There are idiots in all walks of life, abrasive people who just plain piss us off by simply being who they are. In life though we can generally avoid them, and if we do tolerate them it’s usually for a good reason such as family or job commitments mean they cannot be avoided. But to put up with these people just to play a game? Nope sorry, let me off the online train please, I think I may be done.
I think I’m an anti-social gamer, for I may have grown to hate online gaming. This isn’t a snap judgement I’ve suddenly lurched to, I once played online nearly every night. Now? I sometimes don’t even bother signing in to my LIVE/PSN account, my gaming time now consists of searching out the best single-player experience I can find. Being in control of my gaming experiences, and more importantly not allowing others to spoil them, has become paramount.
Flashback time: The first time I really got into online-gaming was with Call of Duty on my dad’s PC. Many a Sunday afternoon was spent sniping Nazis from the (short-lived) safety of a bombed out building. I didn’t have a headset for my PC, so my allies and enemies were voiceless, faceless people I could run about with and try and communicate with in other ways. Mainly through lobbing smoke grenades into buildings and hoping they’d catch my drift and charge in with me.
It was an adrenaline rush I just didn’t get when playing against the game’s AI troops. Because I knew I was outsmarting, being outsmarted by, and shooting real people. But there was no human interaction as such, some words thrown up quickly on the in-game console were about as much as I’d get. Yet it was an adrenaline rush I just didn’t get when playing against the game’s AI troops.
Like many gamers, my first consistent foray into the online arena was with the Xbox 360. Epic’s Gears of War was the shooter of choice. Unlike my CoD days on the PC, I was conversing with other people through a headset. Tactics would be discussed, nuances (and glitches) shared, and plenty of abuse thrown about as matches became ever more heated. I started to get a group of players I enjoyed playing with and talking with and we would play each other and others. Horrible matchmaking options aside, it was fun.
As much as I enjoyed the novelty of playing online, there was an ugly side to the verbal sparring that inevitably happens. Anyone who has put on a headset and jumped into a shooter on the 360 knows that casual racism, sexism and sheer intolerance runs rampant.
Drifting away from Gears I got really into Warhawk on the Playstation Network. For a service that is sorely lacking next to Xbox Live, I still loved my time playing Warhawk. It was a throwback of sorts to my PC CoD days, I didn’t have a Bluetooth headset and thus spent my time running around in blissful ignorance as others more than likely cussed me out for not having much of a clue as to what I was doing. I liked it though, for all the benefits voice comms bring to gaming, I was happy to not have an annoying voice in my ear telling me I was “doing it all wrong” as I worked out the different facets of the games’ vehicles and weapons.
In 2007 I underwent pretty serious knee surgery, I was resigned to spending a good few months pretty much housebound on crutches. When you’re recovering something from that, there’s only so much time people will come spend with you indoors before they make their excuses and leave. Which was expected, my friends were mainly from the sports teams I played with, fit and active people who played sports together. In a sense I was on the outside looking in, I needed something to fill my time.
Enter back into my life the Call of Duty franchise. I played CoD 4 a ridiculous amount as I recovered. It helped pass the solitary time as I waited on my family or friends finishing work to come back to the house. I ploughed a crazy amount of time into that game, which in my defence was because I wasn’t going anywhere else in a hurry. As I regained my mobility, lost the crutches, and got back to driving places, I ditched CoD. My tolerance for people playing music down their mics, shouting the stupidest things and generally being a dick went from slim to none.
Developers try to provide tools for players to avoid players who are well, tools. But why should I have to enter a game and immediately mute upwards of four players before a bullet has even been fired? The anonimity afforded by hiding behind an online identity has been abused to create a breed of gamer whose modus operandi is to simply try and inflict as much misery on their fellow gamers as possible. “Trolling” they call it, the sub-culture of being a dick.
Yet there’s light at the end of the tunnel, recently I’ve enjoyed playing Civ World on Facebook, with the Kotaku.com Game Club. It’s amazing how enjoyable a game becomes when played with a community that looks to help each other out and share knowledge. I’ve avoided so-called “social gaming” for so long, but there’s no reason that good quality franchises cannot be adapted to this framework, allowing us to play games with people we know and can co-operate with. I urge you to give Civ World a try, it’s social gaming for gamers.
Right now I’m at a crossroads with the whole online thing, on one hand I hate the negative experiences a room of random people playing a game together can throw up. On the other hand I feel I’m missing out, maybe I’m playing the wrong games. If I was to join a community of gamers who want to play games properly in an orderly environment, I’d probably love online gaming again. So I’ll throw it out to you, the gamers reading this, if you have a community/guild/team that can perhaps save me from hating playing online, let me know through here or Twitter. Perhaps I’ll grow to enjoy it again.