Twitter is no stranger to drama and hurtful words. From politics to movies, nothing is safe when it comes to Twitter - and that includes esports. It’s no surprise that Call of Duty’s competitive scene recently fell victim to the social media platform’s mob mentality and occasional outright hostility.
It’s clear that Activision wants to do something about this drama on Twitter.
Last week there was a mandatory meeting that the vast majority of CDL staff had to attend, including the pro Call of Duty players. Social media conduct was undoubtedly a topic covered at this meeting, since afterwards there was a lot of speculation on what the pros can or cannot say.
Fuel for the Dumpster Fire
The speculation on what exactly Activision’s policy about social media conduct is in relation to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reached a fever pitch when Doug “Censor” Martin, alongside five other pros, tweeted the exact same statement, letter for letter, even adding the thumbs up emoji:
I love Modern Warfare 👍
— Censor (@Censor) December 14, 2019
Considering how vocal many pros have previously been about their disapproval of Infinity Ward’s design decisions, this sudden statement of seeming approval led many fans to postulate that the pros were being forced to tweet this statement. Several YouTube personalities believed this to be true, such as Blame Truth.
In response, the affected pros then went on Twitter again to address the buzzing rumor mill around the posts, saying they were not forced at all and that they did it as a sort of prank. Said Trei “Zer0” Morris, one of the pros that participated in the Twitter drama:
Why would activision force us to all tweet the EXACT same tweet, we were at a mexican resteraunt and thought we would laugh at peoples responses to all of our tweets
— Zer0 (@Trei) December 15, 2019
We have no idea at this point what the actual truth is, seeing as the mainstream gaming and esports press were seemingly not invited to the mandatory CDL meeting.
Major corporations having policies that prohibit employees from openly detracting the company they work for on any media - especially social media - is pretty standard. We shouldn’t expect Activision to be an exception to this trend.
That being said, there are some hints that Activision isn’t consistently applying their policies across the board. And that’s where the issue really begins. The evidence for that comes from media statements and tweets made by some of the biggest decision makers when it comes to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: higher-ups at Infinity Ward.
Infinity Ward Undermining the Pro Scene?
One tweet that did not help matters at all for Activision, the CDL, or the pros was a tweet made by David Mickner, Multiplayer Designer at Infinity Ward, shortly after the identical tweet wave:
Some people never learn.
— David Mickner (@DavidMickner) December 14, 2019
As vague as the tweet sounds, the timing makes it quite passive aggressive. While we can’t say for sure who this tweet was directed towards, there is evidence of Infinity Ward media misconduct in the past, at least when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the Call of Duty competitive scene.
Some Infinity Ward developers have released statements that seriously undermined Activision’s attempts to develop and promote the Call of Duty competitive scene. Infinity Ward Multiplayer Design Director Geoffrey Smith actually went on record to bash the pro scene:
“I think somewhere along the lines these games have tried to get so balanced, maybe it was eSports, it’s kind of just boiled the fun out of the things when you try to super-balance everything.”
Geoffrey Smith, Infinity Ward
And that’s not the only instance of Infinity Ward being negative about the pro scene. There was also an infamous incident about a promised “overhaul” on the way for Modern Warfare’s gameplay mechanics, which Co-Design Director of Multiplayer Joe Cecot said the following about:
Overhaul was a fake statement to get attention. We are constantly updating the game at least once a week, sometimes twice. Season 1 incoming. Also bye 🙂
— Joe Cecot (@JoeCecot) December 1, 2019
Much of this negativity stems from Infinity Ward’s attempts to reconcile making an ultra-realistic military fiction tale replete with controversies reflecting the real world, and an esports-friendly competitive title. An article from Engadget perfectly encapsulated the inherent conflict in Infinity Ward’s attempts to do this. Game director Jack O’Hara commented on this conflict in the aforementioned Engadget piece:
“It's definitely a conversation that happens very often… There's always a tension behind it. And I don't know that anybody knows the perfect answer for it or is gonna nail it... It's a constant tension, I'd say. We talk about it pretty much every day.”
Jack O'Harah, Infinity Ward
How Can the CoD Drama End?
If Activision hopes to make the inaugural season of the franchised Call of Duty League a success, it needs to make its social media policies more consistent and transparent. Enforcing a negativity crackdown on one end while letting the other end go unchecked does not send a good message about the integrity of an esports organization.
It's true that loose lips sink ships, but the answer to that problem isn’t letting some lips remain loose while clamping down on others. A good company takes care of all its employees, and it’s time Activision start enforcing that principle when it comes to its media presence.