The whole idea behind this little opinion piece came as I was turning off my Xbox 360 after a session on Call of Duty: Black Ops I’d played around seven or eight rounds, and during each and every one I noted either absolute silence or hails of idiots screaming abuse at each other. And then the realisation finally sank in; the gaming “community” was dead.
When I first started gaming many years ago, gamers were close to being social rejects who hid in their darkened rooms staring at a bright screen and never, ever venturing into the outside world. We were dumb, illiterate beings with no hint of life in us, or that’s what the public seemed to think at any rate. The pastime of playing games was viewed with disdain, and in some cases outright hostility. But this dismissal of my favored pastime by the general public did have a massive upside; gamers stuck together. Confronted with a world that seemed to view as utter social rejects, we stuck together, chatted about our hobby and generally got along pretty well. For me, venturing into a game shop wasn’t just about picking up the latest title, but about meeting some fellow gamers as well. It was easy to simply engage in a conversation about games with anyone in the shop, regardless of gender or color of their skin. Why? Because, in my eyes, they weren’t male or female, or black or white, they were just gamers.
As I started venturing online it was a fantastic experience. Here was a virtual world filled with gamers happily chatting to each other about games, or just life in general. I looked forward to my online escapades each and every night. Other people go to the pub, I went online and met up with friends and had brilliant back and forth battles with opposing teams, and when the battle was finished we’d all end up having a laugh about whatever had happened during the hail of bullets or missiles. Your gender or color didn’t matter.
So, it’s with growing horror that I watch my beloved hobby and community deteriorate into a hate-filled mess. And yet, ironically this hot-pot of abuse is now socially accepted by almost everyone, but when the community was nice it was socially shunned by everyone else. Now, racist and sexist insults are commonplace, as is vile language.
But let me go back to my Black Ops session; in the very first round I played, there was complete and utter silence. I did a quick check and, sure enough, a few were in Party Chat, but the rest were simply silent with mics plugged in. This baffled me a tad, why plug-in the mic if you didn’t want to talk? So, in the second round, I plugged in my own mic and ventured a hello to the lobby, and, to my amazement, I immediately heard back from a cheerful gamer and we started chatting. Pretty soon, our team were struggling, so our chat switched to tactics to try to save the round, and we gave a valiant effort to try to talk to our silent comrades as well. Sure enough, they responded by hurling abuse. ” Don’t tell me where they are, I’m not a f*cking noob” came a reply. Mere seconds later he was gunned down by the very enemy we had tried to inform him about. Others insults started to pour in about us being noobs, despite topping the leaderboards, or about the fact we weren’t real gamers because we didn’t charge in like mindless baboons brandishing a stick that went “bang”. By the third round they were ignoring us and had started on each other, with insults regarding mothers, playing skills, race, gender and sexual tendencies being thrown around. As my final round ended, I called out a cheerful “good game” to the other team, as I felt they had played a fair and fun game. This was met by a barrage of my own team declaring me a “pussy” and that the other team sucked…..things. Even the other team tried to have a go at me for complimenting them, before starting on the rest of my team as well.
If I’m being honest, I was slightly impressed by the inventiveness of some the insults that were being hurled. People were managing to combine other players grandmother’s sexual choices with donkeys on boats and all sorts. However, my favorite remains; ” If this was a Kinect game, I’d slap you”.
After I got off my Xbox I began to ponder the reason for this change in the community. How had we gone from a fairly friendly bunch to a group of mentally challenged monkeys that had learned how to turn a console on.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone out there. Hell, the gamer I met in Black Ops proves that there are still polite people out there in the virtual world, and my friends list certainly has a few on it as well. but it’s like their an underground resistance; hard to find. This brings up the first point that I see many argue as the cause of our current predicament; Party Chat. The argument goes that this deterioration in our community was caused by the arrival of Party Chat, meaning friends tended to band together in their parties and never venture outside of them, thereby allowing said mentally challenged monkeys to take the place over. But this is a result, not a cause of the problem. I find that gamers hide in a Party because of the idiots.
Another popular argument, and one that doesn’t just apply to gaming, is the current state of society. This theory definitely has some points to it; I look at the nearest city now and its a horrible place that contains millions of people who seem indifferent to the existence of the millions of other people. It’s easy to see how this current horror of humanity could have spread its way into the virtual world of gaming and infected it, thus causing everyone else to go into hiding in those helpful Parties. So, I believe our current society certainly plays a part in the disintegration of the gaming world, after all, if I had talked like that when I was a kid I would have gotten a solid smack in the ear. I’m almost constantly amazed by the amount of twelve-year old kids playing Gears of War or Call of Duty, and almost all of them are loud-mouthed, obnixious idiots who aren’t mature enough to be playing the game. Sure, my parents did let me play games that were above my age rating, but they always researched the game to see why it deserved the rating and reputation, and if they deemed to mature enough to handle the content I was allowed to the game. All in all, I’m proud to say that I’ve come out alright.
Maybe it was the games themselves as they adopted new styles to appeal to the market. Games became dark and gritty with enough swearing to make Ozzy Osbourne walk out in disguist. But I can’t blame violent games as they’re age-restricted. The media loves to make a scapegoat of violent games, deeming them the cause of everything that is wrong with our society. At times it feels like they’re trying to make me believe that Satan has personally taken control of every game developer in the world and is now pumping out games that teach us how to worship Satan and perform ghastly rites that involve a lot of dancing around in the nude. Wait, that actually sounds fun in the right company. But no, games aren’t the cause of violence, they’re merely a trigger to what already lies within the persons mind. Maybe the surge of under-age kids playing 18+ games does contribute, but that’s just a result of parents who are incapable of reading just a few lines about the game realising that Lil’ Jonny is too much of a pain in the butt to be playing the game.
Things just didn’t quite add up, and then it came to me; the cause of the problem was the one thing that I had hoped gaming would get when I first started; social acceptance. When gaming was viewed as the work of the Devil, gamers banded together because of it. We were outcasts, but we didn’t care. Still, as the years went on I kept up hope that my chosen hobby would become socially accepted, and lo, as the years have gone by this has happened, and now that I reflect on it, the change in community seems to have been keeping track with it. I used to hope that gaming would become accepted, that it would open up to the public at large and therefore bring more gamers into such a great community! But that’s not what happened.
Now, practically everyone plays games. Not all of them are gamers as such, but they play and enjoy games. The result has been a less tight-knit community, and with gaming becoming a normal hobby for a person to have it has resulted in many of those irritating people taking the hobby up and invading our world. I venture into a game shop now and all I see are a bunch of hoodies barely capable of speaking in a coherent way swearing at the cashier for some stupid reason. Try to talk to them about the latest game and it usually ends badly. On the other hand, at least the game shops aren’t hidden away anymore.
I realise that I’m labelling people here. Not all of them are bad, and occasionally I do meet someone in those shops and enjoy a good conversation, but mostly those people actually work at the shop. But, in the most part, I rarely meet someone who acts friendly.
And now, as I finish up this little opinion piece, I wonder how many hate comments I’ll receive for this, telling me that a “community” is just for wimps and geeks, and that I suck at Call of Duty because I miss getting to talk to gamers without getting having to listen to a barrage of abuse all around me.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s nostalgia and play and the community all those years ago was just as foul-mouthed and unpleasant as todays. And maybe I’m completely wrong about the cause of it all.
But still, if I’m right and its social acceptance that has sparked this change, then I’m forced to wonder if the trade-off was worth it.
But, for me, the gaming “community” is dead.
Categories: Opinion Piece