Gamasutra recently posted an article about how annoying people in online play may very well be hurting sales. Regardless of whether this is a stretch, any discussion from developers about the problem of griefers is welcome. Like it or not, multiplayer features are becoming critical to the success of a game, so it is important to see those making them look at the issues that surround providing a good online experience. Otherwise all those Gamespot reviews that call for multiplayer everything start to look even sillier.
The more I play Call of Duty 4, the more I notice the trends among idiotic players. Among your older players, the supposed majority of the gaming world, you get your typical racists, wanna be gangsters, and so on. The most annoying of the bunch, the people who frequently teamkill, spam the voice channel, and use foul language and racial slurs until the words lose all meaning, seem to be in the 18 and under crowd. Of course, I have no concrete evidence of this, but when I hear a good portion of these players follow up a tirade of sailor talk with an argument with mom about what he wants on his sandwich, it is proof enough for me.
So this led me to a typical hyperbolic statement while discussing the topic with Jay, in which I said that it would be nice if online gaming was restricted for anyone under 18. Of course that simply can’t work, since only most, not all online games are rated M, and even then, we as an industry don’t do a great job of keeping those games out of their hands.
So rather than simply cursing at all the “damn kids” who make it harder for us to enjoy gaming, drinking and the like, we should look at why this is the case at all. That is, why do they act so blatantly stupid? We all know that anonymity is a factor. But how much of it is modern culture? If you gave online games to children of the 50′s, would they be just as competitive and vicious? I think they would, but I wonder if, aside from perhaps increased racism, they would be as harsh about it. I really can’t say, but it seems to me that we can blame some of these woes on another popular target; bad parenting. When I hear a child call someone a “fucking jew nigger”, I wonder if they realize just how powerful those words can be. Or maybe they do, but simply do not care because they do not live a life of consequence.
No matter how many poets laud the purity of a child, they are often very destructive creatures. Boys will fight each other or destroy an ant hill, and girls will be catty and psychologically destructive to each other. This is where good parenting, teaching and discipline can enforce to a child that certain things are wrong, and carrying them out can lead to consequences. If parents these days are any indication, this kind of instruction is getting rarer, and so kids will bring this unpunished behavior from the cafeteria to the internet, where they will find like minded peers to reinforce it.
One of my favorite anecdotes about this topic comes from the Halo 3 review on actionbutton.net. So the story goes, when the author was playing online, a young sounding opponent consistently harassed him about his sexuality. After responding to the constant messages with a logical acknowledgment, the author got a game invite rather than an insult. By replying with something other than like-minded insults and a little bit of logic, the author just may have triggered the kid’s sense of shame and humiliation that comes with being proven utterly wrong. It is a light form of discipline in a way, and he responded positively to it. We cannot be parents by proxy on Xbox Live. Lord knows I wouldn’t want it as a hobby. But I wonder if online gaming simply reflects the society it comes from.