Not pictured: polite conversation.
I probably play more games than I should. It’s my dominant hobby, and I’ve had more than my fair share of good and bad experiences with it. There are times when I recall days when I was much worse than I am now, unable to think things through properly and, worse, ungracious with fellow players. I don’t shy away from competition and I feel an experience is better when shared, but it took some time to learn how to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
Quite a few gamers need to learn those lessons.
A team experience is a good one to have when it comes to games. Even if it’s a free-for-all environment, the shared nature of the game hightens the enjoyment for everyone involved. It’s why I enjoy Thursday nights up at Cyborg One so much: nobody’s there to prove they have the best deck, just that they have a cool one, and there’s so much more snarking, politicking and good-natured ribbing than around a draft or standard tournament table. Monobattles in StarCraft 2 are similar. Each player produces one type of unit, just one, and try to work their choices together into some form of strategy. Whether it works or not, it’s all in good fun and everybody has a fun time with it.
I feel more team experiences online should be like that.
However, some players take their games very seriously. More often than not I log into a Team Fortress 2 server and choose a class the team needs or where I feel I can help the most, only to be told how badly I suck and how I shouldn’t bother playing. Now, I understand that trash talk on the Internet has about as much bite to it as a septuagenarian with a bowl of oatmeal, but this usually comes from the team I happen to be on. It’s disheartening to say the least.
Maybe I’m being overly sensitive about it, but in my opinion it’s better to offer a tip than to condescend. “Try not to lose your healing target” is a more helpful comment than “You suck so hard at being a Medic you made your mom cry when I banged her last night.” It could be I’m simply logging into the wrong servers, and should be more discriminatory. It could also be that I shouldn’t pay attention to the ramblings of youngsters who do nothing but play these games.
However, I’ve had experiences like last night where I will leave a bad experience in one game behind to find a much better one in a different co-op game. After taking some stick in TF2 for not being an absolute baller at every class when outnumbered, I logged into Killing Floor and found a server where I could practice being a Field Medic on a vanilla map. It was night and day. You know you’re doing something right when not only does a player say what a great time they’re having and how well the team is working together, they specifically call out that the biggest baddies should be kept away from you because you’re keeping everybody alive.
I open every StarCraft 2 ladder match with “gl hf” – Good luck, have fun. Most of the time I’m echoed or get some form of positive response. But occasionally, I’ll get a reply that would be classified as “bm” – bad manners – in the form of derision, dismissal or homophobic epithets. I find myself wondering why such antics are deemed necessary. It’s probably funny to some, and my aversion to it can probably be construed as being overly sensitive, taking the game too seriously or something along those lines.
But that’s the way I feel about it. Good manners are not that difficult. And when you put them into practice, you make the gaming experience better for everybody involved. Unless the other player is utterly committed to calling every opponent they meet a talentless fag.