Abuse in online gaming: Are we all part of the problem?

"Game experience may change during online play" is a cute little disclaimer next to the age rating, carefully constructed for clarity so there can be no mistake that online gaming may not be all sweet and innocent. But as an example of understatement, it's masterful. Because there's nothing that can really prepare you for the first time you play a bunch of sweary, obnoxious 12 year-olds online in Call of Duty. Nothing at all. But how are you supposed to react to it?

There are three logical responses:

1) Log off

Not really going to happen when you've just spent upwards of £50 for a new online multiplayer experience. But you could just get out while you still have some shred of aural innocence.

Above: Ah - there's yer mistake. Should've used green internet cabling. Red cables only carry anger and cuss words. Green cabling only carries compliments. You didn't know?

2) Join in

You're older, smarter, wiser and have a huge vocabulary of cuss words to choose from. You can beat these noobs in a slanging match so that you're onto the next group while they're still scouring Google for the meaning of vas deferens. You wouldn't write to your mother about how awesome it was to systematically destroy these high-voiced hellians with a sentence containing the words 'erection', 'father' and 'stop getting', but it was a laugh at the time, right?

3) Ignore and accept it

This is the simplest one. You just don't get involved. But, crucially, you don't do anything about it either. You either mute them, or sit there with your mic off, letting the torrents of abuse wash over you as you concentrate on keeping your killstreak going. In fact, the abuse is more like a reward. Their anger at losing is just more fuel for your calmness. You are the real gamer here and you're giving one hell of a schooling.

Which one sounds most familiar? Probably '3' as that's the hardcore gamer's response. Online abuse is just something you expect when you log onto any multiplayer server (but in particular Xbox Live if we're honest). But arguably that makes you a part of the problem. Especially when the abuse moves from the usual 'your mom' to racism, homophobia or sexism.

Above: Beautiful, comfortable, wireless communication headgear that represents the pinnacle of... transmitting a bunch of swears from potty mouthed kids to your ears

But of course, there is a fourth option that could (and arguably should) apply to any of those three responses:

4) Complain

It's easy to report a gamer you don't think is playing by the rules or who is calling you a ninny (or even worse!). There's an option on every gamer's virtual gamer card to do exactly that. But apparently that's not something that everybody does. Not by a long shot.

The former head of Xbox Live's Head of Enforcement, Stephen Toulouse, recently explained that hardcore gamers do indeed tend to put up with abusive communications, whereas casual gamers who log onto, say, the Modern Warfare 3 servers occasionally, expect there to be some comeback for all these abusive voices they hear over their headsets. Apparently each complaint is checked by a human being who then decides whether things are serious enough to warrant a temporary or permanent ban from the service.

Ironically, if everyone actually read the terms and conditions, they would see that they've legally agreed not to be abusive by signing up to the service. Look at the rules that everyone agrees to (as a binding contract) when they sign up. All of the voices you hear agreed to the Code of Conduct that states (among countless other things):

  • Don't harass, abuse, or spam other players, or encourage other players to do so.
  • Don't scream, yell, threaten, or stalk other players, or encourage other players to do so.
  • Don't create a gamertag, profile content, Avatar action, Avatar content, or in-game content that other users may be offended by. This includes, without limitation, anything related to or suggestive of: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities.

But who reads the T&Cs, eh? It's got too many words in it, it's boring... it's time that could have been better spent questioning noobs' sexuality in Call of Duty.

So here's the question: Should we hardcore gamers be doing more to stop online idiocy? Are we in fact passively condoning it by accepting it's 'just something that happens' online? Or is the problem more about the anonymity of the internet? We're sure you've got the right answer, so let us know what you think in the comments.


  • needles - July 24, 2012 2:46 p.m.

    MUTED!!!! Half the fun of CoD multiplayer is talking shit to these little cocksuckers. Or just mute their stupis ass. Dumb fucking kids. Back in my day we only had 8 bit graphics...and we liked it!
  • WinkedUp Lozza - July 24, 2012 5:29 a.m.

    Technically, you could win a court case for violating the T&Cs by saying they were too long to read. That would give MS a good kick up the bum, and people would actually read them if they were shorter, or if the more violated bits were more obvious
  • Crabhand - July 24, 2012 5 a.m.

    I report people on most occasions for being jackasses, but this mostly only applies to certain PC games. I usually don't communicate over XBox Live with anybody not on my friend list (that is to say, I have voice communication disabled) because most of them don't have anything nice to say. I play multiplayer to have fun with my friends and I would rather not have that spoiled by needless babble.
  • loopyloo - July 24, 2012 4:58 a.m.

    Metal gear online had the worst abuse ive seen in any game ive played, it wasnt often but when it did start there was some pretty nasty flurries of insults and racism, and what really opened my eyes to how bad it had gotten was when A character whos appearence was black had a whole volly of abuse and nazi comments and stuff. Even from players I had met up with often in matches showed their true colours eventually! Be it sed over headset or typed it was there in force. How the heck to you govern something like this though.... And omg the captcha is getting harder to read! :@
  • OohWiiUILookJustLikeBuddyHolly - July 24, 2012 3:29 a.m.

    I dunno about reporting them. I had some asshole having a go at me and my friend during a game of griffball. He claimed we were using a lagswitch, which is a total joke, any person who has spent 5 minutes in a griffball lobby knows that it will lag like crazy. He was giving me the usual online shit, so I reported him. I looked at his gamertag the other day and there he was, online. I don't think anyone I have ever reported for anything that wasn't straight up hacking has been caught.
  • Y2Ken - July 24, 2012 12:49 a.m.

    Generally if I'm on Xbox then I'm in party chat and don't hear them. I wouldn't be one to respond though, but would probably report them if I felt the abuse was severe enough. Likewise if they send me an angry (but not offensive) message afterwards I'll take it as a compliment, and possibly respond in the frendliest way possible. But if it's just a sweary mess of vitriol then I'll just block and report them. Interestingly, back in the early days of Black Ops, my friends and I were routinely reporting players for "Offensive Emblems" (the custom-drawn ones) whenever appropriate - as were many others - and by a couple of months in we had almost completely stopped seeing them. So I guess that sort of worked.
  • pin316 - July 23, 2012 11:42 p.m.

    society needs to make up it's mind one-way or another... pretty much every child has heard "sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me" from their parents/guardians etc. It's constantly repeated to us that some people are just ignorant and that name-calling doesn't do us any harm).It's all that we're told when we're little Then as soon as adults themselves are called names, it's all 'i'm being bullied/abused/persecuted/discriminated against etc. How are kids supposed to learn when we expose them to these double-standards...we tell them it's not an issue when it happens to them, and then make an issue out of it when it happens to us. We say that name-calling is wrong, and then defend our right to say anything due to right to free speech. It's confusing as hell I firmly agree with the whole "names can't hurt me" principle and think that it is the right way to raise children. Teach them to rise above it - it makes sense and generally leads to a healthier state of mind. However, the whole process falls down when authority figures go against the core principle - the very act of drawing attention to it validates it and propagates the issue
  • zombi3grim - July 23, 2012 8:54 p.m.

    Personally, I think people need to get the fuck over it and deal with it. If someone calls you a name and hurts your wittle feelings, fuckin mute them. Otherwise, talk shit back. Who cares? If you get your feelings hurt by what someone says ONLINE to you, you have a VERY long and hard road when you realize people will say the same shit in person. What are you gunna do when a drunk guy in a bar makes a move on your girl and calls you a faggot and tries to push you away? You gunna mute him? You gunna complain or cry about it? Or are you gunna bash a fuckin pool stick over his skull and teach him a lesson? Look, I realize Im older then alot of the users on this site. I spent time in the USMC, and believe me, when you get insulted on a DAILY bases by huge drill instructors litterally screaming the insults in your face, whatever a little prepubescent fuckwad online has to say to you hardly registers.
  • redinsanity - July 23, 2012 7:30 p.m.

    Yeah, reporting them would work... if MS actually cared. There's a reason why abuse and cheating is so rampant on Live. Because the offenders are paying as well. As long as MS gets that money they don't really care what they do.
  • NullG7 - July 23, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    I'm kind of an oddity I'm a casual person who likes a hardcore challenge and enjoys multiplayer. Sure once in a while I will spit and swear at a game but ever at a person, If someone is doing something I think they shouldn't be allowed to do I blame the game mechanics and get on with my day. In fact the way I usually deal with the game is remain calm and laugh it off or get depressed at How I am doing because I realize when I am doing well or when I am doing terrible and that it is no ones fault but my own. Then if I do get truly upset I try to get off the game or out of the chat so that I can just cool down and calm down. Gamer Zone Recreation & Damn Proud of it
  • Jacko415 - July 23, 2012 5:26 p.m.

    There was an old GR article from way back which every single person who plays online should read. It would cut down on so much grief. They're tons of people who shit talk you and call you a cheat or something, simply because they got killed and they think they're too good to be killed, so you must've cheated, right?
  • Craza - July 23, 2012 3:53 p.m.

    As a female gamer, I've had a few sexist and rather derogatory remarks thrown my way, but I generally avoid online gameplay if at all possible because I despise the people I usually end up playing with or against. I wouldn't be lying if I said there was at least one person who's shown up on a game and made it a living nightmare for one reason or another. In fact, it was the first Modern Warfare which made me put off online multiplayer almost entirely. I still play MMOs, but I find it much easier to report a player or spammer there than it is in an Xbox or even online PC game. And I think that's the problem. In an MMO, there's a very handy "Report" button that's easily accessible. You very rarely have to leave the game, and it's done in just a minute or so. Some games, like Diablo, simply require you to click a couple options in the drop-down windows and it will even mute/block that player right away. In another game, say, TF2, I don't even know where the report feature is, let alone how complicated it is. A lot of the time, you're required to leave the main part of the game, and/or fill out a form, and people would rather PLAY the game than have to do that every 5 minutes. Sometimes, you even have to go to the main website of the game and report in the forums or use the report feature there. You have to write down that person's gamertag/username/character name. What I'm saying is; it's not always a quick and easy process to report players ruining the online experience. If it is, I'll use it to its full potential, but in games where it's not easy to use or it seems that your reports don't mean anything to moderators, THAT is what really ruins my gaming experience. I don't like Diablo 3 much, but its report feature is very quick, very simple, and it's more or less taken care of pretty quickly. Not to mention, that player is blocked from your chat and you don't have to listen to their crap. If the report feature is as easy to use as that (And as quickly taken care of), I definitely think more players would use it. That's only for serious cases though. In lesser cases, I just use positive comments to get them to cool down, but that very, very, very rarely happens anymore. People will rage about anything and everything under the sun. Playing online with my boyfriend (Who lives in Aus and usually gets high ping on US servers), I've had people bitch him out because his ping is high, even though he's not affecting the server at all and is STILL kicking their asses. I've had people scream at me for something that was purely the game's fault, or something happens to me that also happened to them, but I get chewed out and when it happens to them, they act like it's nothing. Honestly, I think people just hide behind that anonymity online. It's something as plain and simple as that, but it's not an easy problem to fix. Blizzard put in its RealID system, which I sort of liked the idea of, but I wouldn't like people knowing my real name online either because now, it's so easy for people to look you up and potentially do harm. Ugh...long post is long.
  • NullG7 - July 23, 2012 5:42 p.m.

    Long Post but a good one
  • needles - November 5, 2012 9:14 a.m.

    What a fuckin cunt.
  • bonerachieved - July 23, 2012 2:24 p.m.

    I think as long as we keep a competitive aspect to the trash talking that's fine. The moment where it turns into threats and yelling uncontrollably is where we as gamers need to make the difference. We can of course yell and scream back but we need to consider those around us. There's no way to control the people who go online and purposely go out of there way to piss off or insult people. We can always mute these people, but what I always try to do is reason with people. Sometimes that's all it takes. "Hey man why are you yelling?" or "Don't take it so personally man, you can make up for it next game." Something small like that goes a long way. Encourage good online behaviors, instead of attacking the person you have a grudge against whether its in game or in the lobby.
  • JS001 - July 23, 2012 12:19 p.m.

    Oh I wouldn't get rid of them They're fun. Their insults are music to my ears. "You are winning" they say. But then again, I play on PC and insults there are rare. It really makes me feel awesome when I pull something so cool that someone couldn't hold the anger. And when two guys engage in some insults war it's always entertaining, like a live online reality show right in front of me. Just happening. Without the occasional insults gaming would become like tennis or golf. That's cool if you're into gentlemanly quiet appreciation of the sport but I prefer something more exciting.
  • ThatGamerDude - July 23, 2012 11:48 a.m.

    I'm one of those sad people that feels triumphant every time someone gets pissed of at me while playing CoD. To me, if someone keeps trash talking to you after you beat them mercilessly in an online match, that just shows you how much better you are at the game than they ever will be. Of course, if you do this by the usual "noob" means (i.e. camping, using a gun from my list of "Guns that are extremely cheap and piss me off every time someone uses it and actually think it's a good gun unlike a "real" good gun in CoD like the M4A1, UMP-45, PM-9, AS50/Intervention/M40A1, and of course the CM901", spamming explosives and grenade launchers, etc...) then it only gives you false pride and in actuality, you should just get off CoD and drown yourself in your toilet.
  • Viron - July 23, 2012 11:37 a.m.

    Eh, I just ignore it and mute them. And even if that doesn't solve the problem the only real "solution" is to lobotomize them, and then we get into a discussion of logistics and ethics. Besides I doubt any of them want to hear what I have to say.
  • FoxdenRacing - July 23, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    I choose option #5 normally. "Play only with trusted friends, and friends of friends". And I realize that does make me part of the problem, as playing and complaining would be doing my part to deal with the deluge of cheaters and screechers.
  • BULLDOG266 - July 23, 2012 11:08 a.m.

    Two words: Cain and Able. ;)

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