Thursday, May 13, 2010

Re: Hell is Other Players

For as much as I can't stand Kotaku sometimes, their posts can be somewhat thought-provoking. This article about playing games with others online and the lack of civility on the "anonymous net" produced this response from me:

The irony is that half of these little prepubescent pukes probably get beat on at school because THEY are different and they need to try and create their own "norm" so that they can be little hypocrites and do the same thing to people they don't deem worthy of their little inner circle.

I played the free game League of Legends with some friends for a little while, and I can honestly say that even with REAL LIFE friends playing alongside me, it was worse than having played on Live (some of the time) and playing WoW for a few years' time. And it wasn't due to lack of skill... I don't game on the PC very much, so my PC is about 3 years old, and my friends and I would talk on Skype whilst playing LoL. Well, somewhere along the line LoL, in conjunction with Skype running, would lag, HARD. And when you're playing a game where you're constantly in combat, that makes a lot of difference. So I had a choice, play the game, shut off Skype and type to everyone, which was no fun, or stop playing altogether. Not using Skype to chat was the equivalent of just playing with strangers, I played with friends while talking on Skype because I got to talk to friends that had moved to another state, that I used to game with in person. So I quit, because every match with lag was unbearable and frustrating to me, and there was just a constant, uncalled for barrage of idiotic comments in a game that was basically a glorified (FREE) tower defense game that was actually a Warcraft 3 mod. You seriously would have thought I was killing my own team members or something with some of the comments that were made to me. If you don't know how the game works, it's 5-on-5, and you can invite people or join a random game and get matched with teammates. There were normally 3 of us with 2 randoms, and sometimes 4 + 1 random if my buddy's girlfriend decided to play. It doesn't help that their matching system is deeply flawed, but the problem was usually some random assbag going off.

What's funny is that the more "mainstream" gaming seems to become - and the more social elements they add to gaming - the less civil the whole thing seems to be. I mean, when I played Starcraft and Diablo on Battle.net a decade ago, you could chat, there were rooms for it, and in-game chat in Starcraft at least (I forget if Diablo had it, everyone cheated anyway) and very rarely would anyone make shitty comments, much less anything you'd see/hear from someone who is 12 years old through a microphone today. I got the first Half-Life game exclusively for its online play, and even in those matches people still kinda kept their peace. Hell, even when I played World of Warcraft in 2004 until about 2006 or so, people were generally civil - at least on the servers I played on. Sure there were the know-it-alls and the people that took the game way too seriously, but there weren't any major trolls until around 2007 or so. That's also the year around when Blizzard started touting that 11.5 million subscribers number. So, is it the popularity that's driving uncivil behavior? An influx of more people means an influx of more assholes & trolls, right? But in a lot of these games anymore, and especially in the above example and Live, jerks seem to be the core, prevailing audience, which is kinda disturbing. Throw in texting, social networking, message boards on any number of sites & the anonymity that the internet/networked gaming provides and you have an unprecedented generation of kids/teens that have no sympathy or empathy because none of their communication need be civil, because nothing they say or do has any consequence to them until they bully someone to go kill or injure themselves and it winds up on the news. I mean, god knows there have always been little sociopaths running around bullying people *because* they're sociopaths, and that won't ever change, but now people don't even get a reprieve at home, because they can hunt them down online.

My generation had their parents accused of, "having the TV be the babysitter," which lots of parents did leave their kids in front of the TV all day, but then would blame the TV programs instead of looking inward to their own lack of parenting. And the TV, "instructed kids to imitate things they saw." Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Instead of unattentive, moronic parents blaming the TV now, it's going both ways. Instead of just imitating what they see, kids are free to be jackasses to one another on a grand scale. And what makes this so much worse than the previous generation is... it took several decades for TV to hit its stride. Which means that your parents' parents might not have understood that "wacky fad" of TV so well, but likely your parents knew how to work the dial. I'd say a sizable chunk of parents now don't know how to turn on half the devices their kids have, let alone operate them to see that their kid help make a classmate develop bulimia.

I'm not saying society is going to collapse because of this, but this anti-social-socializing is really something that people have never had to deal with before. And to someone that spent the majority of their life having to actually interact face-to-face with people and deal with the consequences of calling someone a "fuckbag" or a "pedo" to their face - whether we had SNES controllers in our hands or not - this is more than a little foreign. Arguing face-to-face or catching a beating - or dispensing one once in a while - as a consequence of endlessly running your mouth amongst peers instills a bit of an inner censor and ironically a little civility or humility, and I think that a lot of these kids/teens could really use that "interaction", for no other reason than it would likely cause it not to occur that much anymore.

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