Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Noise on the Game Networks

As a video game enthusiast who landed a PlayStation 3 last Christmas, it’s been great to finally play games on the PlayStation Network. No longer do I have to stick with my PC for all my online gaming. It’s great to play a few rounds of Call of Duty 4 or Grand Theft Auto IV instead of being forced to rotate between DOTA and Day of Defeat.

Playing on the PSN is also my third major exposure to in-game voice chat, but the first time facing the notorious, oft-reported world of profane people (often children) heckling and cursing you out when playing them.

This is not news at all to anyone who’s ever played online, but I find it a hilarious phenomenon anyway. Before PSN, it was rare for me to encounter a chatter who would explode or otherwise disrupt the in-game voice chats by spamming noise so that nobody else could be heard. Usually, if anyone got out of hand, an admin could just step in and mute their Vent/Steam voice chat, and that would be that.

The servers I played on, which tended to be large and well organized, could be counted on to police that kind of behavior effectively. As such, the worst I ever encountered was someone playing their Casio keyboard into their mic, which brought back fond memories of my youth and my own keyboard. I wish I could remember that fellow’s name…

Anyway, the PSN is quite different. There are no admins and there are no organized servers; it’s just you and whoever else is out there randomly thrown together. I haven’t encountered too many voice chatters in GTAIV yet, but CoD4 provided a lot of material.

It’s probably not rocket science to figure out that the reason this kind of behavior is pervasive is because of anonymity. When you’re a 24-year-old playing in your own home, who is really going to discipline you for cracking racist jokes while waiting for a game to start? Who is really going to care, for that matter? Gamers have gone past the point where hearing a 10-year-old fling every curse in the book at you is anything special. It’s part of the landscape, and I think many of us find it fun.

So, if some kid in Tekonsha, Mich. wants to throw every slur up on the wall in Madden or NCAA Football, I say fire away, son.

-- Adam LoBelia

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