There are people who can't play Call of Duty. Maybe, according to a flight of fancy proposed last week at the Game Developers Conference, those people could at least help us CoD players out.
The theory was explained during a panel at GDC 2010 entitled Sporadic Play: The History And Future Of Making Games For Busy People. The panel was led by Bryan Cash of Schell Games and Jeremy Gibson, University of Southern California.
The two men were talking about designing games for busy people, though their Call Of Duty idea also roped in people who just don't play Call of Duty games at all. Their idea would tether various devices — phones, TVs, computers — to connect to one overall game. This would allow what they called Multi-Engagement Gaming.
1) Call of Duty players would still be entertained by playing Call of Duty, on a console or on a PC, probably from their couch.
2) Other gamers would play something called Call of Duty: World Conquest, a simpler RISK-style game that would connect to CoD through an overall points system.
3) People who didn't play games at all might play a third thing, called Call of Duty: Yellow Ribbon. That's a riff on the yellow ribbons people tie around trees in their front yards as a sign of caring for a loved one who is off fighting in a war. Riffing off that, CoD: Yellow Ribbon would be a simple check-in application on an iPhone or other mobile device. A Call of Duty player would ask their non-CoD-playing friends and family to turn Yellow Ribbon on each day, a sign of moral support for this less dire virtual war that would earn the CoD player extra points.
Cash and Gibson don't work for Call of Duty's publisher, Activision. There is no sign that they were doing anything other than making this up to illustrate a model of how games can be more pervasive and connected in the future.
Their multi-engagement Call of Duty scheme isn't entirely fictional. The recently-released Xbox Live Arcade and Facebook games, Toy Soldiers and Match Defense; Toy Soldiers, respectively, offer a similar connection to Call of Duty and the imaginary Call of Duty: Conquest.
Would anyone actually use a Call of Duty: Yellow Ribbon? Could a gaming experience be connected across such divergent platforms and such a diverse population of gamers and non-gamers?
If the experiment with Toy Soldiers and the commitment by Microsoft to do more of that is any indication, the kind of theory Cash and Gibson tossed out could be the stuff of real games some time soon.