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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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  • I remember going from Ultima Online to WoW shortly after it came out and seeing how everyone there was an ass. One person was nice to me in WoW, 1 out of 10 were in UO. I remember in WoW, coming across 2 lower level enemies questing near my party, we easily could have killed them but we left them alone, 30 mins later, they had a max level friend come help them to quest and they killed us and camped our bodies. I never left enemies alive again after that. I don’t play any MMOs now other than Planetside 2 but good to hear there are some nice people in Guild Wars.

    It is very hard to find a group to play with that has a nice balance. Took me forever to find one in PS2. Most are either disorganized zergs of idiots, or super competitive and serious jerks that only care about their kill to death ratio and get pissed when they are killed. Finally found one that is relaxed but fairly organized and there for fun. But killing those very competitive players who flame you when you kill them and accuse you of ganking (when they have number advantage), or hacking is very fun and satisfying. We all know they are perfect and could never make a mistake so it couldn’t be their fault they lost.

    • David R

      Hey, thanks for the comment. Self disassociation is definitely part of the problem, I think. No one is mad at me, David Reeves, for anything I do in a video game. They’re angry at whatever avatar and username I’ve created, and they’ll forget that soon enough.

      I think the larger a community gets also has a factor. I’m sorry to hear about your experience in WoW, though. That’s why I’ve never seriously played on a PvP realm, because it always comes down to someone camping another player. I’m totally okay with the occasional skirmish here and there, but when someone just comes down with all the best player-smashing gear and sits on me while his friend gets the quests done, I’m not having any fun.

      Shooters, though. I get that getting killed in a game sucks, but you’d think some people were going to have their family murdered or something if their K/D ratio isn’t positive with all the yelling.that happens. I tried PS2 for a few minutes on a whim (shooters aren’t really my thing), but I remember getting immediately yelled at for dying to something. Ah, the friendly camaraderie of gaming.

  • Renae Cummings

    Mostly why I turn off chat. No one bothers me, I don’t bother them. Maybe a compliment or two, but as far as I know, people do it for the attention, something I don’t really care for.

    As for civility in gaming? It would be nice, but.. here’s the thing. Everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, (yes, even me, but small chance of that.) wants to be the No. 1. The envy of the people, the top player, the mass killer, the one people want on their team. Yeah, who doesn’t dream of that? I do sometimes, but given my terribly stupid knowledge of stats and what improves what by how many margins.. yeah, short lived and very distant goal. So I actually stop that and just go alone on most quests. Quests requiring a dungeon run with friends? Screw that. Need to have two or more people in a group? Nope. Complete a quest by being friends with a random stranger that you don’t even know? Nuh-uh.

    A lonely individual? Yep. But don’t care really. One of those, nothing better to do types? Nah, I have a life, I work at least and have my own place, so most of my time is spent working and sleeping, and a few of my other hobbies that I can do if a con is near. Yeah, I’ll get jealous of someone’s cool gear, mount or pet, but that’s a goal I can work on on my own.

    • David R

      It is true, we do all so love to be #1. What game are you referring to?

      • Renae Cummings

        Any game really. Wouldn’t matter what it is.

        • Richard Rowley

          I can honestly say I don’t give a flying fig about being number one at anything and never have. Number one what? The desire to be “number one” comes from a deep personal insecurity and need for validation by others. Personally I think it’s one of the great follies of humanity. Many are obsessed with it to the point of mental illness. Who can run the fastest in a circle, who can run the fastest in a straight line, who can kick the ball into the square the best, who can hit the plastic ball with a piece of wood the best, who can jump over the most sand, who can swim the fastest, who can swim the furthest, who can lift the heaviest piece of metal. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic that we are spending billions on the who can run the fastest in a straight line contest and then saying we don’t have the resources to explore Mars. Then when you are 80 years old and all you can do is constantly tell your Grandchildren about that time when you were number one at kicking the ball as they sit by your hospital bed and pretend to care, we might think about how completely pointless it was and how we could have spent our time here trying to make other people feel good instead of making them feel inferior.

  • Geoff Merriman

    I’ve been playing in a Free Company (FFXIV) for just over a year now and I am constantly amazed at how awesome this community is. In my experience playing, I often see the perfectionist type, but most of them are not rude. And during raids, you can get the occasional troll, but most of the time people will rally around the target, give them pointers, and help make them a better player. In my opinion, FFXIV has one of the best MMO communities I’ve ever witnessed.

    • David R

      Really, FFXIV’s got a good thing going for it? I’m glad to hear that. I enjoyed the game, but at launch it seemed like everyone just wanted everyone to get out of the way so they’d get FATE credit or spam one spot on a world boss so everyone would crash or the boss would disappear (Early Odin was not fun, lol).

      • Geoff Merriman

        It’s a lot better now. There’s still the fate bosses, but now they have a trial for Odin too so he can be an 8-man (which is fun too). There’s always new content coming out that enhances the game. Later this month there will be a Gold Saucer with mini-games galore. Come on back!

  • diehounderdoggen

    I like Penny Arcade’s explanation:
    Anonymity + Free Speech = Jackasses.

    Note that this applies to the entire internet.

  • DynastyStar

    I didn’t read the full article, but I think one of the biggest reasons people are so mean in online games, particularily in competitive games is well… the rise of competitiveness. It makes you bitter if you spend too much time with it.