Today, in "Things That Are Awesome And Make Me Want To Do Wheelies On My Dirt Bike While Rocking Out To Def Leppard," I present to you the latest marketing coup from the Activision folks, makers of Call of Duty and other wildly entertaining and socially reprehensible gamestuffs for impressionable teenagers. It's a teaser for the trailer to the upcoming Call Of Duty: Black Ops II, and it's as bizarre and darkly funny as anything of its ilk. It's awesome, too. Have I mentioned that it's awesome?
For the clip, Activision tapped the individual who ranks as the web's preeminent fake-Russian personal-weaponry video blogger, a fellow who goes by the nom de plume of Dmitri Potapoff and the online handle of FPSRussia. One part blithe, reckless loon and one part Sacha Baron Cohen character, Dmitri has created quite the online niche for himself. In his clips, he gets a gun, glazes over its technical specs, then uses it to… I believe the technical phrase is "blow shit up." He appears to receive tremendous satisfaction from his work.
Before this campaign came across my desktop, I wasn't familiar with Dmitri's video oeuvre. As a pacifist-cum-wimp who hits the ground when the microwave popcorn crackles a bit too sharply, I rarely seek out destruction-glorifying video. But that's precisely the reason I love everything about Dmitri's web presence. The real-world Dmitri may well be a weapons enthusiast - this is kind of like saying Edward Van Halen may well be a guitar enthusiast - but at the same time, the character he has created affords him ironic distance from the proceedings. Undressed, he'd be just another gun nut fiddling with tools of the trade in his backyard. Cloaked in character, however, Dmitri can bask in the mayhem he unleashes.
And so it goes in the Call of Duty teaser. It opens, like the 37463276636 other FPSRussia videos that have been viewed 411 million times (!) on his YouTube channel, with a warm greeting to his "friends." From there, he gets down to business, introducing us to a weapon prototype that doesn't yet exist - the Quadrotor, a whirring orb of mobile chaos equipped with submachine gun and 100-round magazine. The doesn't-yet-exist admission tips off viewers that the Quadrotor, which he tags with the nickname "Charlene," might not be real. Nonetheless, we play along, because playing along is a lot more fun than playing gotcha ("The Quadrotor appears to lack a functional fueling dock! I call B.S.!," etc).
From there, Dmitri gives the Quadrotor a spectacularly violent test-drive, one that lays waste to a car and "lost and confused visitors" alike. He takes particular offense at one slight - "our friends here decided to have a little dinner party and they didn't even invite us, and one of them bought a whole bucket of gasoline" - and imposes his presence upon them in a most savage manner. Through it all, the blissful 'tude remains true to the hundreds of non-brand-related FPS videos ("look at the guy's head rolling down the hill!").
At video's end, Dmitri slyly but overtly notes the Activision tie-in, noting that "this baby [the Quadrotor] might just be in the next Call of Duty game, which will be the shit" as an acknowledgement appears on the screen ("a big thank you to my friends the makers of Call of Duty for sponsoring this video"). See, kids, it's possible to have it both ways. Is this repeatable by other heat-seeking brands? Uh, um, well…
With or without the video tease (and the subsequent trailer, and everything else that will follow in the months leading up to Black Ops II's release), the game was likely to be a mammoth success. Still, kudos to Activision for fueling the fire, semi-literally, in a way that's as entertaining to non-gamers as it is to the Call of Duty minions. I'm gonna buy this thing, and probably all of its prequels, now. I apologize in advance to my wife.