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Leigh Davidson avatar 3:05 PM on 11.07.2012
The Public Library and Xbox Live

Iíve been going to the library quite a lot lately. I used to go to study, as Iíve recently moved towns, and into a busier house back with my family and getting any work done from home was difficult. I get terribly distracted at the best of times and overhearing loud conversations, having the latest Rihanna album pumping in the next room or even just having my ten year old sister come and interrupt me and enquire about what Iím up to, then interrupt me again while I explain what Iím doing, and then tell me about whichever friend sheís fallen out with this week for hours. Not actual hours, but whatever measure of time these conversations last it is removing hours from my life. Iíll die younger because of that craic.
I know this is first world problems; Iím not really complaining. Iím just giving some context to why I like to remove myself from this situation.

But I donít need to study anymore as my next module doesnít start until February next year, but I still go to read or do some writing with a bit of peace. People are noisy and obnoxious, and I have a very small attention span so it helps me be a bit more productive.

Well, thatís the idea, but unfortunately that ideal of the quiet library doesnít seem to exist for me now. The main area where most of the books are displayed doesnít have any seating and at the back of the room is a busy section with thirty or so computers, and there is another section down a long hall which does have a large table and chairs is right next to one of the entrances and a helpdesk, so there are people coming, going and enquiring all the time, which also distracts me.
The only option I have left is a large room on the second floor called The Sanctuary. Perfect. A sanctuary; I like the sound of that, itís exactly what Iím looking for.
Essentially itís a large room with a number of sofas at the back and four tables scattered around the room, along with six computers lining the sides, three on each side.



Unfortunately, the environment is ruined by people. There are two women in their early to mid twenties on the sofa, huddled over a mobile phone talking loudly about some happenings on Facebook; there is some guy on a PC in a white t-shirt watching Tupac videos and spitting some rhymes along with him, and there is an elderly bloke across from me with his woolly socks over his trousers, proudly and regularly burping and farting like heís doing us all a favour. And itís at this moment I find this library exactly like Xbox Live.

I donít have an Xbox 360 anymore (RIP) so it was here that I was reminded why I donít play online so much anymore. People having conversations with the mic un-muted with someone else in the room; someone playing their music over the mic, and others being absolutely quiet until they let out an earpiece-shattering belch. It just ruins my enjoyment.
I sound like a grumpy bastard, I know. I never used to be and itís kind of new to me and Iím not sure how to express it properly. Being close to 30 and dealing with this kind of grumpy-ness is like being 14 and dealing with unwanted erections.
But I digress.

But other then reminding me people are dicks, it also reminded me that, well, people are dicks. Online gaming, and more specifically Xbox Live, has come to develop a reputation that we are all aware of. You know, all the racist, sexist, homophobic comments and general dickery that I pointed out above. If I spoke out against any of those people in the library, like if I told the old bloke to be a bit less anti-social and ease those farts out, you know, work that sphincter a bit, Iím sure I would have been called something really offensive if I wasnít a straight, white male; if they didnít say something I suspect they would have thought it, and with the protection of anonymity that comes with XBL it would make those thoughts more likely to leak out.



What Iím trying to get at is why is Xbox Live singled out for the worst part of human nature when even a particular day at the library can bring out the rude? As I pointed at before, anonymity can exacerbate social situations but theyíre not the root cause.

I dunno. Maybe XBL does attract a slightly higher proportion of wankers, but that didnít seem to be the case when I first joined back in 2006. I met loads of great people playing Gears of War, and some I still speak to. Iíd jump into a game and speak to pretty much anyone and usually got a fairly positive response but as the reputation of the XBL gamer became more and more infamous I stopped turning my mic on for online sessions unless I was with someone Iíd previously met, because of dicks I heard about on the internet and didnít come across first hand very often.
It just makes me wonder if the XBL gamer stereotype is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who arenít arseholes are jumping in games with their mics off and not communicating with each other, and the mouths ruling; theyíre winning. Maybe if I stopped thinking of myself as above the community I could rediscover a love for online gaming by just turning that mic on again because online gaming in 2006 was brilliant.
I may not have a 360 anymore but I may just wipe the dust off my PS3 mic and see if there are any cool folks out there.

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