Voice chat? Wiispeak? XBox headsets? All of that has to go. Maybe not for the entire world, maybe there are a select few who we can trust to use that dangerous technology, but giving out casual voice chat to any and all users of a console is just pandering to idiots. And I know they're idiots because I've been online with them. How could they be anything other than idiots? My entire interaction with my gaming brethren has been constant streams of profanity, racial epithets, and sexual bigotry. If this is the entirety of my interaction with you, if the only thing I will ever know about you is that you like to use m*thaf*kkinn*gguhf*g*ss as a punctuation mark, then that's it. You're a moron. I won't ever care to know about your sister's cancer operation or your silver medal in the high dive. I don't want to find out that you had a really hard time coming to terms with your parent's divorce or that you start laughing uncontrollably when there's a lightning storm outside. All I know is that you irritate me. You are subhuman and I want to never have anything to do with you.
This morning an SUV, horns blaring, cut me off getting on to the highway. When I looked over, swearing, I saw a gray-haired lady dressed for her job as a secretary at the church, or whatever, and was suddenly taken aback. Was it bad of me to be angry at someone's silver haired grandmother, a woman late for work driving dangerously to make up time? Someone who might have just heard some awful news and was trying to cope? Not at all; all I know is that some senile bitch in a too-big car almost got me in a wreck. That's all I will ever know of Mrs. SUV and I'm deluding myself if I attempt to develop some feeling or relationship on anything beyond that.
We all make snap decisions in our interactions with other people. We call them first impressions. Perhaps after years of episodes of GI Joe and Pokemon that taught us it's who's on the inside that counts, we figure that our initial impressions on other people aren't as important. They'll learn to like us once they get to know us right? Wrong. I won't get to know you. I'll cut you off at the knees right there. If your SUV clips the guard rail, then I'll feel my suspicions confirmed: You shouldn't be on the same road with me.
This sword cuts both ways and I have to be aware of what snap judgments are going to be made about me. The anonymity of the internet and online games is a fallacy thatís abused every day. With voice chat, I am even worse than anonymous; I am partially human. Rather than the blank slate of the truly anonymous, I have presented a part of myself that other people will fill around until they have developed an identity for me, usually cobbled together from stereotypes. If I apologize to my teammates, then I may become the bitch. If I complain, I'm the whiner. If I tell someone that they shouldn't say "n*ggac*cks*kkinb*tch" I'm overly sensitive. If I don't say it myself, I'm the pussy.
I've never heard a woman's voice on chat and I'm not surprised. There are studies that show some women do enjoy these testosterone baths we entertain ourselves with, but everyone is always asking "where all the women at?" Maybe she knows that if she says "Fragged ya!" aloud and exposes herself as female, she will be immediately made the target of every perverse sexual advance that her "playmates" can concoct. And those are the ones that "like" her. The guy who just got pwned is going to go consult his hentai anime collection until he can come back with some really explicit things to threaten her with.
(A shooting game developed by TANAKA U)
The Think B 4 U Speak campaign is a lovely idea. I want to see real change made in how people casually insult others before they learn what they are even saying. I still grimace when anyone says "retard" because I worked with disabled kids for years and saw how it's hard for them to just be themselves, let alone be accepted. It would be great to educate people to know how hurtful their words can be. But that requires education, and education takes time and money. Y'know what's cheap? Silence. It's cheaper than another headset and mic, cheaper than bandwidth and programming subroutines to carry the voice data across the country. Fast, cheap, efficient silence.
But how will we know who's got the flag? I dunno. How did you figure it out when you were playing Team Fortress or Unreal Tournament? How did you signal your team to breach the door in Rainbow Six? Or call everyone to stick together in CS? With key-bound sound clips, text messages, quick key responses, a dot on a mini-map. Did these interface items somehow become less efficient? When this was the only way to communicate, it had to be efficient. Like the telegraph, or txt spk today, the designers and users made the system work for them.
Story time: The first time I was playing UT2K3 with someone who had voice chat was the worst experience I ever had with the game. One guy had it, so he declared himself team captain because he could give us the best directions. What he offered was nothing but whining criticism when anyone else died or meaningless calls of "Over there! There! He's right there!" If I remember, that's the last time I played UT2K3 online. And it was probably the beginning of the end for me gaming with strangers. Unsurprising.
(T-Shirt from Zazzle)
It's just smack talk right? You're just trying to intimidate the other guy right? Bullshit. You didn't win because the other guy got mad. You won because he didn't play as well. What you are doing is providing a cheerleading squad for yourself. While you're at it, go steal that cardboard standee display for WET, sit it on the couch next to yourself, and when you score a head shot look over at the shiny cardboard eyes of Rubi and tell her "That's right. I'm the best there is." Then maybe you can pretend she answers in a sultry girl voice "Ooh honey. And it's because your dick is so big." Then you might as well forget about the war we're fighting over here on your television set and go make out on your living room floor with the mock-up picture of the imaginary woman . . . Anyway, the point is that we don't need smack talk. We were able to play games without it for years and talking like that in a real sporting event gets you an unsportsmanlike conduct warning. So what will you be missing if you have to shout "PWN3D yU!" to the empty air of your living room, rather than over the headset? Nothing apart from the ire of those who wish you would just STFU.
When I do play online now, I play only co-op games like L4D or Gears where all the humans are supposed to be working together. I play this way because it at least tempers the open hostility gamers feel toward one another and, needing to co-operate, I'll have to withhold judgment of the players who join up with me until I get a real sense of who they are. Even with that though, I insist on being able to play with at least one friend of mine rather than just a collection of strangers so I'll have a sane voice to listen too among the multitudes.
And yes, I will swear, and my brothers and friends will swear, but we've already taken the time to know that we're real people. I'd like to meet more real people because they're the ones I want to talk to when I'm gaming. They're the guys I want to pretend are sitting next to me on the couch after we finished collecting our paper route money and have the whole afternoon to kill before dinner time. I don't want screaming and swearing and first impressions. I want you to be real people too.