Friday, 4 June 2010

The etiquette and idiocies of in-game chat

With the advent of multiplayer networks, such as Xbox LIVE, a new level of interactivity in gaming has been possible. In the past the only way to enjoy a console game in the company of your friends was to do so together, in the same room using split screen multiplayer games such as Golden Eye (007) on the N64. This had its own charm, of course, not least because it meant you would be spending time with your friends whilst engaging in some co-operative team based mayhem or simply blasting each other into the Stone Age.

With Xbox LIVE came in-game chat. Players could now have the same joshing banter with their friends while enjoying a game, despite being geographically separated. This doesn’t mean an end to groups of friends convening at one place to play, just an addition to the gaming experience.

However, with in-game chat came a problem: strangers. It is entirely possible to converse, in-game, with people you have never met, and who aren’t even on your “friends” list of gamer-tag contacts. As you can’t see the person you are talking to, and don’t know them, this could open up a Pandora’s box of multiplayer problems. Although a vast majority of gamers are at least polite and congenial during heated exchanges of gunfire or whilst sneaking up on an unsuspecting guard from two flanks, frustratingly, some of the people encountered in the game-o-sphere can be most politely described as idiots. There are those who are simply abusive; who curse vulgarly and launch violent verbal assaults upon anyone they deem to be lesser gamer, or who has simply done something, in-game, that they didn’t like.

These angry shouting morons are one of the main reasons that many people choose not to use their console’s voice chat feature and play muted. This doesn’t entirely remove from their gaming experience, but they aren’t then able to interact with other human players, for the banter, for the tactical exploitation of information that they wouldn’t otherwise have, or just to gloat (in a Gentlemanly/Lady-like way, of course) after a particularly spectacular kill/stunt/crash. There are also idiotic tendencies with regard less experienced gamers playing co-operative games. Very often the infamous words are heard “Help me, I’m over here!” without reference to where “over here” is. Unlike in real life a comrade’s panicked voice doesn’t come from any particular direction that you can follow, it’s transmitted directly to the ear. Where are you? I want to help, but you aren’t helping me to help you!

Finally, although there are many other examples, one of the most annoying traits of uncouth chat fiends is the unacceptable practice of male gamers being abusive to female gamers on the basis of gender. Some male gamers seem to think that they have an inherent right to gaming and if they get “humiliated” online by the superior skills of a “mere girl” then they retort with a torrent of inexcusable insults.

The idiocy plaguing multiplayer chat can be stemmed with the judicial application of etiquette. Be polite, don’t be overly aggressive or abusive and treat other gamers with the same respect with which you would wish to be treated. Above and beyond all of that, even if you are losing, remember: It’s only a game.

Id like to tip my figurative hat to a gentleman friend of mine with whom I have spent countless hours enjoying multiplayer gaming using in-game chat, and whose drunken suggestion led to this article. I salute you, sir.

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