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Online Gaming Community – Why you so mean?

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So, my WoW account’s frozen, and I’ve been trying some Guild Wars 2. I died recently, and a few players came over to rez me. WHAT THE @$%#? Did not one, not two, but a bunch of people just run over to me and get me back up, expecting nothing in return and without a single comment about my stupidity or anything else? That happens?

Please don't teabag me, please don't... oh, you're rez'ing me? Wtf?

Please don’t teabag me, please don’t… oh, you’re rez’ing me? Wtf?

I’m not exaggerating my response. This legitimately floored me. I recently caught some of the PAX South announcement for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and that was a legitimate example given in the video, with the claim of the friendliest community in online gaming. While Colin Johanson didn’t hold up a big citation when he gave the example, I can at least believe his claim that GW2 has the friendliest community (or at least one of the friendliest). It’s almost uncomfortable for me, because it feels so alien to have that kind of experience.

(Warning: I doubt a single link in this paragraph is safe for work.) This is more of what I’m used to in my online gaming. I’ve ended games of League of Legends and witnessed/received flaming that would make sailors blush, and we there are plenty of videos about players like this. I’ve been kicked from groups in World of Warcraft for not “using the right spec.” I’ve, in turn, kicked someone at the end of a dungeon so they’d have to do it again to get the quest item because they were annoying or caused a wipe, and usually when the game asked for a reason I’d only say something like “you know you wanna” or “smells funny.” Playing a shooter usually results in most of the team being silent while two or three people just yell at the top of their lungs and insult everyone. Sometimes someone is just trolling everyone to the point of racism-spitting rage; sometimes there’s just moments like this

So, why are we so mean? I’m not even touching all the racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks thrown around, but just why do we feel the need to yell and swear and froth at people? Obviously, there’s some sense of satisfaction and amusement from watching people get really mad or the angry gamer videos wouldn’t get so many views on YouTube, but that only explains some of the trolling. What about cases like MMOs where we just kick someone for fun or because a mistake was made? In a lot of cases, it seems like players are terribly unforgiving and don’t want to deal with anyone new, like I’ve mentioned in a previous article. I can understand not bringing someone fresh into your large group of experienced raiders or if someone is letting you down in a ranked game on League of Legends, but why do we get so annoyed by that same in experienced person in a normal 5v5 game or a normal dungeon? We insult the inexperienced, get angry at teammates for mistakes, and absolutely flame the opponent even when they haven’t done anything to us. My relevant anecdote is starting a normal 5v5 on LoL, having a teammate open with “Good luck all,” and getting tons of “go fuck yourself” and so on.  Why do people think this is okay?

D- on creativity, but A+ on spelling! That's rare.

D- on creativity, but A+ on spelling! That’s rare.

According to one site, it’s because we don’t receive any of the non-verbal cues of communication that let us know how a message is intended. We’re left with guesswork,  and “when humans are faced with guesswork and ambiguity, they often perceive it as threatening and react accordingly.” It continues by comparing online communication to being drunk, because we’ve no inhibitions due to the lack of consequences. Trash talking the opposition is a tradition though, isn’t it? If you leave all chat open in a game of LoL, you’re gonna see a bunch of snark and trolling, and in WoW we make creative nonsense macros that when seen by the other faction translate into bragging about victory. That’s just how it is, right?

What’s sad is that I’m completely used to all of the terrible social behavior of online gaming. I’m desensitized to it. I’m going to get sworn at in MOBAs, get death threats and “your mom” jokes in shooters, and randomly kicked and insulted in MMOs. It’s so familiar that it’s almost comfortable. I think that’s why the positive experiences seem so weird. Getting praised for something in a game weirds me out; I think it’s one of those overly nice people who always wants to tell everyone they did good. Getting rezzed by strangers in GW2 was so foreign, because in WoW I’m used to just releasing and running back while someone else kills the quest mobs without my interference. Way, way back when I first got my resurrection spell, I used it on a stranger, but now I never do. Once a player gets guilds/teams/friends, the social aspect of a game can slip away: we made our allies and everyone else can go shove it unless they’re helping me somehow. Cooperation is present in gameplay, but certainly not always reflected in interactions because we’re all about victory and progression.

While there are individual stories of kind-hearted strangers in the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy online gaming community, my experience in 2015 so far has been the same: insults from missing a skill shot, kicked for no reason in some heroic dungeons, and getting killed with hacked guns in a Borderlands 2 duel. Maybe though, just maybe, there’s some kindness to be found out there. I’m gonna keep trying this game where so far everyone has been helpful, and maybe I’ll stop being weirded out by people being nice in video games. But as long as there’s a kid playing a shooter he’s too young for and getting super angry, someone is going to make a funny video with him, and I’ll laugh and be part of the problem. Like this one (NSFW again, language).

Been flamed in a game to the point of fury? Have you had more positive examples and don’t see this as a problem? Are you an infamous CoD troll? Share your story in the comments below.

About David A. Reeves

David is a 25 year old graduate with a BA in English, and he's wondering how all of this adult stuff crept up on him. He has a large love of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy, a lack of budget sense during Steam sales, and is involved in an abusive relationship with the MMO genre. Outside of gaming, David can be found reading books with swords and magic, suffering from writer's block on that story he said he'd write, enjoying a hookah or a beer with friends, and trying not to say anything inappropriate despite the overwhelming urge. He's an odd fellow.

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