I’ve always been a huge gamer. I grew up playing Team Buddies and Smurf Racing with my siblings and eventually transitioned to more modern, hardcore games in my teenage years. I started playing Call of Duty and Halo with my cousins every weekend when I was about sixteen, and the trend continued from there. Getting yelled at and made fun of for being a noob was never something new to me, but the severity of it changed between childhood and adolescence, and I had to learn how to cope with requests to make sandwiches and return to the kitchen every time I logged in. At first, I was blindly upset with every online match, attacking other players for my own negative experiences. It took years of misplaced blame for me to figure out that I was escalating my own issues, and that I had the power to stop the harassment. These five tips will not only help those who feel like they’re constantly picked on, but also those who tend to be a part of the problem of online gaming.
- Don’t participate in bullying or trolling.
Smack talk is okay, ribbing your friends is okay, but there’s always a line between “fun” and “hurtful.” In my experience with my cousins, we toed this line far too often, and it led to more hurt feelings and rage quits than anything else. It’s okay to make jokes, and it’s okay to be yourself (as long as “yourself” isn’t an all-around jerk who isn’t pleasant to be around in any company). Just like Thumper says to Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” This is a little different from my aunt’s favorite mug, which reads, “If you can’t say anything nice, at least make it funny.” Honestly, both are applicable, as long as the intention behind the joke is to uplift rather than hurt. It’s okay to laugh off a bad play, but it’s not okay to overreact and fly into a rage over something as silly as rushing the enemy team as Tracer, instead of pushing the payload in Overwatch.
It’s also important to remember that non-verbal and text communication is just as important as verbal. Don’t be the jerk that spams the, “I need healing!” voiceline at 98% health. Use communicative abilities the way they were meant to be used, and be polite to other players. Be a part of the team, and if someone needs a hand, give it to them. The golden rule applies to more than just words, and help often comes to those who help others.
- Disable or mute players who are being excessively mean.
If the abuse gets to be too severe, turn off voice chat completely. Muting is your most powerful weapon in the online gaming world. You have the ability to shut someone off completely, which means you have the power in any given situation. Is someone claiming they fornicated with your mother last night? Mute them! Is someone taking potshots at a sexual orientation that you do or don’t identify with? Mute them!
It’s simple. If someone is insulting you, making you feel uncomfortable, or otherwise talking to you in a way you wish they wouldn’t, all you have to do to make it stop is mute them. There’s no need for confrontation or further insult when you have the power to cut them off at the source. Then, once the perpetrator has been silenced, you can continue to have fun with your game as if they had never said anything at all.
- Don’t play into their hands: trolls feed off reaction, and jerks want to feel like they have power over you. They don’t.
The thing about victimization is that it can often be avoided. Everyone has a hand in their own fate, and getting offended is a choice. You have the power to choose how you react, even if the comment you’re responding to was horrible.
One of the most popular game video genres on YouTube is “trolling.” What makes these videos so popular are the reactions of the people being trolled. Few people would want to watch a video of a guy being a jerk if there wasn’t some sort of reward, and the reward often comes in the form of a fourteen-year-old screeching profanity at said troll for corner trapping them in Search & Destroy.
The point is, don’t be the screeching fourteen-year-old. There’s no reason for you to verbally react to any troll, especially if you know they’re trying to get under your skin. Mute them, leave the game, and join a new group. The best thing to do if you’re frustrated is to just be done with it, because you’re only giving them power if you react.
Alternatively, you can strip them of power by going along with their joke. If they’re throwing out horrendous insults, agree with them – they’ll often feel awkward and guilty for their insult, rather than empowered for hurting your feelings. If your team is ganging up on you to set up an elaborate prank, play along. The joke will cease to be funny, and they’ll likely give up or leave. It’s important to keep a good attitude, and if you feel your resolve slipping, you always have the power to leave the game.
- Don’t let them get to you.
My dad made the best point after one particularly nasty interaction between me and a stranger: these are people that you don’t know, who don’t know you, and what they say has absolutely no bearing on your life. Internet culture is mean. Social media has created a cesspool for hate speech and online disinhibition, and online gaming is no exception. Hiding behind a username, players will use their anonymity to be meaner to strangers than they’d be to their own worst enemies.
What’s important to remember is that these people are not personally attacking you. These users are attacking everyone, finding any excuse they can to take out their own bad feelings on someone else. They don’t know you, they don’t know your life, and you have nothing to fear from them. Don’t let yourself be hurt by insults based on general observations or straw-grasping. It is within your power to ignore them and build up your own self-confidence to a point where their petty jabs don’t affect you.
- Defend other players.
If someone in your game is being harassed, and you can hear it, step in and defend them. You’ll likely be crucified for doing so, but hey – you’ll make them feel better, and you’ll make your mother proud. The bystander effect is a disease; don’t let yourself succumb to the desire to remain invisible. Someday, with practice, you’ll have thick skin. It then becomes your responsibility to help others find that same confidence.
Helping another player can be something as simple as saying, “Hey, ignore them, MinecraftGod87. I’m going to mute them, and you should too.” As a general rule in life and in gaming, you should build others up instead of bringing them down. As Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” If someone is obviously hurt or frustrated by the actions of other people in the game, try to comfort them or take their mind off it. Now that you’ve learned to rise above the harassment, you can pass on your knowledge, and little by little make the wonderful world of online gaming a happy place in which anyone can cheerfully play.
Online gaming is a way for people to interact and connect with others who share common interests and hobbies. It should be an overwhelmingly positive union, but has turned into a disappointingly negative experience on many levels. I believe this is slowly improving, but the first step to any real change in online gaming lies in the players. Certain gaming communities may be too far gone to save (Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Halo), but there is still hope for others (Overwatch, Left 4 Dead, Dark Souls). Teamwork should fuel conversation, not intent to injure, and if you’re looking for an excuse to be offended, you’ll find it. Remember, you’re the captain of your own ship, and it’s easier to make friends with white sails than cannonballs. You can make all the difference by bringing a positive attitude and kind words to video games that are meant to be fun.