by Heather Hale
Many moons ago, after months of hearing how cool it was, my boyfriend convinced me to start playing World of Warcraft. At first it was very fun and exciting, I ran around aimlessly watching my boyfriend and his brother show off their cool mounts and duel each other in front of me. I loved doing quests and getting pets and stuff, overall I really enjoyed playing up until I got up to level whatever it is where you start running into the other faction. I didn’t understand what PvP really meant, but I knew I had to pick it to be able to play with my boyfriend and friends. From level whatever onward, there was many a late night trying to finish up a quest line or gain reputations points so I could finally buy that Pinto horse I’d been dying for, where even deep in a cave, far away from everything, some jerk blood-elf rouge would somehow find me and completely ruin my night. Now I am a very non-confrontational person in life and in games so whenever a PvP scenario came up my heart started pounding out of control and even if I was somewhat equally matched (aka the fair way to fight someone in that game, which almost NEVER happens) I became so nervous I don’t know if I’ve ever survived (even against dumb rogue jerks who were lower level than me.) Not to mention how many straight up bullies who are bored with maxed out levels who just wait around to kill you over and over again. When I couldn’t summon my big strong friends to defend my honor I often had to quit playing all together because of these bullies (I’m sorry if some douche stole your lunch money in middle school but that’s no reason to ruin people’s fun so you can feel like a big man – and yes you are most likely a man.) I always thought about going to Warcraft panels at conventions in my anime schoolgirl outfit where you share you story and forcing out some tears about having to quit playing after being “camped” all the time, just to try to manipulate some jerks into thinking twice before they gank a random stranger. I wonder if it would have worked, or if they’d just revel more knowing they removed one more female gamer from the equation.
…Excuse my ranting, but this kind of behavior put a huge damper on my online gaming experience and honestly discouraged me from continuing to play Warcraft and online games in general. The world of online gaming has become so unnecessarily hostile that I don’t even dare to let a stranger join our group in Little Big Planet. My past online gaming experience has made me too terrified to try it again. Even with a game like Left 4 Dead, which I have played a fair amount of and felt comfortable enough to try, playing online turned out to be a nightmare. The problem for me is the lack of separation from the people who have every aspect of the game memorized and can make it so you don’t even have a chance at playing the game, and the people who just want to have a good time and try it out. It’s really a shame too because playing as the infected is one of the most fun parts of that game and I’ve smashed too few cars as the Tank because of this problem. There is no easing you in factor to the multiplayer modes of this type of game. Unless you are very lucky, you are up against people who seem to do little else than master every nook and cranny of every level. Even someone like my boyfriend, who is a very nice person and understands (for the most part) that games are supposed to be fun – I still catch him getting angry at “noobs” in games he plays a lot, and if even he has mean online gamer syndrome then there is little hope of curing the online gaming world.
Recently, some friends asked me to try the online multi-player mode in Mass Effect 3 and I have to admit I have some trepidation. Even though I love the game and essentially already know how to play, I hesitate to give online gaming another go with someone other than my little sister. Perhaps, the “girl” factor comes into play concerning my fears of even playing even alongside my male gamer friends. I always feel like I have to do a lot of preparing before I even attempt to play in front of/with other people in any game. I clearly have some deep-seated damage from the anti-girl gamer climate, and I have a feeling I am not the only one. The thing that sucks is that online gaming COULD be so much fun. I’ve even had rare encounters with a friendly enemy in Warcraft or someone doing something non-game related just for laughs. The moral of the story is: next time you find yourself getting pissed at “noobs,” try to remember that it’s just a game – it’s supposed to be fun, and everyone has to start somewhere so don’t be a bully, us nerds gotta stick together.
Heather Hale is a graduate of the Masters in Cinema Studies at NYU. This article originally appeared on her blog Video Game Girlfriend, and is republished with her permission.