12 year olds are the most detestable group in multiplayer gaming. The moniker “12 year olds” is not representative of the actual age of the children within this group, but the connotation is quickly and generally associated with “asshole kids” to those in the gaming community. When someone complains about children in multiplayer games, you’d be remiss not to hear them called “12 year olds”.
There are some despicable kids out there across Xbox Live, PSN, and PC – vile children whose parents should be monitoring them and washing their mouths out with soap when they hear a stream of expletives or verbal attacks come from their offspring. Racist and homophobic remarks get bounced around like a playground ball, and personal attacks are commonplace in online communities where children are present. There is a troubling issue at hand that stems not from the children, but from those they share their online communities with: the adult gamers. These children are merely a product of their online environment and it’s about time we stop calling for their exclusion and take a stand against those that act so vehemently toward them.
I can go on and on on how vulgar and offensive the “adult” gaming community can be as a whole – especially online, and how we need to change (which we do), but my focus is on how we treat kids. Many of those terrible “12 year olds” were created by us. In a way, we are responsible for the high pitched swear words we hear so often in our online matches and lobbies.
My first multiplayer experience was in 2006; I was 15 years old. I had just received an Xbox 360 Wireless Adapter and couldn’t wait to try out my first game (and only game at the time), Perfect Dark Zero. The prospect of playing with other people excited me so much – I hoped to make friends, enemies, and prove my skills in a multiplayer arena. Now, while all of that did happen eventually, my first experience online was not a pleasant one. As I tried to come to terms with the game’s rules and online features, I asked others players for advice and information. I had heard that Perfect Dark Zero featured voice modulation of some kind and wanted to toy around with it. With the first words I spoke, I was immediately attacked and made fun of for simply being a kid.
“How do you use the voice effects?”, I asked my team.
“Why? Because you sound like a bitch?”, said someone.
You can imagine how quickly my perception of online gaming changed with that comment. What could have possibly drove this person to be so aggressive towards someone clearly younger than he was? Well, I suppose the same reason why anyone would choose to be rude to kids online: the desire to humiliate and abuse.
The humiliation of children is something I’ve heard first hand over my many years playing online. Attacks such as the one that happened to myself are often unprovoked and simply a result of a kid speaking over a headset. I’ve heard male children called “fa**ots”, “homos”,”bitches”, and quite often told to shut up until their “balls drop”. Regardless of how medically incorrect that last insult is, it’s thrown around a lot! Evidently it’s an offense to be a game-playing child online; the mere presence of a prepubescent voice is enough to spur insults from fellow players.
There is a prevalent trend in online gaming culture that revels in the humiliation and disrespect of others. Whether that be with children, women, LGBT individuals, or what have you. My concern regarding the abuse of children is that not only is it nonsensical (as well as hypocritical for older teen and adult gamers) to attack someone because they’re younger and share the same passion as you, but the act sets a precedent to online behavior. What are we teaching kids about social interaction online if we allow them to be verbally insulted and humiliated when ever they try to play a game? Are children not impressionable beings that are prone to pick up behavior that they’re exposed to?
This calls up the old saying, “Monkey see, Monkey do”, because hate is something that I believe is learned. When a child goes online to play a video game and instead gets called a series of insults, we can’t expect all of them to maturely shrug it off and focus on the game. Some will adapt to the toxic environment that’s been created. Some children will begin fighting back using the same tactics that they’ve learned within their online environment.
Asking for better behavior online is a massive request, but one that I think is worth repeating, especially where children are involved.
I grew up as an only child. I’ve spent many days of my childhood bored and wishing I had a sibling to play with – someone to make up stories with and play games with. As I got older and became an adult, I found that I really wanted to become a father. I’ve always liked kids and saw no need to be mean to them if they’re simply looking to have fun. Kids are enviable in what little they need to concern themselves with in the world and how much fun they get out of things – like video games.
As someone that has grown up around video games and online gaming communities, I’ve seen how bad things can be for kids. In the future, whenever I become a parent, it’s going to be difficult seeing my kid’s experience be soured by those out there with hostile personalities. Yes, this is the way of the world and I don’t plan on sheltering my kid, but the concern is there for online abuse. I’d like my child to share the same hobby as I without some idiot disrespecting and harassing them because of their age.
To be honest, I’ll probably pick up the mic and say some nasty stuff of my own… but I digress!
I’ve never seen the need to disrespect a kid playing in a multiplayer game, because I was once in their shoes! It would be hypocritical of me to state that a child shouldn’t be playing a video game in my adult presence – I did the exact activity at their age. Despite the clear hypocrisy behind this, I still see it happen: kids getting shunned from communities because of their age. Even friends of mine that I respect seem to share this stigma against kids. They believe that kids will often ruin a gaming space with poisonous language and profanities, but is that not overly presumptuous and perhaps helping perpetuate the stereotype? It most certainly is.
This argument does bring up the concern over mature games and whether children should be playing titles rated outside of their age range, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s up to the parents to decide – not some angry teenager or adult that can’t stand the presence of a kid in their match. Regardless of the game’s age level, this does not mean a kid is not allowed to some respect from older players when they play alongside them. Let the parents decide what their kids can play, and let’s make an effort not to harass children merely for trying to enjoy the same hobby that we do – perhaps even a hobby we’ve enjoyed since we were around their age.
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About Arsenic13one of us since 11:11 PM on 06.29.2009
23 year old video game blogger and college student. I could pretend that someone else wrote this section, so it'll be a spiffy 3rd person About page, but that’s weird. I currently write at RelyOnHorror.com where I am the Managing Editor. I host my own podcast there as well.
Studying for a Communication Arts degree and am set to graduate in December 2013.