question: with the great war between cats and enter its final stages on the greatest battleground of all — the internet — does the Call of Duty: Ghosts team have a preference in this final holy war, and will they shape the final outcome by placing a dog in their video games?
“I have no idea how to answer that,” says Derek, laughing. “I’m a dog person. And I don’t think we had anything to do with the internet’s shift from cats to dogs!”