Posted by: rhino7592 | December 16, 2009

The scary voice on the other end.

I am part of a generation raised on video games. 

I realized this was evident when I was reading a gaming magazine (the subscription was free with my Gamestop card) that stated something to the effect that there are now policy makers who have played the same games I grew up with.  Two things hit me:  I am old, and how will my (and my peers) take on the video gaming world affect future generations.

But let’s start at the beginning…

My dad was big into AV technology.  He owned an 8 track for God’s Sake. I can remember our first VCR circa 1980 that was a top loader with push buttons similar to a cassette player.  I can remember a neighbor having a Laserdisc player around the same time.  It was basically a DVD player but the discs were the size of 33 1/3 lps.  (Needless to say ahead of its time, but VHS ruled the next 15 years. )

Somewhere during that same time the Atari 2600 was introduced. The simpler days of a joystick with one button, and an arrow to tell you which way was up.  That wasn’t good enough for my household.  We got the Intellivision system.  The graphics were better and you had a keypad with a directional disc.  The games even came with acrylic overlays that would slide onto the keypad to tell you which buttons did what.  Intellivision also came out with a module that would allow the games to talk, which I think would baffle today’s kids who own handheld games with infinitely more computing power that my beloved Intellivision.  (When Xbox can release a single game disc containing almost the entire first generation catalog of Intellivision games, you know you are not dealing with a sophisticated system.)  To my young eyes, it was the coolest thing ever and I have been hooked for life.

I have been there every step of the way as the technology has improved.  NES? Check.  Super NES? Check.  Sega? Check.  3DO? (don’t ask, but still guilty) PS1? Check.  PS2? Check.  Xbox? Check.

Now I am firmly planted in an Xbox 360.  I have seen the Red Ring of Death and lived to tell about it. My best friend is the Lord of the Red Rings, four and counting. At 36, I was still waiting with child-like anticipation for Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 to be released and bought them the day they were. There are upcoming titles that I am salivating for as well.

Now I come to my issue.  As most of you familiar with gaming know, the gaming consoles’ bread and butter is online play, and a large majority of gaming titles are now built for the online experience.  Nowhere is this more evident than the current bestseller Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Like Halo and Tom Clancy’s more popular titles of the past. MW2 is a first-person shooter in which players compete against other individual teams as soldiers in photo realistic environments.  Obviously, there is plenty of blood and carnage to go around, but I don’t have a problem with that.   By now parents should be aware what there children are playing and should monitor their gaming.  (Frankly I wish there was a way to filter out the players you can compete against based on age. There are few things more humbling than getting waxed by a 14-year-old and listen to him talk smack once the game is over)

Online play has expanded the possibilities of interaction between players on a global scale.  I have a group of online friends that live across the nation and are from many different backgrounds, colors and ethnicities.  I have been playing with this core of friends for several years now. I have listened to them grow up, get married, have kids, move from one time zone to another.  Until recently I did not know what most of them looked like until l we started linking up on Facebook.

Therein lies the problem.  The facelessness of online play has really opened my eyes to some of the vast differences in our society.  Most of the people I come into contact with during online gaming are just like me:  They want to play a game they enjoy against a human opponent and have some social  interaction along the way.  However, I have been in games with people who are racist, intolerant to people of a certain religious background, or just play the role of Ugly American.   The scariest part of all this is that the worst offenders tend to be younger players. 

I guess because they are just an anonymous voice from West Nowhere, they feel like they can say anything they want without consequence.  I guess I was raised differently, but I would never say some of the things I have heard in gaming rooms, whether I believed them or not.  To hear these things coming from someone clearly under the age of 20 is scary to say the least.

And the worst part of it is I think most of the offenders do it because they can and there is no recourse.  I know most of you are thinking, “if you don’t like it just change rooms or mute the player.”  It’s not that I don’t want to defend anyone’s right to free speech, after all I am blogging.  My point is what is becoming acceptable in the online world, which is, by definition, a public forum is not reality.  Most of the offending gamers would never utter the same vitriol while standing in the middle of  Times Square without fear of some kind of reprisal. 

The same analogy can be used for the rampant drug addled gamers who use their time online to talk about how high they are, getting, or plan to get.  Again, what they do in their private time is their business, whether the act of which is illegal or not.  I am just saying these same people would not be having these conversations in a public place.

So whats the big deal?  I touched on it before.  While I am a grown man who has made my place in the world, there are millions of impressionable gamers who have not.   They are being subjected to all of the same things that have piqued my interest.  Does this mean that there needs to be regulation of the gaming world? Absolutely not.  You can not truly regulate online gaming anymore than you could truly regulate internet content.  The only true regulation starts at home.



  1. You getting Tom Clancy’s Hawks 2?

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