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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.

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38 comments

  • MasterBhater - July 23, 2012 8:01 a.m.

    I can't believe people STILL think that there's more 12 year old potty mouths on Xbox LIVE. Judging by my experience, the ratio of pre-pubescent screechers to each online game played is almost exactly the same on both the 360 and PS3 (PC is the only "system" mostly free of young-uns). In fact, the only time I remember hearing some really, REALLY hardcore ear violating was back on Call of Duty, and I don't play that series anymore (I think it was when I found items and textures from CoD 4 copied and pasted onto maps in MW3) And even when there are 12 year olds, they're annoying but mostly calm...I honestly find this article irrelevant.
  • SDHoneymonster - July 23, 2012 10:22 a.m.

    I've always found Xbox Live to be worse, but I'm guessing quite simply that's because the 360 comes with a headset whilst the PS3 doesn't. I've struggled with it at times, mainly playing Gears Of War - something about hyperviolence tends to bring out the worst in people.
  • Viron - July 23, 2012 11:34 a.m.

    Pc is free of them because they are expensive for a child and because mics don't come with them.
  • db1331 - July 23, 2012 8:08 a.m.

    I think a little trash talk is good for gaming. I never start it, but I love pissing someone off to the point that they start name calling, and then egging them on to see how mad they get. In some games, like the L4D's, the sub-game of trying to make people rage was more fun for me than the actual game. I loved it when I would kill a hunter trying to pounce me from on top of a building and he would call me a fag and quit before his body even hit the ground.
  • KA87 - July 23, 2012 8:33 a.m.

    I don’t mind a little trash talk, but all of the whining and complaining gets old fast. So what, I killed you or somehow managed to steal your kill. Go cry an ocean, build a ship, and sail over it. Seriously, it’s not like COD has a policy against getting revenge on the guy that just killed you. Can we put a ban on whining to?
  • mockraven - July 23, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    I'm probably "part of the problem" because I don't buy or play COD style games or otherwise participate at all. Shame on me.
  • Vittles05 - July 23, 2012 9:05 a.m.

    Lately I've been noticing more people without their mics plugged in or just not talking at all than a constant stream of profanity from kids. This might be because I haven't played CoD since CoD4, or the increased use of parties on Xbox LIVE. A feature I really do like, especially if it keeps annoying kids in their own little bubble. But sometimes I'd rather have a bit more team communication than a bunch of silent players, if that means a little more swearing and whatnot, I'm OK with that.
  • dlam - July 23, 2012 9:21 a.m.

    trolling ^ one of the main reasons I play video games xD
  • clearlight20 - July 23, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    I do not mind a little "dammit" every now and then while laughing it off, but when it morphs into a relentless torrent of anger, insults, and swears it becomes a problem. If these people were sensible, they would say to themselves "Hey, I am mad, but I do not want other people to have to hear my profanity, let me mute my mic while I release some steam." As that is not the case, I believe that we either have to first (if we have a mic) ask the person to tone it down. If that does not work we report them. It becomes obnoxious and ruins the game experience when you have these type of people constantly bombarding your hear drums with high pitched screams. Anger is natural. I see no problem in anger. I see problems in the unhealthy release of anger that just make anger even stronger. Too often I see that people believe the best way to release hatred is to get back and the source (as I have done countless times with inanimate objects). And too often I see that this does not better the person. If we allow ourselves to be surrounded by non-virtues, we begin to absorb the things that corrupt our well being.
  • ParagonT - July 23, 2012 9:51 a.m.

    I think the mute button solves everything top be honest.
  • clearlight20 - July 23, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    Ignoring cancer does not make the cancer go away.
  • ParagonT - July 23, 2012 12:31 p.m.

    Except that people yelling doesn't kill you, so it doesn't correlate.
  • clearlight20 - July 23, 2012 6:23 p.m.

    Every sentient being has one fundamental desire: to achieve happiness. We try to avoid situations that cause us pain, unless we feel it will be another stroke in our level of happiness level. For instance, people who eat very hot spices in front of their friends. They do it for their friends because in some way they feel that if they cause their friends happiness by causing pain to themselves, their friends will return the happiness given by saying some uplifting remark. In a way, one person’s happiness is another person’s happiness. Insults and slurs slung at people over the internet are not inductive to increasing happiness. They cause anger and other non-virtuous desires such as the want to kill (extreme circumstances). They decrease happiness. Muting the problem does not help. It may help you, but what about the other people that person will annoy and anger? Do they not deserve to be happy, also? I know what you would say “they should not let it get to them.” Yet, we as humans let things get to us. For instance, I still remember a specific incident when I was younger. My college professor scolded me for pronouncing ‘invisible” with a ‘bull’ at the end of the word instead of how it is supposed to be pronounced - a seemingly inconsequential matter, right? Yet, I still felt anger. I did not feel happy that this person had pointed out a fault in my speech. The same goes for online gaming. The same person you muted could go off and scold a teammate for playing poorly. In this instance, the person who scolds that teammate may not know if that person was having a bad day, but instead that person did not make his teammate’s day any better. We as humans despise not living up to other’s standards; although some bury it beneath layers of sarcasm and other fallacies. We have become too attached to what other’s think of us. I find it rare that a person is so unattached to the game they are playing, that they actually play for fun and not to win. And even so, the fun is ruined when someone is screaming and yelling at people. The words they say are not easily forgotten. In closing, I find it better to do what I had suggested in my original post. If the person stops his asinine slurs, no more suffering is going around. If the person does not stop his inane ramblings, I know that my report is one step closer to stopping that cycle of suffering.
  • ParagonT - July 24, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    I believe your trying to make something out of nothing. People trying to control what others say is just a starting point for censorship by the corporation in control of the service (if any). This isn't some philosophical debate over how wrong it is to "inflict disharmony and dis-happiness", this is the fact that if you hit the mute button, they do not get an audience, you don't get yelled at, they don't get a reaction, also they will get their ass beat if they try and assimilate an attitude like that in reality. Everything will work itself out. Once you hit mute, that person will go to the next person to harass perhaps, but you know what they can do? Mute them as well. I'm not saying I condone these behaviors, but we can say how people need to change all we want, but unless a reasonable answer to the problem is given, its pointless.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 23, 2012 9:53 a.m.

    Call of Duty is the only game series where I have encountered this level of online abuse. After MW2 I quit the series, although I guess it still goes on because of this article.
  • delmariachi - July 23, 2012 10:04 a.m.

    It does get on my nerves but its not as bad as it used to be. The only thing I do enjoy is the torrent of Spanish insults I get, due in part to my gamertag. I'm English and don't speak any other language, so its all a waste. I don't tend to bite back but when I finally have enough, I tell them, I'm fat (i'm not but hey),and thus proceed explain the reason i'm fat is that everytime I f**k his mother, she gives me a biscuit" I know its bad but it tends to shut them up...
  • SirDinkleman - July 23, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    Its all the racist and annoying 12 year olds that make me not like playing games online.
  • BULLDOG266 - July 23, 2012 11:08 a.m.

    Two words: Cain and Able. ;)
  • ChristopherDalley - July 23, 2012 5:36 p.m.

    No, don't wink at me. We are not friends. We are not even acquaintances. How dare you? How very bloody DARE you!? I did not laugh at your silly display of smugitude. I will not stand for this shit. Wink at me!? You'll be winking out of empty sockets, my only Sunshine. Honestly! Your type makes me cocking sick! You stupid presumptuous twat. How in the the name of fucking Jeebus with a capital V do you find it within your shitty little soul to carry on living!? HOW!? I'll show you what for, you sodding rapscallion, you! You'll see, my cupcake: This entire statement's going on a hot poker which I am going to brand across that soggy wrung of elephant skin you call an arse. FUCKING WINK AT ME!?
  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 38 comments

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