Burning Down In-Game Chat is a Good Idea

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  • Overwatch’s much anticipated “competitive mode” launched recently. At first, I thought this would be a breath of fresh air. I’m a fiercely competitive person so a mode that would start to separate the wheat from the chaff is right up my alley. I’ve played on enough teams with no chance at victory to want a little separation between myself, players way better and way worse than me.

    After 9 matches, I remembered that this was the internet and almost everyone is an asshole.

    Though Blizzard has been incredibly active in banning abusive players from chat, the problem is still apparent. Players who don’t swear or use slurs but still manage to be rude and overcritical will never go away. If something is even a tad competitive there will always be jerks, sadly.

    So what’s to be done? Are good sports and tender hearts to forever bear the torment of internet assholes? Will any brave developer boldly remove all chat features except for prearranged groups?

    Well, at least one already did. In 2013 Guerrilla Cambridge released Killzone: Mercenary for the PlayStation Vita without any kind of in game voice chat. For the first time in years when I loaded up multiplayer I was not awash in homophobic or racial slurs, disparaging comments about my mother, or asked to commit suicide after poor play. Instead, there was just the sound of videogame violence.

    It feels good to just play a game with some other folks and not have them screaming obscenities at you. While communications is essential in raid-type engagements, how much does it actually matter if you can talk to your team in team deathmatch?

    A great example of this in practice is Destiny. Many players forgo chat all together in PvP. Those who do desire chat only talk to private groups. When raiding players turn on the mics to talk to their entire teams but because there is no matchmaking most players have a preexisting relationship with their fireteam and thus, are less prone to abuse them.

    The internet is a beautiful and powerful tool when it is used to connect disparate communities. However, all too often it’s used as a tool for others to bully behind a veneer of anonymity. Twitter and comment sections can be plenty brutal, but once any amount of competition enters the formula, all bets are off.

    Competition should be fun. But it should be fun because of the game at hand. If you need to make fun of me or others to make it fun for you, or to dull the sting of losing a match, something is wrong. Killzone: Mercenary and Destiny proved that it can be made available when vital. If friends want to talk, there’s dozens of ways for them to do so. Banning group chat might be an extreme step, but let’s be honest, we’ll never be able to ban the assholes. It’s time to burn the chat house down.

     

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