Call of Duty Esports Wiki
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Trash-Talk: Where do we draw the line?

Trash-Talk: Where do we draw the line?

The topic of trash-talking in Call of Duty (CoD) is back on the menu, following fired-up exchanges from Scump and Clayster in recent Pro League matches. Trash-talk is telling the opponent the equivalent of “You are bad” – in varying expressions and tones of voice - before, during or after a match. With very spicy altercations at Gears of War’s recent New Orleans event, I’ll explore where and why lines should be drawn.


There is no doubt trash-talk helps fuel the rivalries that keep fans coming back for more. Twitter rows and provocative interviews between Aches and Reedy, among other examples, certainly inject greater interest to specific matchups. Creative and original trash-talk I am in favour of, as long as it does not delve into deep and unnecessary personal insults (e.g. appearance or race). Killa’s Choo Choo Train and Haggy's Who's CompLexity? are some of the entertaining and memorable moments that hooked many to the esport.

However, I'm not a huge fan of the generic "You f***ing suck" or "Sit down" form of trash-talk. To the layman, it's surely unappealing to see players throw unimaginative insults across the stage. I'd much prefer to see players show their passion by hyping up their team rather than lambasting the losing side. It seems some viewers think that without trash-talking there is no passion, but traditional sports players rarely bad-mouth their opposition despite showing huge emotion in victory. The transition from manifesting passion in trash-talking, to showing most emotion towards yourself and your teammates is one that comes with maturity.


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The average CoD professional today is older than they were in Black Ops 2, at the height of the trash-talk age. The reason for the decline, from my estimation, is mostly a matter of players maturing enough to realise what is and isn't appropriate. Gears of War has frankly outrageous levels of verbal altercations, especially tasteless post-match remarks. We must recognise that this trash-talk will die out over time, as occurred in Counter-Strike (CS), arguably the first true grassroots esport. Counter-strike used to be similar to Black Ops 2-era Call of Duty. Young, immature "kids" often out of line.

Over the past six years since the release of Global Offensive, the level of trash-talk in the CS community has fallen off, while viewership figures and investor injections have sky-rocketed. The majority of seasoned professionals are now good role models to a young audience, important for attracting viewers and sponsors alike. At the end of every CS:GO match, players meet and shake hands (of course without any "You f***ing suck" comments), an important aspect of sportsmanship that implies reputability to budding investors.


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Trash-talk is an unsustainable source of viewership, and its slow but inevitable departure from Call of Duty should not be mourned. The players' burning passion will remain, and despite a fall in rivralries betwen individuals, organisation rivalry will likely take the mantle. I feel there is no need to enforce specific limitations on trash-talk, except obviously inappropriate personal insults, as the growing maturity of the scene should have the same effect. It would be wise to embrace a community of more respectable professionals. Investors seek reputability, and if we are to strip traditional sports of their audience, we should promote virtue among our players. In how many of the big (e)sports is trash-talking rife?

We could discuss all day where the line should be drawn on precisely when trash-talk in CoD becomes unacceptable, but I think this question is irrelevant in the long run. Trash-talk will continue to degrade as players mature, and this is not a bad thing. Counter-Strike made huge strides as trash-talk departed through focus on improving the competitiveness and entertainment factor of watching the game itself. Maybe Call of Duty will not last long enough for this approach to be relevant, but we should assume that it will. Promoting unsustainable viewership through trash-talk and controversy is not healthy for the scene. Traditional sports do not thrive on individual player rivalry, but the enjoyment of watching the game in itself. If we are to hope for a bright future for Call of Duty esports, the reigns are in the hands of Activision to prioritise entertainment value. How this can be accomplished is another story entirely.

Published on 19. Jul 2021
Written by Arran Francis / Twitter - @TheTacticalRab'

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