The problem with games

The hot new game of the hour seems to be Overwatch — it looks fun and very well done, and a lot of my online friends are playing it. But I’m not even tempted. Zero interest. Don’t even want to try.

Why? Because it’s a multiplayer game, and hell is other people.

I used to play World of Warcraft, and what finally drove me to give it up was that there were big chunks of the game I could not play — not because of what Blizzard had done, but because I’d have to team up with assholes, and it was incredibly frustrating to have to drop out of a group because someone in it was a homophobic racist with a mouth. Note: and it was always me leaving voluntarily. I never once saw a group kick out the bigot.

Actually, it was something Blizzard did: the absence of any policy against hate speech is a kind of action, too.


  1. Zeppelin says

    I only play multiplayer games that don’t require actual teamwork (at least on public servers). I turn off all means of communication and treat the other players like marginally smarter bots. It’s really better this way.

  2. Vivec says

    I love it, and I have yet to see too many of the jerk players once I got higher up in the ranking. A lot of the trash talking “ggez” guys suck and generally get sorted against in most games with leveled matchmaking.

    That being said, there are of course a huge amount of jacknuts. The best advice I can give is to try to accumulate nice people and play with as many friends on your team as possible.

  3. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Funnily enough, I’m much the same way. I only very rarely play multiplayer and then only with people I know well (friends, family). It would be very appreciated if they installed a policy like this, but for me personally at least, it wouldn’t change anything, since I still wouldn’t be interested in a multiplayer game. Anyway, that’s not a problem with games overall. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of fodder in terms of single player games. Although sometimes it seems like AAA developers at least are more and more convinced that only massively multiplayer games are valid. All the more reason to go with the indie developers, lately.

  4. Vivec says

    In regards to the thing about policy – totally agreed. Imo they should have a LoL style tribunal sort of thing, where community officers get to oversee the chat/voice log in question and can remove those privileges if a user violates them.

  5. tomc5 says

    You echo my experience (to include not playing WOW anymore) exactly. I dropped the game when I realized how much content I wouldn’t see. BTW, my grandson began playing on my account when he was 5 and loved to tank. As his play style was a bit “different” I was glad he couldn’t read the chat messages sent his way.

  6. Siobhan says

    I can’t remember where this occurred for the life of me, but I encountered a long time ago a rather sober discussion about the Dota 2 pro scene–and why there weren’t any women in the premium leagues.

    Someone else actually come up with the idea that maybe women aren’t able to develop their skill much prior to engaging in a full time pro career because the Dota 2 community is cancerous as shit. This was promptly drowned out by accusations of being thin-skinned, over sensitive, etc. There are women’s only leagues, but they’re ridiculously small fish in comparison to the open or general leagues. A lot of pros who start to circulate around the C-list leagues start off as high level players in public matchmaking, so if there aren’t many women playing to the point of hitting high level matchmaking, it would follow that there aren’t many women entering the open C-list leagues.

    There’s also the issue that even a high level matchmaking player still has to find a team, and I have to wonder whether how much sexism a prospective female pro might face during that step. Maybe these lower leagues do actually have women in them now and then, it’s just never brought up because said tournaments are always online, so no one ever finds out the gender of any of the players (it’s assumed they’re male though). At any rate, gender segregation in e-sports does not make sense. There’s no way there’s a measurable difference between the reaction time of men and women as it pertains to gaming–I sincerely doubt such as even been tested–so why the massive gender gap in pro Dota?

    I mean, I mute 3+ people in a 10 person match every single time I play, and it has to affect my performance because Dota is a team game and I can’t coordinate with someone as easily when I’ve blocked them. But I’ve had people who, the moment I speak into the mic, just unleash a torrent of abuse for no fucking reason. I’d be playing just fine without speaking for the first 10 minutes, no one would say anything, and then out of nowhere I’m suddenly the worst player ever and can’t do anything right. Can’t possibly be connected to the perception of my voice as female, nope, no siree.

  7. Holms says

    Actually, Blizzard does have a policy for hate speech: they are against it, and have been so for many years. The problem however is the sheer volume of reports for that and many other things requing the attention of a forum mod or in-game GM, which leads to horrendous wait times for any ticket you lodge. This has the effect of dissuading most people from lodging a ticket at all except for the more egregious code of conduct breaches, though the forum moderation is much faster.

  8. says

    OK, they have a policy, they just don’t implement it.

    It’s the same with Twitter. They have an anti-harassment policy, in words at least, but there are people who’ve been persistently haranguing me for years. For a while, I reported them regularly, but nothing was ever done. So I gave up. And I feel guilty about that, because these same trolls harass LOTS of people, and no action is ever taken against them.

  9. prae says

    Yeah, that’s why I don’t bother, either. When people ask me why, I answer “I’m not good enough at insulting other people’s mothers”

  10. drowner says

    I don’t think Sartre meant, “Hell = other people.” Within the context of existentialism– and the play (No Exit) from which the quote is sourced– he meant that to complete our own self-image we must include the opinions of others, and THAT is hell.

    This means the quote is still applicable, I think. ;)

  11. Holms says

    They do implement it, I recall reporting someone for harassment and it was acted upon… in three or so days. Given the state of the ticket queue, there is just no way anyone is going to bother everytime someone drops a slur in chat. And so a person has to be fairly blatant before anyone bothers with a report.

  12. peptron says

    Overwatch seems to have a better good people to jerks ratio than most other games I’ve played. My suggestion would be like others: try to make a core of friends in game. Overwatch has the advantage that most games are isolated. It’s not like WoW where you cannot avoid the bigger community.

  13. microraptor says

    Saganite @3:

    Although sometimes it seems like AAA developers at least are more and more convinced that only massively multiplayer games are valid. All the more reason to go with the indie developers, lately.

    It’s because it’s much cheaper and and faster to make an MMO or MOBA style game than to develop one with a large interactive world and a lot of interactive NPCs and a story.

  14. says

    I recently rejoined WoW for a bit to play with someone who missed social play, and having played GW2 off and on for a few years since I gave up WoW, I noticed some ways in which blizzard’s game design encourages people to be assholes.

    First off, they make the quest givers killable by players of the enemy faction, and in low-level areas, the quest givers are low-level, so it’s easy to kill them.

    That means that if you’re unlucky, some bored high-level jackass can come along and make it impossible for you to turn in quests or get new quests.

    Add to that the way even players on the same “team” have to compete for resource nodes (in GW2 if you take all of the herbs/ore/wood, the node is still available to everybody else), chests, and kills, and you’ve got a design that rewards players for being selfish and inconsiderate of others.

    That’s not to say GW2 doesn’t have bigoted assholes, but I’ve noticed considerably less of that. It’s a game where anybody can resurrect anybody else, and most players can heal other players at least a little, and if someone’s dying in a fight, you get experience and loot if you join in to help out. People tend to be a bit nicer, and there seems to be less straight-up awfulness in chat.

  15. says

    I also quit WoW quite a long time ago for similar reasons. I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic just recently however and even installed the free to play trial. If I could find before hand a descent guild that’d take me I’d probably even re-instate my subscription, but that’s a tall order. Open to recommendations though.

  16. says

    @16 Abe
    I agree on GW2, I got in there in the closed Beta and the game is still fantastic. Great people as well (mostly). The most bigotry I see is against other servers for world vs world PvP.

  17. karellen says

    the absence of any policy against hate speech is a kind of action, too.

    If you provide a forum which is not hostile to racists, homophobes, and other assorted bigots, then by definition that forum *is* hostile to people of colour, LGBT folks, and other marginalised groups.

  18. says

    Used to play Everquest. Maybe the fact that it is older, and didn’t get pushed as hard as WoW means it only has more serious players. Then again, one attempt I did make the guy in it got pissed when something didn’t go right, because I couldn’t figure out what graphics settings to use to be able to see something on the world that you needed to disable, to keep the boss mob from healing. But.. since I was clear I don’t group much, and that I didn’t know if my settings where right… they should have pointed out the problem in the first place, and made sure I had things set right, before starting. Otherwise… yeah, mostly avoided working in groups, but.. did OK in “most” of the ones I did do, due to having no choice to gain certain items they made it so you had to be grouped, to use for forging something or other.. Otherwise – when I explored it was “levels” over what was normally necessary to get in, so most things ignored me. lol Though, that didn’t work with closed “time limit” raid zones, instead of the open ones, too well.

    But, yeah.. really, really, got annoying that parts of the game where unexplorable, by people who prefer stealth, or just.. actually exploration, over finding a group to raid the place. But, a lot of the time it was more a case of, “Oh hell. Someone else is asking if I want to join up with them! Sigh…” lol

    Yeah.. making areas basically inaccessible to solo players always annoyed the hell out of me.

  19. fffabio says

    The players with low impulse-control are probably also the ones that buy more on impulse (I guess most of these games allow to “support the developers” by making in-game purchases. So I guess that a business corporation wouldn’t really want to get rid of them… But I must say that in the game called League of Legends, the developers did a great job calming down a lot of bullies with a new policy a few years ago. They rarely call me Noooob!! anymore, since the first few waves of punishments a few years ago.

  20. says

    Due to the advent of party chat on consoles on those platforms almost no one chats in random games. Everyone is in a private chat party talking with their real friends. It’s been really great just getting online for an hour (or 2 or 3 oh god I need to sleep) every night with some friends.

  21. karpad says

    I mean, if you really wanted to play Overwatch, you have a venue of like-minded people who won’t be using slurs right here.
    I’m not really interested in PvP, so I’m not really feeling overwatch, but I play co-op games specifically with people I mean in forums and steam groups, so I’m not going in blind.

    Specifically my big one is Payday, since it’s co-op only and you have a 4 man team, and (my favorite part) you host yourself so you can kick anyone who starts being abusive.

  22. Matrim says

    Far and away the most hostile community (to newcomers, anyway) I’ve seen was Final Fantasy XI. Never saw anyone get kicked for the usual slurs, but they would boot new players the instant they made a mistake. And, due to the independent class leveling, it was very hard to find low level players that weren’t veteran assholes leveling an off class.

    WoW had it’s fair share of scum, but you could avoid 99% of them by finding a solid group (or guild) and just play with them.

  23. says

    I just came back to WOW after being away for six years. First thing I did was turn off Trade Chat where 99% of the jerks sound off. I’ve been lucky to be in a guild now and before that didn’t put up with nasty behavior.

    The reason I quit for six years was I got up toward the end game part (max level and needing the right gear) and I couldn’t get any help from my guild – mostly because I played from Midnight to 5 in the morning and the others had normal lives HA!

    Today WOW has systems for the solo player like me not to have to depend entirely on other people. They have a “Look for Raid” feature that gather up random strangers to run dungeons – rarely do people talk in the groups I’ve been in we just run the raid and leave. You can also form random custom groups without having to know the other people – the computer puts people together. Also high level armor drops while doing quests. I don’t have to farm materials that others have gotten before me so I have to spend hours circling the nodes. I like the game much better now than in 2008 when I left.

    The gamerz seem to hate it the way is now because it is “too easy” and they don’t like the Farmville aspect of the Garrisons new to the Dreanor version.

    The biggest jerks I’ve found besides the racists are the some of the ones called “progression” players who look to complete all the high level dungeons.

  24. screechymonkey says

    This is one of the reasons I’ve never bothered to venture into these types of games.

    I got enough stupid chat comments when I used to play online poker, usually of the homophobic variety. At least in poker the abuse usually comes from opponents who are pissed off that they’ve lost money to you, and it was helpful to know which opponents were “on tilt” and prone to bad decisions after a loss.

  25. Richard Smith says

    I’m not big on multiplayer games, myself, save for the one I got my icon from (Journey), and these days I can frequently play all the way through without meeting another player. Part of the appeal in this game is that you are identified only by a randomly-assigned symbol, and your only verbal communication is a “chirp” whose intensity is controlled by how long the button is pressed (sort of a “hey” “Hey” “Hey!” “HEY!” progression). Only at the end does the game put a gamer ID to the symbol of any other player you met along the way.

    Even so, I’ve found myself sometimes actively avoiding other players until the last couple of levels. It can be difficult determining whether someone you meet is playing through the same way you are (casual v. exploring), and running in circles, jumping and flying and chirping can really only communicate so much; alternately, it’s not the same reaching the top of the mountain by yourself.

  26. taraskan says

    PZ! I recommend this single-player game. Sunless Sea. It’s essentially an interactive roguelike with one large map. Very choose-your-own adventure, you can get a fulfilling playthrough dozens of different ways and your progress is saved on log out.

    And it’s got tentacles!

    Another great single-player roguelike, if you haven’t already heard of it, is FTL, where you control your own spaceship. This is how they should make games – the possibility for hundreds of different playthroughs because every experience is different. FTL expands this with achievements that are actually fun to go for, and almost 30 ships which you win through these achieves.

    Lots of SF references in this one, including random character names pulled from The Culture.

  27. whheydt says

    You might consider Lord of the Rings: Online (aka LotRO). Find a kinship of reasonable people and only group with them on those very rare occasions when you actually need to group. E-mail if you want to try, since one of my characters is kin leader and I’d be happy to have you.

  28. whheydt says

    One advantage LotRO has is that such PvP as it has is only in strictly controlled areas that can’t be blundered into accidentally. If you turn of the World chat channel, you can probably avoid 99+% of the problem children.

  29. says

    When I did play WoW, I was in a mature and decent guild that made everything doable and pleasant. But as membership declined that guild became something of a ghost town — it was rare to be on at the same time anyone else was.

  30. says

    I recommend Armello, as its multiplayer chat is limited to a menu of choices that automatically translate to the languages of your opponents. And it has a set number of turns with few exceptions. Rawr!

  31. dout says

    I never could get into WoW, mainly due to a get-off-my-lawn attitude. I come from the era of text-based MUDs (Chaos Wastes or Hidden Worlds anyone?). I couldn’t help but scoff at the newbs that wanted all the pretty graphics to take away all the imagination.

  32. Kimpatsu says

    I play SWTOR, and in one group operation there was a player who just could not follow anything the team leader said, and then, after an age, he typed three words: “No English. Russian”.
    This is why I have no hair left.

  33. Russell Glasser says

    As a Blizzard employee (though not a game developer or a community manager) I have been assured that we do see and act on the reports against players. There is a certain threshold, where if one account receives reports from multiple players, they will definitely be brought to the attention of a game master. I can also confirm firsthand that the GMs have the ability to pull up chat logs (text at least) and confirm what was said, and that they are likely to make the right call about who should be banned. I don’t know what tools they have for voice chat.

    Of course, one problem is that there are millions of players, so you’ll likely never know if your particular antagonist got banned or not, because you’d likely never play with them again anyway. But you can observe the overall rate with which you encounter toxic players. In my subjective experience in Overwatch, what that guy heard in the story was a pretty rare event, certainly compared to many other games.

  34. says

    The only Blizzard game I play is Hearthstone — the Warcraft-based collectible card game that’s taken the world by storm. You mostly play against other random opponents, but unless you are already on their friends list, direct verbal interaction is restricted to just six different emotes, and even those can be squelched if your opponent is spamming them.

    Lots of players have complained about the lack of interaction between players, but Blizzard’s not budging on that one, for the obvious reason, resulting in a game that’s safe even for kids to play — as long as they don’t accept a friend request from someone they’ve just beaten…

  35. says

    Russell, my experience as a player is that there’s a level of homophobic language that’s pretty much constant in general chat in WoW, and it seems to be considered “part of the culture”. There’s a degree to which that has been the case in every multiplayer game I’ve played, so it seems that while it is probably possible to crack down on that sort of thing and change the culture – especially for a company as big as Blizzard – nobody in charge has decided it’s worth the effort.

  36. emergence says

    Dark Souls and related games have a multiplayer system that mostly gets around this by making direct verbal communication impossible. You have to use gestures and in some cases pre-set voice clips to interact with other players. Weirdly, I’ve noticed that even invading players tend to give a polite bow before dueling with you. That’s not to say there aren’t problems. On the PC version of Dark Souls 3, cheaters can get you banned from the normal multiplayer by dropping hacked items for you to pick up.

  37. says

    But as membership declined that guild became something of a ghost town — it was rare to be on at the same time anyone else was.

    This is kind of every place, I think. You kind of have to form this sort of thing, if you can, from people you know will be on, and are, hopefully, unlikely to quit. Everquest 1 – never did guild. Everquest 2 – eventually did, since I needed on for some ingame incentive they did, to promote people working together. It went from like one more than the minimum to the leader having some sort of issue, and leaving the game, to nearly everyone else bailing, to me in charge, with one other person, who also stopped playing eventually…. Yeah, so.. that worked real well.. :p

    Eve Online – got a corp, one other member, which I met in Second Life – they ran into money issues, and.. stopped playing, also stopped doing Second Life, for reasons of getting annoyed at some internal drama there (some people in RP can’t seem to separate their “character” from “the player”, or some stupid BS, so end up treating the new character badly, if they know its the alt of the same player who they previously got pissed off over something, which happened “in character”. To me this is just.. wtf?) So.. On Eve – me, alone, with a corporation. Sigh.. Should probably cancel that pay account…

    Second Life – better. Sometimes. This is an odd one really. Where I roleplay my faction was almost all Brits. Now, this is a bit of a problem, if you are in the US, since.. yeah, you are rarely if even on when they are. lol But, recently they kind of got fed up with the slow down and took off from City of Lost Angels, which has a combat system, but limited RP elements in it, and where all the role part is done, as a result, purely through text (there is no, “I am rolling dice to see if I can Macguever a solution.”, sort of thing), to one that does, called Convergence, but which I don’t plan to go to, not least due to the fact that I can’t really “take” a version of my current character with me (a major issue, since I am always that character, unless I am my one, recently created, alt).

    When the economy slumped, and thanks to some “upgrades” that Linden has done over the years.. its harder for combat systems to work, and fewer people “online” to be in the sims. But, there is an insane collection of everything from pirate themed, to vampire themed, to modern town themed, to.. you name it out there. Also – dance clubs, art exhibitions, etc. Then there is Linden games, and MadPea – the former is experimental stuff, to show of features, and.. interesting at times.. The latter, is like.. bloody close to finding yourself in mini versions of Uru Online, or one of the other Myst games. Then there are places that are practically state parks… you name it.

    So, even if your on at the wrong times, or people leave the group (unless the group ghost towns, like mine just did), there are still things to do, more or less, and places to go. And, there is no entire zone filled with 120*** Uber Mega level Spaz Demons, to insta-kill you, when you try to see the new content in the new area you heard about. lol

    But.. then there are down sides too, not the least being that, even though assholes can be banned “easy” by sim owners, on a per sim basis, so the sim owner, or their moderator, can, in effect, ban the jerk from the “zone” you RP in, its not an MMO, so all the MMO people don’t want to play it, and its not a full RP environment, in the sense of a table top, or something, and it lags, and.. yeah.. One hopes some of these get fixed in Sansar, or someone fixes them in a new virtual world. But, eh… its home, for now. lol

  38. says

    I’ve avoided online games for a variety of reasons, this being one of them. It was the same and as common back when online gaming meant MUDs.

    Many single player games offer language filters, so why can’t online game developers? Developers crack down on cheating, so why not behaviour as well? The fact that they do nothing to curb or punish behaviour tells you that they don’t consider this to be important. Game makers and other corporations certainly seem intent on blocking people from using their own names.