[Article first published as Call of Duty: Black Ops Awarded "Best Video Game Ending" World Record, "Shenanigans" Called Worldwide on Blogcritics.]
I found some interesting information the other day. Unbeknownst to me, Guinness (the record book people, not the beer people) have been releasing a “Gamer’s Edition” of their book for the last few years. That I did not, in fact, know about it should tell you something about the worth of said tome. Many companies have discovered gamers as a new target market over the last few years and it sure seems that everyone wants a piece of the group. We spend all that money on consoles and building gaming rigs and buying games right? We must have disposable income we’re willing to spend on anything, including the most inane crap that manufacturers can come up with, right? There’s Mountain Dew “game fuel” that has tie-ins with Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft. There exists a thing called “Gamer Grub Performance Snacks” so you can “think fast and win more.” Hell, why do you think they put pretty people on G4? If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being pandered to. And if there’s another, it’s people eating it up. And that’s one of the two reasons Guinness has insulted me this week.
The second is one of the latest “records” to be set in the 2012 edition of this worthless journal of so-called achievement. They have given a record for “Best Video Game Ending” to Call of Duty: Black Ops. Let that sink in for a bit as you think about all of the world records you’ve seen. The world’s tallest man. Most one-armed pushups done in one hour. The longest Moto X dirt-to-dirt backflip. They all have one thing in common. They’re 100% quantifiable, regardless of the level of ridiculousness they bring. For example, the loudest purr by a domestic cat is set by a furball named Smokey in the United Kingdom. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But measured on record at 67.7 dB (86.3 dB LCpk) by a Class 1 sound level meter NA-28 by RION at a distance of one meter in the presence of a veterinarian. That’s an irrefutable hard measurement. There's evidence that it's the loudest damn purr on record. Measured. With science. So what kind of similar measurement can be used for judging the best ending of a game?
The fine folks at Guinness, who fail to recognize the large overlap between “nerd” and “gamer” and couldn’t possibly foresee irking the ire of myself and my math-loving ilk, did it the most accurate way they knew how: by surveying 13,000 people. I can’t even guess how many immeasurable qualitative variables are involved with asking just a single person their favorite game ending. Did I think Black Ops had the best ending? No. I thought it was unoriginal and reminded me of Fight Club. In my opinion, the “best ending ever” should have at least some unique qualities. But then again I’m biased — I prefer action and RPG’s to first person shooters. I grew tired of the war FPS genre in college, years ago. I’m just flat out better at other types of games. All three of these points, whether I think they do or not, could cloud my opinion on this topic. Or any topic I’m surveyed on for that matter. So while this would make a great project for a middle school math class, I don't see the value in the damn Guinness Book of World Records.
I also question the type of players they surveyed. The “Top 50” which you can see over at GamePolitics included four Call of Duty titles and three Halo titles, with the top 2 being Black Ops and Halo: Reach.
… Pardon? That’s like saying the ending to The Fast and the Furious is better and deeper than the ending of Seven.
There are definitely games on there that deserve to be there, but it looks like their “representative sample” are primarily Xbox Live bro-gamers and kids nervous about their SAT’s who don’t know much beyond Halo and Call of Duty, because the number of games that didn’t make this list is amazing (we are talking of all time here). Well I guess some people did say Super Mario Brothers, but based on the rest of the list, they were probably “retro” picks so they could sound like they knew what they were talking about.
So the final tally... Pandering to gamers? Check. Bad math? Check. Bad statistics? Check. Please allow me to provide a little parting wisdom to our friends at Guinness: if you don’t have enough material to fill this book, don’t publish it. It is embarrassing on a number of levels, a number of levels that may just qualify you for technical fowl's book of world records.