For the record, this is not designed to incite a war between the Call of Duty followers and those who just seem morally opposed to the franchise. I'm also not asking a rhetorical question that implies the series is devoid of quality and those who play it are sheep.
This is a legitimate question. Call of Duty: Black Ops is now the most popular video game in US history, and it begs a lot of questions. Firstly, it is unfair to compare the game to Super Mario Bros. , for example, simply due to the drastic difference in the industry's growth and maturity. In 1987, gaming really was for kids and it really was not a worldwide, mainstream entertainment venue. The eras just aren't comparable; millions upon millions more play games now, so comparing the numbers means nothing.
As for quality, that's always a subject of much debate, but there are two strains of thought I'm starting to dislike: 1. the idea that anything CoD beats anything else in the FPS world. The idea that it's infallible. That bugs me. But #2 bugs me almost as much: the quickly circulating idea that Call of Duty is terrible, and that the sales numbers somehow prove the gaming industry is just like the movie, music, or book industry; i.e., trash sells. That irritates me because it's insulting to gamers and it is continually proven that better quality games almost always sell quite well.
CoD isn't terrible. I gave Black Ops an 8.8 because I think it deserved an 8.8. That's hardly a bad score. Does it warrant 13.7 million sold in the US alone…? Well, no. In my eyes, that's reserved for the elite of the elite, and there aren't too many of those. Therefore, the answer to the question, "what fuels the mania?" is more complex than one might assume: the CoD games are solid, or even great in some respects, and yet, not great enough to completely account for the entire phenomenon. And you know, we should discount peer pressure…nobody plays something they don't enjoy.
Brainwashing? Eh. Like I said, who wastes hours and hours of their personal leisure time on something they don't like? But I have a bad feeling. I think I know what accounts for the much of the crowd: this generation's fascination with instant gratification. Online multiplayer is 95% of the reason CoD is what it is, and nonstop, ceaseless multiplayer action is the epitome of instant gratification. You can turn your mind off and go. We see evidence of this mental change in all corners of the industry; it seems to have affected everything, from RPGs to the "necessity" of having online multiplayer in every game made.
So yeah, it's a combination of factors. And I can live with that. …provided the insanity doesn't infringe on the quality of my entertainment that I prefer. And I hope that doesn't happen.