We play a lot of games, and we play many of them online, either cooperatively or competitively. Sometimes we’re carrying out objectives, sometimes we’re defending against hordes of AI, and sometimes it’s good old-fashioned deathmatch, but the salient point here is that we play with others. And since we were kids, what was the one thing we heard the most regarding playing with others, the one word we ought to associate with that phrase?
It should be obvious why one would want to play nice: because nice is better than not nice. But what exactly do I mean? I feel like I have to definitively state it, because for whatever reasons so many people aren’t playing nice. On the internet, and in internet gaming especially, you run into so many people who just plain aren’t being nice that it’s ridiculous, it’s downright epidemic. People are, more often than not, total jerkwad douchebags online.
Why is that? The answer is actually pretty simple and I think summed up best by John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, found here. But while that explains the process, I think we need to go deeper (which, I am told, is what she said).
Gamers are almost universally nerds. Not all gamers are nerds, this is true, but I am willing to posit that all douchenozzles are either nerds or macho hyper-aggressive idiot sportsfans, and the end result is the same. And nerds tend to be smart, academically, which means they do or did well in school, which goes hand-in-hand with not being the aforementioned jocks, which means they weren’t popular and led socially awkward, numb existences but were left academically unchallenged most of their young lives.
This manifests in two problems: first, you’ve got people who aren’t used to losing, and so aren’t very good at it. They’re graceless and tactless when it comes to losing, and they blame failure or inadequacy on anything but themselves, and fuck you if you think you don’t do it because we all do to some extent (FUCKing lag, FUCKing shotgun bitch, FUCKing controls, FUCKing two percent health… There’s a bandit in Fort Mercer in Red Dead Redemption who almost always spawns as a black character and has a shotgun, and he kills more people than car crashes, wars, and zombie attacks combined. I started calling him Leeroy the Shotgun Negro, partly because it was a western and it seemed thematically apropos, partly to be funny because I am an insensitive hellbound prick, but mostly because I was pissed and needed to vent and demean even a lowly AI).
The second problem is that these people are socially awkward and don’t know how to compose themselves in such situations (losing), or around other people in general. While this translates into shyness and fear of social situations bordering on pathological in real life, online, where anonymity is the key and consequences are nowhere to be found, it results in them expressing all the things they kept bottled up for so many years.
Metaphorically, your average deathmatch is basically a digital Columbine shooting where beleaguered nerds unload their frustrations and exercise their Nietzschean will-to-power on other human beings in the most sadistic fashion possible. Raw, guttural hatred spews forth in ways you couldn’t even imagine, in ways you could never fathom a human being acting with another human being, not even the most feral, crazed beasts of the wild.
I’ve heard people raging so hard on LIVE that I swear if I was looking into their eyes I would see a serial killer and not one scrap of soul or compassion other.
This dynamic runs even more deeply than anonymity plus audience plus no consequences, extending to our monkeysphere and the broken societal system in which we live, but as everything can be traced back through such vagaries I’ll reel back toward the point.
So, these people, and you know who they are, and you even act like them every once in a while even when you don’t want to and even when you’re not really like that – these people are either nerds or jocks, and either way they cannot lose. It’s just not an option for them. They have to win, to subvert, to dominate, to be superior.
And this, inexorably, results in general douchebaggery. Since their fragile egos demand ultimate victory, the highest KDR, and the top score, these players will use any means at their disposal to do so. Since there are no consequences they will cheat and steal and break every rule possible; they will turn the game from something fun to a grind of technicality, and they will stand on that technicality without fail.
These are the players who spawn camp, and then have the audacity to think they’re more skilled. These are the players who do absolutely nothing to support the team and brag about that one awesome kill they got on you even though you’ve been crushing their allies left and right all match. These are the Casual Aim Mode players with lock-on-targeting. These are the grinders, the cheaters, the liars, the creepers, the haters, the deniers. These are they, and they, folks, are the enemy, especially when they occur within ourselves.
See, the thing is, you can’t stop this type of playing by any means. Like the Terminator these people can’t be bargained or reasoned with. They won’t listen to logic, so communicating with them about their behavior will do no good. If you kill one of them with an RPG a handful of times, he will send you a message that says you should join the Iraqi Army (since they rely solely on the RPG? I guess?).
I googled it, they have these too.
If you catch him trying to sneak up on your teammate and fairly headshot him (because welcome to Hardcore aim mode, you loser, which I’ve been using since day one, so yes, I can get a headshot without cheating even though you can’t) he will insult the Jewish people and then whine like a bitch when you and seven friends show up and quietly request an apology – which he will refuse to give, and so you’ll kill him extra hard, because antisemitism is not cool, guys. No form of discourse, polite or not, will work on them.
Nor will beating them at their own game curb their behavior: you can pull out the same tricks and they will only respond in kind. And if you can overcome their douchy ways legitimately and beat them through pure skill, they’ll keep doing it out of spite. There’s just nothing to be done about these people.
Not by you, anyway.
But the thing is, all these people are individuals, and if every individual would pay attention to only their own behavior, then suddenly a huge epidemic can be instantly cured. Like defensive driving wherein one assumes responsibility only for oneself, this undesirable behavior can be eliminated if only we all just stop fucking doing it.
You can’t stop another player from acting like a chode, but you can keep from being one yourself, and if everybody just handled their shit then this wouldn’t be a problem. Games would be playable, and they’d be played in the spirit they were meant to be played. They would be fun, and everybody could have a good time.
So the next time you get all pissed and catch yourself starting to demonstrate douchy behavior, take a deep breath, cut it out, and realize that you don’t need to act that way. The people on the other end are people, like you, and they want to have fun. You’re not meant to take your frustrations out on other humans like this; that’s what animals and redheads are for. Put yourself in their shoes and think, “Is this really the impression I want to give? Is this really the gamer I want to be? Do I want to be ‘that guy?’ Do I want to strip away any fun any of us might be having?”
It’s a game, and at the end of the day your status in it means little. Winning is great, but not at the cost of common decency. Play fair, play well, and immerse yourself in the game itself, not the idea of the game. Let it be about being part of a squad of highly trained military pros defending a position against terrorists, instead of about getting the most kills. Let it be about being in a posse of old west cowboys riding into the sunset, and not about killing the same group of people over and over purely to prove you have bigger wangs (trust me, guys, your average wang is plenty to satisfy your lady; just learn to use it right – and also, no, you do not have a bigger wang than me so don’t bother). Let it be about fostering a good time, instead of ruining others’.
Look at yourself in the mirror every once in a while. Who is that dude? Did you really just say that? Did you really just act that way? Be honest with yourself. Is this why you play games?
Just, come on, guys. Come on.