We do live in amazing times. In the past, when someone had some wacky, ridiculous theory or idea, he or she had to convince several other people in order for said idea to be seen by a large group of people. Since the advent of the internet, however, this little stepping stone has been all but completely removed and any thought anyone has can be instantly vomited onto the pages of a blog or forum for potentially the world to see. Social media has of course sped up the whole process to near-warp speed.
Some of the most common conspiracy theories are terrifying, including JFK being killed by the CIA (somewhat plausible, maybe?), 9/11 having been carried out by the U.S. government (no comment), and, of course, the whole anti-vaccination thing (people trust a Playboy model for this information), but when you get into the world of video games, the stakes are much lower. They are just games after all, and with plots being as in depth and interesting as they are nowadays, some theories make perfect sense. Mass Effect 3's indoctrination theory (that the end of the game is actually about Shepard being influenced and ultimately taken over mentally, by the Reapers) is one such example.
Of course, for every theory that has some real traction and verifiable proof, there are many more that are unproven, cannot be proven, draw a conclusion from a shaky set of premises, or are just too far out there to be considered even within the realm of reality. Here we'll discuss fifteen theories from the Call of Duty franchise that run the gambit from "plausible but unproven" to "tinfoil hat."
We'll be discussing events as they occurred in the games and assume anyone reading this will have played the games; this is a single mass "spoiler alert" for all games in the franchise.
15 Harper Compromises Farid's Deep Cover Op in Black Ops 2
Redditor S095 has demonstrated decent attention to detail with his theory about a deep cover op in Black Ops 2 while in the Yemen part of the game.
During the "Achilles' Veil" mission, there is a quick exchange between Farid and Mike Harper in which Harper may have completely blown Farid's cover as an operative within Menendez' organization. Harper's VTOL is shot down in this mission and he is captured. Farid, at around the same time, is with De Falco and Menendez, who has the captured Harper brought before him. It is clear at this point that Menendez knows someone is betraying him, and orders Farid to shoot Harper to prove his loyalty. After a second of hesitation, Harper tells Farid to shoot him a few times and calls him "Egghead" a couple of times. While to some this may seem like a simple irreverent insult from a man about to die, remember, Farid is a tech guy, colloquially referred to as eggheads. According to S095's theory, which is fairly sound, Farid's cover is blown at this point and Harper has made a serious mistake.
Of course, at this point, it becomes largely irrelevant and the player has to shoot at Menendez or Harper.
14 Captain Price's Inspiration
We're going to count down this list from the likely and highly plausible to the downright absurd. One of our more likely theories is that Captain John Price, of the Modern Warfare games, is based on Staff Sergeant John McAleese of the real world British Special Air Service. They share some similarities, including having facial hair, and of course the same employer (although holding different ranks), and Price looks somewhat like a video game version of McAleese.
McAleese was a member of the team that ended the Iranian embassy hostage crisis in London back in the 1980s and became a minor celebrity later in life for his part in the reality show SAS: Are You Tough Enough? The only reason this remains a theory is that none of the creative minds behind the franchise have ever verified it. We, the fans, can only speculate. More likely, however, is that Price is a composite character made up from several soldiers and stories, with traits desirable for a brilliant leader and master fighter.
13 Your Character Doesn't Exist in Black Ops 3
While the game was enjoyable overall, Black Ops 3 was about as easy to follow as that 1995 Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis flick 12 Monkeys. For those who don't get this reference, the game was a mess, but a good one (okay, a polarizing one). However, in tying together the events of the game, several players have come to the conclusion that the events of the entire game are merely the thoughts of a person within the game. Some have suggested they are the dying thoughts of a soldier, while others have other ideas, but they all boil down to the idea that the events of the main campaign never happened and the entire game exists within someone's mind.
A major part of this game's plot is the prevention of the rogue AI Corvus being released. The theory that spins off from this is that the events of the game are all made up by this AI. The larger theory is on Reddit and goes into great detail describing certain plot inconsistencies and events throughout the game that seem to make a solid case for at least some of the events in the game having been made up by Corvus.
12 Shepherd Tried to Kill Task Force 141 Earlier in MW2
This one is courtesy of Reddit's redout9122.
We conclusively learn that General Shepherd is a dirtbag around the end of Modern Warfare 2. He kills Roach and Ghost in a monumentally disgraceful way (the ol' shoot 'em and torch 'em trick) and then tries to kill Soap and Price, wounding Soap before that brilliant knife toss that ends the game.
But think back a few missions, when you're on your way to the gulag to rescue that prisoner who ends up being Price. The mission starts off with the Navy assaulting the camp while TF 141 makes their way inside. They fight their way into the belly of the fortress and then, only after they have retrieved Price and the General has been informed of this, the Navy then decided to up the ante on their bombardment, bringing the entire complex down around 141's ears.
This theory is a great point and something that many people (including this writer) missed, despite several times playing through that campaign.
11 Advanced Warfare Didn't Really Happen
While this is incredibly unlikely, it is plausible and there is little in the game that actually disproves this idea. In short, Redditor "Firew00d" posted that during the first half of Advanced Warfare, it is revealed that you play one mission in an incredibly true-to-life simulator. This is completely factual. However, this person took their theory one step further and argues that the entire second half of the game (after "four Years Later") is a scenario played out in that same simulator for the benefit of acting students, who are being taught their craft using simulators and the guidance of none other than Kevin Spacey.
10 Ghost is in Modern Warfare
This is an interesting theory, but largely irrelevant to the franchise even if it is true. We all know Gaz dies at the end of Modern Warfare (spoiler alert, more on that later). He is shot in the head, point blank my Imran Zakhaev with a Desert Eagle, and one doesn't survive that. Of course, after this happens, Soap shoots Zakhaev and his two lackeys and the game ends. If you watch all the credits, you're treated to an epilogue mission on a plane: "Mile High Club." This mission takes place after Modern Warfare and before MW2, but one of the voices sounds a lot like Gaz, and is voice actor Craig Fairbrass, who portrays both Gaz and Ghost in those two games respectively. His presence on that plane may indicate a cameo appearance for Ghost in the original Modern Warfare game.
If your response to this theory is "so what?," you're right, it is fairly inconsequential, but an interesting and fairly likely at the same time.
9 Ghost Lives Through MW2
We'll stick with the theme of the Modern Warfare character Ghost for another point, as Redditor Nightstalker98, seems to have come up with a fairly convincing set of reasons to suggest that this character made it through his ordeal leading up to the game's finale. Of course, for those who haven't played through this one in a while, he fought through the safe house with Roach and then met up with General Shepherd, only to be shot along with Roach, doused in gasoline and lit on fire and left to die. A horrible ending, and one that stung, right up there with Paul Jackson, Gaz, and Bowman. Poor Bowman, he deserved better.
But back to the specifics of Ghost, watching the video of his supposed demise, Ghost is shot once; from the exit wound it looks like Shepherd's .44 took out his left kidney, although it looks like the bullet entered his shoulder when first fired (according to the theory). Either way, It seems plausible that a trained soldier could have survived such a wound, although unlikely. Then the fire. We don't see Ghost's body being doused in gas or lit up, he would have been near the blaze, but Roach was the one thoroughly drenched. Furthermore, according to the comic books that detail Ghost's life before TF 141, he's been wounded, tortured, and lit on fire before, but his will to live is substantial. Nightstalker98 even argued that it would be plausible for Toad and Archer to have rescued Ghost at this point, as they were the pair of TF 141 snipers on site for this mission.
This one seems unlikely, but it is well thought out and by no means as crazy as some of the other theories we'll see.
8 Ghosts Was Intentionally Bad
For the record, I would like to say that while I recognize the collective dislike that many in the Call of Duty community hold for Ghosts, I enjoyed the campaign (not as much as the MW games or Black Ops/Black Ops 2) but got less entertainment out of the multiplayer experience than other installments in the franchise.
We might just call this the "New Coke Theory". It was suggested by Redditor LetterBobOmb. For those who are unfamiliar, the soft drink Coca-Cola underwent a formula change in the mid 1980s. It was re-branded as New Coke and the original was referred to as Coca-Cola Classic. People were furious, and eventually New Coke became Coke II and years later it was discontinued altogether. It wasn't a terrible drink however, but people were attached to Coca-Cola as they had known it and this change was an affront to a beloved soft drink and iconic product. Many have argued this was just a marketing ploy by the company to stir up publicity but Coca-Cola has denied such claims completely.
The theory here is that Call of Duty: Ghosts sucked so much because the franchise was doing poorly in numbers and they wanted to anger people so that when they made a decent game again (Advanced Warfare came out the following year) people would have newfound appreciation for the game and the brand, and sales would improve. Like a few other theories, this one is far fetched but not the most ridiculous thing we've heard this week. This guy may be onto something.
7 Did Mason Kill Kennedy?
This theory is kind of a two-for-one deal. As we all know, after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Alex Mason is taken prisoner, gets sent to the Soviets and gets imprisoned in Vorkuta. There, he is brainwashed by Nikita Dragovich and then re-brainwashed by Viktor Reznov. After his escape, he meets President Kennedy and briefly hallucinated, aiming a pistol at him.
Late in the campaign, Mason shouts that Dragovich tried to get him to kill his own President to which Dragovich scoffs "tried?!" The game leaves it fairly ambiguous as to whether or not Mason actually killed Kennedy. He was assassinated just under two weeks after meeting with Mason. The game and the accompanying canon do not conclusively show either way, leaving us with a great question mark over which to argue.
Fans have their theories on both sides of this topic, debating whether the original brainwashing by Dragovich was stronger than the reprogramming of Reznov and whether the final scene of the Kennedy assassination at the end of the game offers a final answer to whether Mason did the deed. From Gamefaqs, the CoD forum, to IGN, this debate is going on and the only ending available is for Treyarch to announce an answer.
For a better story of the same variety however, check out the 1962 (original) version of The Manchurian Candidate.
6 The Future of the Franchise
We won't even pick out one specific theory because there are so many and the Call of Duty community, in all it's grandeur, seems to come up with a new set of these theories every time a new game comes out. Right now, as of mid-March 2017, the going rumors seem to include the idea that the series will come out of space and "return to its roots," with boots on the ground (no more exo-suits, space missions, etc). Others have speculated that there will be a Vietnam War theme, some have suggested a return to World War II, but when all is said and done, these theories are interesting but little more than that. Don't get us wrong, some are well thought out, plenty of them make some valid points, but theories about future games are pointless fun until the developers have at least released information or trailers.
5 Gaz is Ghost
Ever since Modern Warfare 2, fans have speculated that Gaz, one of the NPCs killed at the end of Modern Warfare is actually Ghost, who appears in the second game. They came up with detailed justification for this, including showing that the bullet angle may not have killed him when he was shot by Zakhaev, claiming that he was just knocked out and not dead. Some players of the second game then said that because Ghost had a skull mask on throughout the game (indicating he should be dead) and was voiced by Craig Fairbrass, they must be the same guy.
This was disproven by the fact that there are comic books that detail Ghost prior to MW2 and he is nowhere near the events of the first game, but nonetheless there are still some people desperate for Gaz to have survived who cling to this theory. They may well be beyond help at this point.
4 The Purpose of the Franchise
Put on your tinfoil hats for this one folks, because this is a conspiracy theory that is partially based in reality. In short, there are a small group out there that believe that all first person shooters, particularly the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, are created at the request of the United States government to get young people desensitized to killing and obsessed with war so they can be more easily turned into soldiers later in life.
There is some research to indicate that games in which iron sights and scopes are used can be decent training tools and introduction to shooting in real life (obviously not the same as actually going to a range). Furthermore, there is evidence that the repeated action of virtually shooting at what looks like other humans can desensitize (read Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman's On Killing for more information; very interesting and more than a bit terrifying). Modern military forces have also started to use video games as training aids.
Where this one gets difficult to prove is when proponents of this idea try to come up with actual, concrete links between BF and COD and government offices. There are other examples, of course, such as the America's Army games, which are almost purely recruiting tools and were developed by the U.S. military (hence why the graphics were garbage and the game mechanics barely worked), but as far as actual evidence is concerned, Call of Duty exists for entertainment purposes.
3 COD: Ghosts is an Accurate Depiction of the Near Future
For those who need a quick refresher in terms of the plot of 2013's Ghosts, as of the year 2027, Latin America and the Caribbean have formed a massive "Federation" of oil producing countries and have taken over a significant chunk of the United States. It has been suggested that this is a significant possibility in the fairly near future; possibly mirroring the events of the game (ODIN, the space-bound super weapon included). A post on The Escapist's community forum tried to present the events as plausible, but we're skeptical of the OP's geopolitical knowledge.
First off, the alliance of South American nations is led, in the game, by Venezuela. Venezuela has been rapidly and publicly falling apart for several years now and there have been reports of families having to eat cats and dogs for protein. This is what happens when an oil-rich country embraces rampant socialism. We could elaborate further on why Latin America is a terrible choice for an enemy in this game, but we'll leave it that and the continent will not be laying waste to Main Street USA any time soon. The idea of the space-bound weapon ODIN is another one of those concepts that is completely far-fetched (lacking relevant engineering and requiring more money than any current government has), even given the rapid improvements in tech we as a species continue to see. We consider this theory to be interesting, but poorly thought out. Substitute China instead of Latin America and we'll start listening.
2 Ghosts and Advanced Warfare Are Both Sequels to Black Ops II
You need a fairly detailed road map to navigate this heap of shaky logic and abysmal spelling, but we'll do our best to get you there. Officially, Ghosts and Advanced Warfare exist in their own universes but one member of the Steam community suggested that these two games were the result of a major choice at the end of Black Ops 2. There are several available endings to that game, based on whether the player completes the Strike --Force Missions and whether or not certain characters die, but overall, in this theory, it comes down to whether the antagonist Menendez lives or dies and whether his bombs go off. If Menendez' bombs are allowed to go off and chaos ensues, the result is the timeline of Ghosts, but if the plan is stopped, with Menendez kept alive, the result is Advanced Warfare's timeline.
This kind of fan theory can only exist in a fantasy world because as we said, they exist in different COD universes, were made by different companies, and while something like this is interesting to think about, this one is too "out there" to even think about as being anywhere close to plausible.
1 Slower Connection Speeds for Smaller Markets
This Reddit post just sounds like a dude who either has a bad connection or no multiplayer skills whatsoever trying to say he's being discriminated against by video game creators. Without bludgeoning anyone with a lot of jargon, Redditor Infinitescam says that he believes that Call of Duty multiplayer servers are set up in such a way as to create an advantage for European and North American players, citing the United Kingdom and the United States as the franchise's largest markets, claiming that they make the playing experience more pleasurable for these people by enabling them to have better connection speeds while ensuring that other regions have slower speeds, creating lag on purpose so that Europeans and Americans can have "moving targets."
Many of those who responded to this theory argued that lag and connection problems could be solved by using P2P (thereby finding people nearby to the players) rather than servers, but this person's complaint was never solved.
This conspiracy theory is good for a laugh but not much else.