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LONG BLOG

The Astonishing Lack of Verbal Communication In Console Gaming

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Online gaming has become synonymous with video games in general. Almost any game you can think of has an online feature of some sort. Some of the most popular games became that way because of their online multiplayer component. Halo for example started in the humble beginnings of system linking consoles between college dorms. Then when Halo 2 kicked off we saw the extreme push for console games to take to playing online. Now almost any shooter out there will feature an online multiplayer component in some form. Playing these requires that you and your teammates communicate effectively to coordinate strategic moves against your opponents, keep your teammates aware of where enemies might be hiding, and calling out power weapon locations on a map. The success of your communication can greatly affect your chance at victory over the opposing team. So why do we hear so little communication in online gaming now?

In the early days of online console gaming, players couldn't help but talk in open lobbies. The constant trash talking, foaming of obscenities at the mouth, a child far too young to own an M-rated title screaming with such a high pitch tone that your ears bleed all was the norm of online gameplay. As time went party systems and private chat channels much like that of Team Speak were being perfected and quickly became much more popular. Why wouldn't it? A private room to chat with my friends in which I had control over who could have access to it is a dream come true! However, as a result the lobbies got quieter. It's an unfortunate scenario to be stuck in a team on Halo and you're the only one not in the party of the group that clearly came into the game together.

Games like Battlefield require a much bigger scale of communication, with different classes supporting each other healing, supplying, repairing, scouting, all different abilities specific to each class. Squads of five in Battlefield 4 will have a squad leader which can set objectives for the squad to create a task for their five man team as a part of a 32 player army. If there is a commander they can set objectives for the squads, and then it is up to the squad leaders to relay those orders, follow them, or ignore them all together. But oddly enough a game like this has very little in the way of vocal communication online. In fact it astonishes me that the teamwork in many cases can be done effectively without any verbal communication! In Battlefield you're rewarded for being a team player. Not good at getting kills? Heal your teammates and still get XP and rack up a score to get to the top of the scoreboard. Spot enemies for your teammates, repair their vehicles, supply them with ammo, you're literally rewarded for everything you do. Thus encouraging you to play to your class helping others and all along helping yourself! It's this setup that I find extremely effective, but doesn't solve the problem of properly communicating.

Finally of course if you're with friends you'll absolutely communicate. Whether it is with fellow guild members in a MMO, or just some friends from work while raiding in Destiny, odds are you're more likely to communicate people you're familiar with. I find it more common to communicate while just fooling around in the online space, but also tend to get more serious when I want to when with friends. It's a comfortable environment when among your friends, issuing orders, or directing the flow of combat you create this great sense of camaraderie. You know everyone's habits, play styles, and ability, therefore you know what to expect of your team. Knowing your team gives an advantage and a greater likelihood that you'll properly communicate.

Now communicating with random people also occurs when playing in MMOs which is another anomaly.  While the communication isn't done through voice and done through text, you'll find people willing to help others much easier in an MMO. The requirement of working together in various parts of content within the MMO space forces players to communicate. In order to defeat a raid, boss, or dungeon everyone must contribute positively to the party. So this inspires others to learn and teach the content, and pass down that information. In doing so even more effective methods of completion come about as time goes on and players become more accustomed to the fights within.


I find it strange that the common truth among most multiplayer games is that there is a lack of communication if a team isn't already pre-established. Depending upon the game you'll see almost no communication verbally or via text. The exception to this rule generally is among MMO games and even MOBAs where text is a casual communication behavior. Even in a game like Counter-Strike we can see regular text and verbal communication. Again there are exceptions to the rule but a general consensus seems to be a lack thereof on console. So I ask the question why is this?

I recently played a few games of paintball with people I'd literally never met before. I'd never spoken to them and never seen them in my life before with the exception of the few friends that I went to the event with. It was here that I had communicated with my teammates as though I'd played with them before, watching their backs, offering covering fire and so on. The random people I was playing with all moved like a team, and worked together to win against the opposing team. It was a well coordinated relationship that brought a large group of people together under a common goal. We can communicate and work together with people we've never met in some occasions while others have us at a loss for words.

In the end I wonder what happened in the early days of online gaming to now that caused this stop in communication. I certainly don't contribute to creating that online chatter much anymore, and because of it I find myself playing more and more solo in various games. Perhaps others have kept the online community alive and regularly contribute to the chatter. I miss the days of meeting people online and playing with them regularly, most I've met in Final Fantasy XIV, but very few in the online console space.   

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About Zero Syndicateone of us since 8:26 AM on 07.14.2015

Hello, my name is Alex Russ and I'm what I'd like to think a connoisseur of gaming. I play them all, but indie titles have a big soft spot for me! I'm open to share my opinions (personal opinions I don't represent anyone at all) here with each topic that I post. My aim is to speak about games, game culture, and hot topics in the industry.

Otherwise, FGC competitor and fan, I capture the monsters for pockets, and slay all them flying wyverns. The better half of the Battlefield Bro Squad!... yea! @zerosyndicate