This has been rattling around my head and needs to get out. Don’t expect coherence in this post, please! Thank you for your indulgence.
I love Overwatch. I’d go so far as to say there’s a real addiction developing here, but it’s not the merits of the game that I wish to discuss here. It’s not even really Overwatch that I wish to discuss, but online games in general. Overwatch does provide a nice, recent example, though.
I cannot bring myself to play Overwatch with voice chat on. It completely ruins the game. I’d even go so far as to consider hiding text chat, if that is possible.
What is it about the anonymity of an online game that makes people think that they can just treat other people like crap? The number of games I have endured that are just full of sexist, racist and – most commonly – homophobic language is just ludicrous. Yes, before you tell me, I do know that Penny Arcade expounded on this years ago with Gabriel’s now-well-known internet theory:
I’d kind of forgotten about this, as I have not played a game with voice chat turned on for a long time. Even text chat has been turned off on games like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, both games that seem to foster this type of player.
I know that turning off all forms of communication takes away a lot of opportunity for communication to coordinate team efforts during the game, but I really don’t need that many death threats, insults against my mother or open conjecture about my sexual orientation. Nope, don’t need to invite these toxic people into my life just because we happen to enjoy the same games. I’m not here to argue the merits or flaws of the video gaming ‘community’, but my day to day experience of it is, in the games that I play, quite negative.
Contrast this with my experience on the tabletop. I can honestly say that I can not only count my negative experiences with tabletop games on one hand, but that I can count such experiences on one finger, and have shared that particular incident on this blog.
Is this a fair comparison? No, of course it’s not. In a tabletop game, you generally choose your group in a way that you do not with an open online game. If I could populate a game of Overwatch or League of Legends with my friends, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more, too. The closest comparison I have is my experience at gaming events, where I have dropped into random groups for miniatures games, card game and roleplaying games. Even in these situations, I have never had a negative experience.
Again, the comparison is unfair, but the face-to-face nature of the tabletop experiences fosters a sense of personal accountability that does not exist in the digital, online sphere.
I can’t even think of anything to suggest to remedy this situation and I just see the toxic element of the video game community getting more and more vocal. I know there are some really lovely players, but increasingly I feel that they are drowned out and inevitably muted alongside the offenders by people like myself who do not have patience for abusive players.