EWG Editorial: A Call to the Gaming Community

Growing up in the 80’s with an NES, my gaming community was my Brother and whatever neighborhood kids happened to be over the house that day. Multiplayer was limited to only two in those days with the “play until you die rule” strongly in effect. This being a rule you broke under the penalty of forfeiting several turns if not a banning for the remainder of the day.

As gaming has evolved, so has multiplayer. From two players to four, linking two systems together with two televisions, and finally reaching online play, reducing the gaming world neighborhood to a much tighter circle. This evolution has made gaming a much richer experience, eliminating petty differences as we work together to defeat the shape shifting Aliens, bloodthirsty Orcs, or invading Armies bent on our destruction. Or if you prefer competitive play over co-op, we smear each other into the landscape using a never ending variety of weapons, vehicles, and spells. With all the possibilities the online gaming world offers, players are free to choose any genre or game mode. 

With every form of competition comes trash talk, the psychological warfare deployed against opponents in the hopes of raising emotional states to create a mistake to capitalize upon. Gaming has its own language, and while it is not feasible to record every “insult” here, a few examples will do. Calling players a n00b or a smacktard, although I’m not sure that last one is frequently used anymore, so I may be showing my age, are just two quick examples. Using this strategy is wildly accepted and many gamers, including myself, will use it to get that extra edge. An opponent normally quicker on the draw may not fire so fast if he or she is grumbling about being called a n00b. The revenge kill resulting from this method is one of the many reasons we keep coming back.
The problem with this trash talk is that it reflects poorly on the gaming community. We are constantly being scrutinized by politicians, media, and concerned parents as well as many other groups. The trash talk is spilling into console wars, for example, “PS3 is the best system and the X-Box 360 is (expletive deleted.)” Browse any of the big game developer’s forums regarding specific games, and you will see the same thing repeated. Look at the arguments that Call of Duty and Battlefield fans get into. The vast majority of these arguments are simple insults, vulgarity, and very rarely will you read well thought out points and counterpoints leading to an interesting discussion. 

Why are we reinforcing the already negative image on gamers by behaving in this manner? I have met many intelligent and thoughtful gamers; wouldn’t we better serve our own community by behaving in this manner? My call to the gaming community is this; keep the smack talk limited to the battlefields, think before posting another insult, and when defending your favorite games, be rational, think it through, and then engage in defending your game. We can deflect this negative perception and get back to the important stuff, like playing.

Steven Jackson