The Games Bullies Play

12


guy gamer.JPGI recently read a pretty disturbing article from the BBC about video games. But this isn’t the usual heard-it-all-before-video-games-are-evil fodder. No, the subject matter we’re talking about here is different, and it involves a subject we hear about all too much: bullying.

It seems as though nine out of 10 titles released today have an online component. That is, the player can join in against multiple opponents online. Sometimes it’s as a member of a team. Sometimes it’s as a lone wolf. The competition is bound to spark some low-level “trash talk”—I know because I’ve experienced it for myself—but threats of rape and even death? Really? And keep in mind that these threats are coming through a headset in real time, not words being typed on a screen.

The article I read dealt with the male—vs.- female aspect of gaming and how the two sexes interact with each other while competing online. But it went further than that. And that’s where the “trash talk” thing really went into the garbage bin. I can’t repeat the vulgar names used or the graphic threats that were made to the female players, so just take my word for it, it’s bad.

What are the major console developers doing to curtail these ridiculous actions? If a gamer tag (“CB” handle, if you will) insists on making vulgar and/or threatening comments then it should be hasta la vista for them: They should lose their online account. That’s not the case, according to the article. Some of the worst offenders still have active accounts with their respective providers.

Now that I have a daughter of my own, this stuff hits me harder than it ever has before.

Parents, here’s what you can do to maybe avoid this situation.:

1) Check out the Parental Controls on your video gaming console.

2) Keep the gaming activities in a high traffic area, not in your teen’s room.

3) Don’t accept invitations from gamer tags you don’t recognize.

4) If all else fails, simply turn off the Internet connection capability on your gaming console.

That last one will most likely create some static between you and your kid, but it may spare them some seriously turbocharged “trash talk.”

Who wrote this?

Graphic Designer for PLUGGEDIN.COM. Cutting his design teeth at Scripture Press/Cook Communications, Kevin brings years of ministry and freelance experience to Plugged In's visual presentation. He also analyzes video games for our reviews and contributes an occasional blog.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Tancosin:

Indeed. Team Fortress 2 is probably my favourite game (most played for sure - Steam tells me I have 641 hours on it), and one of the best parts is it's community, which seems to mostly be made up of guys between the ages of 20 and 40.

I find pretty much anything PC-exclusive is usually more friendly.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Brian:

Agree with Mike and others - the worst abuse that I've ever encountered or heard on things like Xbox Live has been from younger players - ones who should have parents present.  In addition, there are certain games which regularly attract these sort of people (primarily Halo games, Call of Duty, and some PC games like DOTA) while other online communities are very friendly and opening (Team Fortress, Dark Souls, Battlefield).  The problem is that the vocal abusers overshadow many in much the same way that a squeeky wheel detracts from the quiet, efficient running of the rest of a machine.  By no measure is it the majority of the contraption, it's just the most jarring.

Threats in these sorts of environments are ones which are definitely shocking, but they are also typically a random, juvenile bluster - they are made simply because the abuser has no intelligent way to trash talk (unlike Robin Williams in Hook or Shakespeare in many of his plays).  I'm not excusing the crude behavior of some people in the community, but what has been done is anonymity has allowed some to act without consequences.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bob:

Solution? Turn off the volume (at least its what I do).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Anon:

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Beyond the authentication, sound quality, and interpretive issues (which person is saying this, which that, etc.), I imagine it would be very difficult in many cases for an outside observer to separate abuse worthy of disciplinary action from the constant stream of playful banter.

I feel like it's important to say here that family-friendly service is not what Live, at least, attempts to offer. It's a service for those steady players willing to plunk down $60 a year for multiplayer access. As such, most of the steady, 'hardcore' players actually driving the Live community are adults college-age and up, and they communicate in an 'adult' (for lack of a better word) manner. They often welcome and actively engage in verbal sparring during matches, good-naturedly exchanging insults (sexual and otherwise) and profanity, establishing friendly rivalries, and so on. It's not abuse. For these players, it's just part of the fun. I realize that parents of children interested in these sorts of online multiplayer communities don't (or at least, I agree, shouldn't) appreciate this atmosphere. Frankly, as an occasional Live player, I would appreciate it if these parents would keep their children out of Live. As I and some others mentioned previously, it really is the children and less mature teens that tend to behave in a way that is actually abusive, who take the playful banter as a justification for that sort of aggression.

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So, basically, if your kid isn’t mature enough to play frisbee with a group of random college-age strangers at the park, for our and their sake, please don't let them engage in communities like Live.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  neildown:

I must agree. Even though I don't (and physically can't) game online, I hear more foul language from said age groups than I do from most others just in general.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Mike:

Can the conversations be recorded as proof so when complain (or prosecution) happens, there will be evidence?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Eh:

Ironically, the WORST language and threats of rape and worse come FROM the 9-16 year olds. Some of the stuff spewing from this one 12 year old girl was eyebrow raising. The adults and most of the older highschoolers are very relaxed and mild with the language.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Charger:

When ever I play on Xbox thats what I do. Just mute them. Now thats easy on consoles but on PC its harder. PC has voice chat that you can mute but it also has text chat which I can't seem to turn off. So even if I mute them they can still type it. And to agree with everybody, what some people say online is just sad. Unable to repeat bad. But one way to bypass it is to only play with friends that you know, thats how I do it. (Even better if you get friends from church (and if some are dads Bonus!)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

I just prefer not playing online in general, unless it's with friends I already know in real life but am currently unable to play locally.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Anon:

As an Xbox owner and occasional Live player, I definitely agree abuse of all kinds is a big problem in gaming, particularly in the Xbox Live community, which seems to attract the most infantile of the gaming community (in my experience, the most abusive of players are actually the 11-16 year-olds, not adult gamers, who tend to actually be pretty chill). As far as banning all abusive accounts, though, this is next to impossible. For one, the sheer volume of complaints, most of which would be fraudulent, would be very difficult to sift through and judge by any solid criteria. Innocent players would end up getting banned, provoking a huge backlash in the Live community and gaming community as a whole. It really has to be the players themselves that figure out how to regulate/discourage this sort of thing. Many, as the article points out, are trying, with some success.

If I could add some advice to parents of Xbox Live gamers: every game I've played on Live has a mute function. One can mute abusive/annoying players or, if one feels like it, mute all players. This is, in my experience, the only way to play in public matches without exposure to language/abuse.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Just a random commenter:

Just thought I would add one other thing you could do.

Most big-time games that I have played(Starcraft 2, Call of Duty, and many others) have "block lists" or a mute feature. My friends and I mute all the players in every Call of Duty match we play. StarCraft 2 is even better giving you the ability to block players forever . So, if you met up with the bully in question again he still would be blocked. And one last thing, if all else fails you can just mute your TV.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  A'nW:

Hi, I just had to comment on this (it is my first time). I could not agree more with your concerns. I play online computer games a bit (once or twice a week), and the insults and bullying has occasionally gotten pretty bad. I just recently learned that consoles had voice chatting built in though (I hardly ever play consoles and never online). To say the least, I was shocked. After having seen what some people took the time to write out in a chat bar, I could only imagine what would happen given the free reign of voice chatting.