Over the coming weeks I hope to highlight a few ways we can give something back, to further the cause of gaming and help make it the wonderful media it can be. We have all seen things in gaming unique to the medium, be it the enthralling storylines of RPGs, the adrenaline pumping first person shooters or the calming tranquillity of puzzlers. Being interactive we get pulled in in a way music and movies cannot. If we can open more peopleís eyes to games, shouldnít we?
Part 1: Online Etiquette
Being a gamer nowadays carries a lot less stigma than it did say, twenty years ago. Gaming is less about entertaining bored children and is becoming a serious pastime for all age groups. But there are people out there who are stopping gaming from progressing; cementing in the public eye the view that gaming is for immature teens who should be frowned upon by civilized society.
Today I picked up my copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and invited a friend to play a match or two in the spirit of teamwork and fair play. We enjoy watching each otherís backs and playing against skilled players that we might really test ourselves. After a while of raucous good fun we were joined by another player who also used a microphone and really hit it off, until he became irritated by one particular member of the team and it all went downhill from there.
This individual began spouting horrific threats, insults and foul language simply because one member of our team was not very good at the game. I was disgusted that this person felt it at all appropriate to verbally assault a fellow gamer because they werenít of a similar skill level. This is sadly not the first time I have come across such people online and Iím sure you have too. I have personally been insulted because of my actions in-game, because of my nationality and many times I have been sent disgusting messages because I happened to be on the winning team. This kind of behaviour has to stop, not because Iím prudish or hate conflict, but because it is harmful to gaming.
How do we as gamers ever hope to be taken seriously? How can games be seen as a civilized, legitimate pastime if so many people spend their free time screaming ďYou f**king c*nt, Iím gonna f**king kill youĒ as a way of relaxing? We donít often see great tennis players, formula one drivers, athletes or artists showing such vile behaviour at the slightest transgression. There is a reason why tennis players shake hands at the end of a match, they salute the otherís skill and congratulate the winner on a game well played. Why canít we be a group of people who take to their favourite activity with the same level of grace and sportsmanship?
I donít care who you are, treating someone the way you would like to be treated is something we should all strive towards. We cover our mouths when we sneeze, we say please and thank you, and we shouldnít let our good will stop when we start up our computers. Iíve been in games of counter strike over the years in which players fiercely played, tempers raised and players were pushed to the breaking point of their abilities, but at the end of the match each side congratulated the other on a game well played. It was wondrous, such a ruthless and competitive game ended with grace and dignity and it made me feel proud to be a gamer. Why is it that this is such a rare occurrence?
Try to be civil when playing online. By letting your temper get the better of you, you arenít only ruining the experience for other people but you set gaming back years by reinforcing the stereotype that gamers are unstable and that games are the cause of this. Donít cheat and take advantage of glitches in games to get the upper hand, it only benefits you in getting more points in a videogame. Will it gain you anything in real life other than the disdain of people who share your interest? If you were invited to play a round of crazy golf with friends would you cheat just to win whilst losing the respect of your fellow players? I, as much as anyone find myself getting involved emotionally in my games but Iím not making any friends by insulting the people I play with. It is after all, just a videogame. (Iím not saying videogames donít matter, but I canít show the same level of rage at someone killing me in game that I would if someone punched me in the stomach in real life)
Represent your medium
Be fair, be polite and act like a respectable, mature gamer and I promise people will treat you the same way. When playing Dead Space 2 online recently, I was delighted to receive a message from a rival player congratulating me on my win, I sent one back remarking at his clever tactics and we have since played often together and had a fantastic time. Itís sportsmanship at its best and something I would love to see more of in gaming. Maybe one day we can all be proud to be part of a group of people who treat each other well and represent our medium to the best of our abilities. These foul mouthed players are dragging gaming down with them, letís at least try to salvage its good name by showing the world that they are the minority and do not represent what videogames are all about.
When you are on the receiving end, just ignore it. In most games you have the ability to mute another playerís voice chat and can often report bad behaviour or simply block communications from the offender, you shouldnít have to deal with abuse online as with any aspect of life. When you feel the need to contact another player, donít simply swear at them as it wonít aid you in resolving a matter. Try to explain why you disapprove of their behaviour and if they reply in a hostile manner you can at least say you tried. If you immediately jump to mentioning body parts and family members you arenít helping yourself in any way, you look like an intolerant jerk and people will simply avoid you or ban you from playing with them. Congratulations, you have just inconvenienced yourself because you couldnít act like an adult.
Anyways, Iíll leave it there for now, feel free to comment as you wish, I would love to hear about your experiences online and I hope you all share in my passion for furthering the cause of gaming. Individually we canít do much to get more people to accept gaming as a legitimate pastime but with a few changes in our lives we can show the public just how marvellous gaming can be.