Ethical Gaming The Game Industry 12 Comments

Liore’s Hot Gamer Trend of 2014: Alienation

Today almost every studio game has some multiplayer elements. Even games that have historically been for single players only now frequently come with an aspect of multiplayer, some of which has been done well (Mass Effect 3!) and some of which has not (SimCity 2013, whyyyy). The most popular and recognizable games in the world — League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty — all entirely rely on multiplayer, whether it’s creating social interaction or just having a target-rich environment.

A couple of years ago I would have said that all this multiplayer is a good thing. It’s making the most of modern technology! It’s bringing people together, and maybe we can expand our horizons occasionally and meet someone new or at least have a good game and some positive interaction. Multiplayer is exciting because you never know what to expect, and people will always surprise each other. Just set up the structure, dear developers, and let us rush in and fill it with fun and games.

As it stands at the moment, though… not so much.

Let me tell you a quick story. During the Extra Life marathon, myself, Ellyndrial, and two of our friends decided to try Blizzard’s new MOBA Heroes of the Storm. What the heck, right? So we log in to the game, which was in “technical alpha” at the time, do the required tutorials, and start our first match. It’s players vs. bots, pretty low stakes, and because there are only 4 of us the game randomly assigns a fifth player to our team.

So we’re bumbling around having fun and trying to figure out how to play and then suddenly in the middle of our screens are words of wisdom from our new teammate: “You guys all suck.” They never got much worse than that, but called us losers a few times and sarcastically thanked us for screwing up the game when it was all over.

To be fair being told that we’re losers who suck is pretty low on the vitriol scale, and I wasn’t hurt as much as amused: here we are playing a match against bots, on a day that’s pretty infamous for being a charity gaming day, in a game that’s still in ALPHA. And yet apparently we still deserved a brow-beating for bringing our fifth player down, man. This scenario, only with more hateful language, happens to someone every day in LoL or WoW or some other giant multiplayer game.

2014 was also the year of Gamergate. Here’s a little chart to show how that’s affected my view of my hobby:

Number of accounts I have blocked on Twitter, January 2014: 1
Number of accounts I have blocked on Twitter, December 2014: literally thousands

I’ve already written in the past about how Gamergate has chased well-known women out of developing, writing about, and playing games, but the further fallout has been even more depressing for me. It’s worse because now I know of multiple people (of all genders) in our little community of MMO-ish writers and podcasters who have reduced their efforts if not quit outright in large part because of the bullshit.

Think about it — you’re not going to hear these names on Twitter or read about them in the Guardian, but slowly, quietly, good people who love games are shuttering their websites and podcasts because they’re scared, or angry, or alienated, or a combination of all three. And lord, I cannot blame them for making that decision but each and every one of those people is a huge loss for the rest of us.

(This is also part of the reason I have been not been posting as much lately.)

In January I had a policy of just following back everyone on Twitter who followed me and mentioned a love of games in their profile. Hey, we’re all gamers, right? Today I carefully vet people who follow me and mention games, because my new mantra is that life is too short for me to accidentally read dumb upsetting crap, much less set off a minor pile-up in my direction. I miss cheerfully promoting other people’s posts and tweets without worrying that it will get shade thrown their way. I miss feeling like gaming was something I could have in common with someone, rather than a possible vector for abuse.

I am hesitant to play and expose myself to the charming banter of LoL or a random LFR group or other large multiplayer title. (True story: I almost resubbed to WoW to get a 10th anniversary core hound mount, and then I read people’s reports on the horrible auto-group chat and people pulling things and logging off and kicking group members when they got to the final boss. PASS.) Even when I’m not playing a game, the very fact that I might want to could set someone off on social media or in a blog comment.

2014 was the year I became alienated from my hobby, for the most part because of the behavior of other players and hobbyists. I don’t know what the solution is or if there even is one aside from people just not being buttheads, and I think we all know how that historically works out.

To quote the well-known gaming enthusiast Sartre: Hell, as it turns out, is other gamers.

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  • Reply
    December 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    :( Sorry to hear that. I suspect though, that it might be best to not let them win by having the power to chase you away from something you love.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean one has to go out and seek toxicity. I make rational decisions to not play games that would make me detest humanity after reading the public chat, for example, but worrying about what other people -might- do seems like giving them a little too much power.

    We have power too, by controlling the people in our social circles or building communities of people that share the same interests and values, by reporting detestable behavior and supporting games that care about policing their community, and so on.
    Jeromai´s last post: GW2: Sandy Dune Caves and Drydock Scratch

  • Reply
    December 11, 2014 at 10:56 am

    This ties in, I think, with my recent post on meters in WoW and players making each other miserable for no good reason in what are supposed to be cooperative games. I was talking about random pug situations too, not some competitive guild contract. After receiving several not too surprising replies to my post trying to educate my ignorance (which is still fantastical in itself given my competitive raiding background in WoW), I had a long discussion with myself over what ‘cooperative’ actually means today and who is the more cooperative player in MMOs – the one that gives up a playstyle she enjoys over peer pressure or all the people who put overall outcome and community first. I think the competitive achiever aspect of online games nowadays is really detrimental to what I personally love about cooperative gaming. It’s a tragedy in many ways how players continue our society’s judgmental rat race in virtual worlds. However, I also realize that it’s futile to try and agree on what are fundamentally different attitudes (pretty much like Bartle profiles).

    The fact that hell is other people, is the story of our lives. All we can do is seek out those who share our values and carve out a little corner for ourselves, with handpicked folk we call our own. That’s community to me and whether it’s in online games or IRL, there is nothing else but this. The bigger a body of people gets, the less likely that it’s still the place for us.
    Syl´s last post: [WoW] Where Meters Reign Way Past Their Glory Days

  • Reply
    Jessica Cook
    December 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Hey yo, if you wanna post a comment about how poor Gamergate is being mischaracterized as a harassment campaign by yet another ethics-hating blogger, don’t bother because I’ll just spambin it. THANKS.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    So then what does it take to have an honest dialogue with you? You’ve made up your mind about something and nothing will change it. Is that it, then? End of discussion?

    All right. I guess I know now how you feel about readers who have different opinions. Ironic, given the nature of your post.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      December 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Okay, I’m probably going to regret this but you get one reply from me.

      Yes, I have made up my mind about something. Because I’ve read all the major news articles about it. I’ve read the “Gamers are Dead” articles that has y’all so upset, and I’ve watched the FemFreq videos. But you know what else I’ve read? I’ve read TechRaptor (a pro-GG site) articles on the issue. I’ve read /r/KiA, the GG subreddit. I’ve watched all those “GG in 60 second” videos on YouTube. Hell, I even watched some of the footage from the “Sarkeesian Effect” anti-skeleton (and I use this term loosely) documentary.

      You seem to assume that I do not know of what I speak, that I made up my mind based on .. nothing? Rumors and innuendo? Frankly, your assumption is rude. Yes, I’ve made up my mind after hours of research and my own observations with my own two eyes. There is literally nothing you can say that will make Gamergate any less of an anti-feminist, anti-women, anti-intellectual movement that is ruining gaming for many people I know and respect.

      Go ahead and pretend if you like that people hate Gamergate because we just don’t understaaaaand, or because we’re brainwashed by the “mainsteam media”, or whatever else helps you sleep at night, when the fact is that we know and THAT IS WHY we think the movement is trash. And don’t bother responding, I won’t read it and I don’t care.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    December 15, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Sorry I didn’t comment sooner, lost in my own life at the moment.

    I honestly don’t know what to say to make you feel comforted at all, in the face of it all. It’s shitty and it ruins my own enjoyment of gaming as well. I talk less often in online games now, even involve myself in them less. I don’t need to my actions and play to be judged and belittled. I’m here to game, to have fun… I thought that was the original goal of it all.

    While I enjoy competition in certain aspects I do think the abundance and focus on it has been to the detriment of the community. Constant competition against others either in combat or through metre, it’s maddening and just plain sad. I think this attitude pollutes the general forum as well. Everything, every opinion is now a contest of right and wrong. Every opinion must be questioned and challenged. It’s stupid.

    I don’t know. I just tend to think that even with a footprint as big as ours, which is to say not much, is that our input and involvement is making a difference and collectively that does add up to be more.
    j3w3l´s last post: Couch Podtatoes Ep25: Da Favourites of 2014

  • Reply
    December 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    It seems you’ve covered what is wrong with gaming and what is great about it in two consecutive posts. We just need a way to separate the jerks onto their own server.

  • Reply
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