Looking back on hours spent playing Call of Duty, John Christian Rose’s new zine is reflective, self-aware and funny
Lunch from a Care Package is a short-run publication that dives into the niche subcultures formed from the game’s success.
- Ayla Angelos
- 15 December 2020
Reflecting on the past can be an important and therapeutic creative process. It can also pull out a whole range of unexpected references, for instance the New York-based designer, John Christian Rose, has used the past few months to create a zine looking back on the hours he spent playing the first-person shooter game, Call of Duty, as a teenager.
As a senior about to graduate with a BFA from the Cooper Union, it’s been about four years since Chris stopped playing the game. In this time, he has experimented with graphic design to great lengths – as seen in his various poster projects. And now, not only has he refined his practice, he’s also come to realise that he doesn’t need to set himself apart in order to create something good. On his current internship, Chris says: “I’m enjoying being in the background, and I’m very critical of what I want to stylise and what I don’t.”
The result of this new-found outlook is a zine titled Lunch from a Care Package. A project focusing on his time spent on Call of Duty, it’s one that he’s had in mind since his school days. “For this project, I wanted to revisit that time in my life from a different perspective,” he says, especially now that his mental health is balanced and he can look backwards with a more matured lens. “So the zine is just me thinking back to that time in my life.”
Chris was homeschooled throughout high school, and he would often fantasise about what a high school experience might have been like – his only references being that of films and tv shows. “I dreamt of being in high school,” he says, whose learnings would take place online in the form of Skype calls or matches in the game. Chris likens the experiences he had in the Call of Duty community to experiences found in high school: “There are cliques, drama between friends and friend groups. There’s a social hierarchy; there’s essentially a freshman-senior roadmap based on how long you’ve been playing.” It was also mostly filled with young teenage boys who, as Chris explains, would have come in from the lower ranks in their real-life school’s social ladder. A compilation of toxic masculinity, egos and everyone trying to reach the ‘top’, of course it was going to ignite some strange behaviours – especially if those who may not have had great high-school success in the real world were suddenly incredibly popular in the game.
“A recipe for disaster,” says Chris. “We had fights, we had drama, we had moments of this sort of brotherly teaching and brotherly bond, but it was all online.” So think of this zine as a look back to a past filled with friendships, brawls, gaming, as well as moments of joy and sadness all at once. The thing is though, it’s not just about the game itself; it’s more about growing up in the game and reflecting back on that experience. “This zine is about self-reflection and typing to parse this really strange time in my life.” In this sense, the zine is littered with stereotypical high-school imagery and that which is found from the Call of Duty set up – a unique blend of traditional gaming aesthetics mixed with imagery created by the community.
The overall sense of Lunch from a Care Package is that it is, indeed, highly self-aware. Chris has used his technical skill in the medium to look back on his experiences and successfully transferred them into the pages of a zine – one that’s just as humorous as it is a sensitive, remedial response to a pivotal part of his upbringing. “The fact that I spent four years of my life playing video games every day is funny to me now,” he says. “High school, or at least my idea of it and what I see in the media, is funny; it’s awkward.” Lunch from a Care Package, in this case, features spreads of speculative nostalgia and experimental typography that dives into the experiences he had and the niche subcultures that arose from the game. Little moments of laughter as well as those of the more personal abound.
Lunch from a Care Package is set to be published early next year on X.T.Y Press.
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.