There was a time when online gaming was but a dream for the little pimply, hairy handed gamers but in the last decade it has taken off like a hedgehog on fire and became a huge multimillion dollar business that appeals to a mass audience, from teens to the golden oldies, everybody knows about online gaming. It has influenced mobile media, IT industries and social networking in general, even to the point that you could debatably blame the likes of ‘face book’ and ‘twitter’ on growing from its success. And yet, it is a relatively new and evolving concept. Like many new territories that mankind has stuck his big fat toe into, it can be a hostile environment and involve allot of conflict between its inhabitants. But why? Can’t we all just get along? – Nope!
As soon as you log on, be it Xbox, PC or PS3 you have just brought you psyche into a new and unforgiving world. Rolling hills of fun where you could meet either saint or sinner on your journey. If you hook up with friends and travel in a gang, then you have a good chance of dodging danger from the wondering douche bags. Alternately you could end up in a gang fight of abuse involving lots of ‘Your Mamma’ terminology, which can actually be good fun under the right circumstances. Go it alone and you could be verbally lynched by such a gang or end up having a mouthy shoot up with fellow players that can leave you felling anxious and annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, we all know it’s really only a place to play games at the end of the day and if things are going badly you can ultimately just turn it off or quit out, no harm no foul… right?
Now, I’ve played allot of online games since my first taste of ‘Doom’ many, many years ago. Diablo, Starcraft, Soldier of Fortune, Counter Strike all great games in the heyday of the PC, right up to the modern console’s games of Halo Reach and Black Ops – so like a cock in a henhouse, I’ve done em all! But it’s only in the last three or so years that I have begun to dislike online gamers with a passion. Here’s why… I consider myself a fairy polite kind of chap, I’m big and well equipped to pick up smaller humans and crack them open like an egg easily enough – but I don’t! This is due to my own upbringing and my empathy for other people, at least till I get angry, turn Green and burst out of my clothes, even then I must admit that I feel a sense of guilt as I hammer away at someone face… I’m the same online, I’m polite, a team player and I try my best to do well in a game by helping other team mates regardless of if I know them or not. Am I odd? From all the team killing, verbal diarrhoea and general unpleasantness online, I feel that I just might be.
For the purpose of this piece let’s just discount all those fifteen and under aged little shits that insist on acting like a bee in summer trying to land on your jammy bread as you put it in your mouth. These little feckers are simply immature youngsters getting their kicks and are easily swatted away. It could be argued that they are learning how to be greater fools for the future, but right now we will stuff them into the kiddie box, and leave them there… to suffocate. It’s the older wasps that were really interested in here and I’ve encounter quite a few over the years but lately I’ve just become jaded with online gaming as a result.
A light-hearted example is when recently one of the RG Crew and myself were on Xbox wandering around the public planes of Red Dead Redemption chatting away in a private chat channel and trying to rack up some achivments for doing all the ‘hideouts’, when we saw a couple of players ganging up on some poor sap… After checking out this ‘walking bullseye’s’ profile we saw he was a fellow Irishman and decided to help him out, so we kicked his attacker’s butts till they had enough. We then invite this lone player into our lil posse, but not to our private team chat, we didn’t know him properly after all. Follow the leader and some horse rearing passed as communication and for about half an hour or so we were all happy going around taking on hideouts and just messing about… then the fucker shot us in the back – literally! We decided to let it slide for the first few times, give the benefit of the doubt and all that… then the lil bastard started with the throwing knives… so we booted his ass out of the posse and began turning him into swiss cheese… and eventually we had the opportunity to kick him out of the game altogether… the cheek!! A minor little tale and one we laughed about at the time, but still… lil prick!
The other recent example was far more aggressive, again one of the lads and I were in a party together, as we often do nowadays due to the idiots who love to blast inaudible music over the channels and make it impossible for everyone else to chat. We were kicking ass in COD Black Ops, it had just been released a few weeks before and we were getting to grips with the online side of it after cleaning off the single player. Then we both started getting abusive messages over xbox live off some cock-knocker on our own team telling us to get lost and go play with the amateurs… I had thought we were already, as this was basic FFA team death match. We of course ignored the first message and of course, it was followed by another and another. Initially it was funny but my temper soon began to flair at this cheeky and quite unskilled little bollox’s hypocritical persistence. I sent him a polite message reminding him of the code of conduct crap and if he didn’t fuck off that I was in a position to have his account ‘looked at’ by the powers that be (which is true btw). Of course he didn’t believe this and continued to message us even after we had left that game and gone into another lobby… I do believe that he has since learnt that I wasn’t full of shit, which is a reassuring thought.
Not a big deal perhaps but it did ruin the nights session because it was no longer about playing the game, it was about dealing with this arsehole instead. This kind of abusive carry-on and even intimidating type of behaviour goes on all the time. What if I had of been some poor shmuck that took it all to heart or if I was an impressionable kid (who was illegally playing an 18’s game – common, ya know it happens). This ‘cock with ears’ sending the abusive messages didn’t know or care who the hell we were. It’s not cool, just like any society we all have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable and kick the bullies in the cock… or whatever.
Recent news reports involving bulling, sexual abuse, suicide cases, murder attempts and actual murders that have been linked to online gaming and gamers in the past few years have taken the medium away from its childish and nerdy image into a dangerous and unhealthy one. Of course this has attracted the unwanted attention of the granny brigade and given them a cross to burn, with court cases and lawyers getting into the gaming arena, but it could be argued that this is because of the financial exploitation of what is now a multimillion dollar business as opposed to the moral fibre side of things. It’s also putting game content in general under the microscope with claims that gaming makes you more aggressive or even mentally disturbed, which of course is a crock of shit. Never the less, online assholes are gaining allot of attention for the wrong reasons and it all starts with the shit talk that us regular players have to put up with regularly.
I imagine every XBL, PSN or PC gamer has experienced this at one time or another, even the dick head that continually perpetrates such behaviour has met a bigger asshole than themselves at some point. Admittedly it can sometimes be fun just to listen in on two or more douches tearing shreds off each other and that’s fine, I’m not really talking about consenting arguments, I’m talking about non-consensual bullying and intimidation. Quite a few of my gaming friends in the real world tell me they stay away from playing online altogether because of these unpleasant gamers, a few others I know would like to get into online stuff but have found it a very harsh environment to be a newbie in. There are even a few of my well seasoned veteran online gamer pals that have just gotten so jaded as a result of the typical abusive shits that they avoid playing online unless with known friends. It kinda makes me mad that a minority of egotistical, big mouthed abortions are getting the upper hand. I mean, c’mon people, give the new guys a break! It seems to me that if you find a player that is being nice to ya he is worth his weight in gold, or perhaps a perv…
Without rules and penalties all this is unlikely to change, and ironically – nobody really wants that either, we all want the freedom to express ourselves but we also want to punish the shit heads for their behaviour… it’s a tricky one with only a ‘boot’ option being of any effect, but unless its handled by an admin figure, it too will be misused. Sony and Microsoft have attempted to tackle this issue by allowing you to submit complaints or report players. I personally like this method, at least it gives you some satisfaction to think that the ball-sack that was screaming down the voice chat or sending abusive messages has somehow gotten some comeuppance – but it doesn’t work all that great and hasn’t really deterred or decreased such carry on, in fact I think its increasing. The PC has no such regulation really, there is always the admins boot which is better than any complaint procedure, and strangely enough PC gamers tend to be far less abusive than their console cousins, even the kiddies. Personally I feel that the PC just attracts a more intelligent and technically minded individual, a better class of gamer if you will. That’s not to say that you don’t still get allot of pond scum but the PC gamers tend to police themselves and have a sort of code of conduct all of their own, something console players should learn from.
The big sociological questions are – What motivates this behaviour? Is it Immaturity? Social retardation? Anonymity? People with mental issues? Or is it simply a barometer for the good and bad of this generation, simply a side effect of meeting faceless people in a physically harm free environment, a place where law is limited and freedom is exploited. Race, sexual preference and gender are all big targets, in fact they are the most popular form of slur online, is it a reflection of what we think and feel in reality but are too constrained or embarrassed to admit on a daily basis? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude and when threatened I’m one of the first to unleash any and all abusive words at my disposal but never on an innocent and never unprovoked. Are most online gamers like me or are they mostly like the shit-bags mentioned here? I really do want to know…
Ok, so this is a bit of a ‘storm in a tea cup’ for most people. For a few it’s far more serious. Personally it just annoys the shit out of me and makes it hard to be proud of being a gamer, something my generation has always struggled with since we hit our twenties. It’s only in recent years that it was ok to admit that, as a grown man with bills to pay and mouths to feed, that you still love and play games, I just don’t want to see these asshole, bigmouthed, inconsiderate, online bastards drag us down! Plus I simply want to enjoy playing games without all the bullshit… don’t you?