Headsets. There was a time not too distant in the past where pc gamers would play online and shoot each other, spawn, and shoot each other again in rapid succession for hours, only pausing to type something out when necessary, or when they were about to rage quit. Now, with headsets and mics being almost required for many multiplayer experiences, we can experience a whole new level of camaraderie and teamwork with our peers. Not only can we synchronize our attacks on an enemy position with minimal loss of lives, we also no longer have any doubt that when we get shot, we are indeed faggots.
Left 4 Dead is a perfect example of voice chat gone right. The game has been heralded as not only a masterpiece of gaming in general, but its done nearly the impossible: taught gamers to play nice. That isn't to say I haven't joined campaigns where people have decided to fuck it all up and wait until the party is near a safe room to molotov and shoot me to death. I'm saying the game thrives on us working together and being able to warn each other of danger and come to each other's aid when needed. I can't imagine the game being played otherwise, and in fact upon breaking my headset, I began using my rock band mic (on my pc, and yes, it works) so as not to be a detriment to myself or my team. This brings me to the main reason I wrote this article.
Yesterday I was playing Call of Duty and I had the privilage of listening to "Dragon Slayer" or "Jonathan" as we'll call him because, well, thats what his parents call him. Jonathan seemed to have a real chip on his shoulder, he obviously knew all the subtle nuances of Call of Duty which was evidenced by his high octave voice and disposition for telling us what we we're all doing wrong as he was being killed. It was then that Jonathan the Dragon Slayer seemed to actually slay a dragon. Or he would have if his sister was a dragon, and by slaying her he pushed her off the bed. The rest of the match was an orchestra of yelling parents and crying children, with the poor would-be slayer trying to finish the match while trying to convince his parents that the loud slam and subsequent crying we heard was not in fact caused by him. Why didn't I mute him you ask? Because after all his prickly behavior, it was immensely satisfying to hear him get owned by his parents. But this isn't a rare coincidence, as anyone who playing Halo can tell you.
So where does this leave us? Unfortunately the same place we started. It is a problem consistent with all multiplayer gaming, the douchebag gamer, the child gamer whose voice is so shrill we know an irresponsible parent has unleashed them upon our world, with an 18+ game, a headset and total anonymity, and plain trolls. It's something we have to deal with, and we do it for the passion we share, the love of gaming, and the rare chance we will make new connections, meet people across the world with similar interests and develop friendships through a network made for us. Still, it isn't hard to realize why its taken my girlfriend, family and non gamer friends years to fully understand gaming as a medium and an art, when somebody in the same room at any moment may be serenaded by a screaming child questioning my sexuality for being unable to shoot a bullet behind me into a sniper waiting 500 yards away.
Thank god for the mute button.