The new Call of Duty is out, and this time it’s War 2. Sledgehammer Games, not content with turning the beaches of Normandy into a “Headquarters” where players can run around like silent psychopaths, have introduced a system of loot crates in COD: WWII whereby you can see all the items your fellow infantrymen pull out of their goody boxes. Super. One strange mission, Eurogamer have noticed, even tasks you with watching people open their airborne presents.
To give you an idea of what’s involved: when you stand in the game's social space (similar to the Tower in Destiny) and call in a loot crate from your inventory, the box falls out of the sky and lands on the ground in a blast of dust and sand - a “supply drop” in the game’s parlance. Then it bursts open like an angry mimic, vomiting helmets and emotes for all to see. Here’s one I opened.
At this HQ, you also get “orders” from a commander. These are straightforward tasks familiar to any player of multiplayer games laden with progression systems. Win a number of deathmatches, for instance, or kill a certain number of enemies in one game mode, and you'll get a reward. One of these tasks is to simply watch three supply drops being opened by other players. The reward is 25 points of "social score". Ew.
Here is me watching a player open his loot crate.
Here is me watching some other players watching a player open his loot crate.
I'm so proud to be winning the war just like they did in the history books.
It's absurd, and a bit grubby. Designers have long been manipulating our socially-wired brains to make us chase the next box of random treats. Here, they’re not just encouraging you by showing what others have received (what you, dear player, could receive!) but also making sure you take notice by giving you a wee bribe to do so.
You can’t currently buy Call of Duty WWII’s loot crates, but that doesn’t mean this won't change in the future, nor that it isn’t taking something just as valuable from you: your time. If you’re grand with that, no worries. War it up, old friend. But it helps to be aware of the behavioural psychologist in the machine.