Online Gaming: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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.


About Heather Hale

Heather Hale is a graduate of the Masters in Cinema Studies at NYU.
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  • VideogameGirlfriend

    Hi! I’m the author and my blog is if anyone is interested!

  • darkchild130

    You clearly don’t have the mentality for competitive online gaming, so I suggest you stay away from it. It has nothing to do with your sex.

  • Timothy Pecoraro

    I think most people reading your first example would wonder what you’d expect on a PVP server. Which is what you must have been on. If you don’t like PVP play on a PVE server. Your second example is one that many people have faced in Left 4 Dead. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact your a girl. I’ve gotten booted from Left 4 Dead games for not knowing the maps well enough.
    Finally, not to be picky here, but if you want to be taken seriously you might not want to keep bringing up your boyfriend. It makes you sound like a hanger-on. That’s just my op.

    • darkchild130

      I said something similar in not so many words and my comment was removed (or at least I can’t see it any more)

  • jimofthewords

    I’m almost embarrassed to ask, as if everyone else is in on the satire but me, but is this article serious? Like, really serious? If so… well, let’s just say it’s my opinion that it doesn’t live up to the usual high standards of this site. The writer appears to have taken on the persona of the stereotypical gamer girl that her peers are trying so hard to shed. I mean, whining about PvP because it detracts from your pony-buying experience? Lacking any big strong boys to come and save you? The boyfriend driven rhetoric? Sexist comments like ‘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’ which pretty much equates to ‘Boyz r mean’? The self-objectification of dressing up as a school girl in the hope of manipulating dominant males? And this idea the only ‘safe’ person to play with is your little sister? Jeeeeeesus. It’s like a Kotaku commenter’s idea of femininity come to life.
    If this is satirical it’s hilarious. If it isn’t I despair, not at it having been written (we may each write what we please) but at the editorial decision to republish it here.

  • JosephHilgard

    I can sympathize with being pushed aside by more experienced players before you get a chance to learn to play well – that’s poor matchmaking, and good games should provide the means for players to seek out groups that play at their level of optimum challenge.

    However, you can’t really blame people on the PvP server for picking on you. Those are the rules of PvP, and players can only be expected to exercise their agency and competence as they see fit within those rules. The game does provide for those that don’t want to expose themselves to PvP action, so it’s hard to find fault with the game, either.

    People certainly could be more civil, but it’s also not necessarily “bullying” to play to win.

    It’s not uncommon to see people trying to use videogames less as games of competition and skill and more as virtual hangouts: consider Minecraft servers or role-play servers in online FPSes. I don’t find virtual hangouts to be nearly so rewarding as the real thing, and I get the feeling that you don’t either. Either play a game that you really enjoy, or spend time with your friends – trying to combine the two like this doesn’t seem to be working for you.

    Stand up for yourself & exercise some autonomy. Less “Video Game Girlfriend” and more “Video Game Woman”.

  • Vivienne Chan

    It took me a whole day and then some after reading your article before writing and posting this comment, and I tell you this because I don’t want you, the author, to think that I am writing it out of a lack of thought, reflection, and self-analysis. As a person who plays video games fervently and who is also a girl (and whose gaming experience has 0% to do with a boyfriend’s influence), I think that while your article makes a lot of very fair and very good points, it is difficult to take them seriously given its tone and your undeveloped argument.

    You mention not enjoying being ganked in WoW or for being booted off of maps in L4D. You attributed these to two factors: 1 – that you don’t want to spend time getting “pro” at a game that you are not enjoying (or, because you are constantly getting ganked/booted, you CAN’T get pro at it), and 2 – that you are a girl.

    The first factor has merit. It’s a long-standing discussion over why people play games and how everyone believes a game “should” be played. In online gaming, where your gaming experience is not isolated and actively requires other people participating, it stands to reason that there are factors beyond your control – you have to account for the preferences and choices of others, not just your own. So, you have a point: getting booted or ganked because you are deemed somehow not “good” enough sucks. It really, really does. I empathize. And it would be awesome if all of us could take just a little responsibility and decency to increase everyone’s aggregate experience.

    But for my part, I do take issue with the fact that you are calling for OTHER people to change before you can enjoy something. Why not turn the lens on yourself and just state that PvP isn’t for you (and WoW has RPG servers specifically for people who don’t enjoy it!), or that you can maybe look at building experience by playing with friends and not bother playing with strangers? Or find a server with people you like and know and just stick to that server? I acknowledge that sometimes it can feel like you’re not getting the “full” experience, but if getting that “full” experience requires you slogging through hours of things you find not fun, then what precisely is the point? I say cut your losses; it’s just not FOR you, and that’s okay. Switch servers, or switch games.

    The second factor – that you are a girl and “anti-gamer-girl culture” is what’s to blame – is complete and utter bullshit. I’m sorry, but it is. It’s difficult to think of ANYONE who plays WoW or L4D or any online game that hasn’t been the victim of some form of vitriol, and don’t forget – most of the time, they don’t know you’re a girl unless you TELL them so. Maybe there’s an argument to be made for pulling your pigtails to get your attention, but by and large, ganking is almost entirely opportunistic. And if people are booting you from a map because you don’t know it, it’s because YOU DON’T KNOW IT and they want to play with an experienced team because that’s how THEY enjoy their game. It is very, very rarely (if not NEVER) that it is because you’re a girl.

    You say that “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.” You may not be the only one, but you’re definitely in the minority. You may attribute the need for preparation to an “anti-girl” climate, but it sounds more like you are entirely too concerned with what people will think if you are a little less experienced than the other people on the server. That’s got NOTHING to do with you being a girl – that’s a personality thing. That’s personal preference. And I am calling you out on it because I’ve felt a similar way in the past; that whole “I’m a girl and so people will assume I suck at games so I have to be GOOD to break the mould.” I used to think that, but now, through experience, I know it’s total and utter crap. You play how YOU want to play, for YOURSELF and not because you are answering to (male OR female) more hardcore gamers.

    “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.” – I take so much issue with this statement of yours that I have to say, very frankly, that you really need to get over yourself. Does the environment need to be nicer and less hostile? Yes, absolutely, I agree. But playing the victim and being all “WAH WAH THEY HATE ME CUZ I’M A GIRL” is not going to get it done. NO ONE should be cutting you some slack just because you’re a girl, and maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but it certainly sounded that way.

    Not to mention that thinking of wearing an anime schoolgirl outfit and crying about leaving the game in an effort to manipulate other people is a shining example of feminine empowerment. Yeah. SHINING EXAMPLE. Plus, insulting to boys as well. Good work, you’ve offended both ladies AND dudes with a single thought.

    You strike me as someone who struggles to take ownership. You attribute playing WoW to your boyfriend, and you measure your experience against what other people expect or think of you. You call on an entire genre to be nice, but not because “everyone’s playing together so let’s play nice and you can be a PvP jerk over here while I can be a carebear RPG ore miner over here”… but rather because you feel victimized. And you blame that victimization on YOUR OWN gaming preferences, and on your own gender. (And then you threaten to use a disempowering gender stereotype to get your way. Again, good work.)

    I guess I’m saying, as a fellow female: be proud of being a girl and everything, but don’t connect your gender to things that aren’t related to it in the first place. The complaints you have are nothing to do with your gender and instead everything to do with a genre that has yet to learn how to play in the same sandbox, as well as your own personal preferences for what you like to see in a video game. Take ownership for the stuff that’s yours, and you may find people responding to your arguments more positively.

    And on a totally unrelated note, I’ve read some of your articles on “Video Game Girlfriend” just to get a feel for what you’re about. You actually make some good points on that blog, and I applaud you for saying many of the things you say. And this is 100% my opinion here, but that blog title really frames much of what you write in a very “I self-identify as someone’s girlfriend and the only reason I am into video games is because I am a gamer’s girlfriend” sort of way – and I can’t quite articulate why right now, but man, that just BOTHERS me. Like I said, though: that’s just me and my thing, and I own that.

    • VideogameGirlfriend

      Hi Vivenne,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I think I should explain a bit about myself and my blog which might help. As someone who has been in the film studies world for a long time, and as someone who has always loved videogames, I was amazed to find that there was a culture of people doing academic writing about games. I got to take a course in videogame theory and decided that I want to try to pursue a Phd studying games. I started the blog as a fun way to just get some of my ideas down on paper, none of the articles have been super preconceived, I just sat down for a little while and expressed some random thoughts. I came to medium difficulty and sent in a few pieces because I liked the thoughtful tone of the site and was excited to be a part of it. Not exactly knowing what would be used, I didn’t re-write or re-think anything before it was posted, had I known anyone would actually take the time to think about my writing I would have taken this whole process much more seriously, and will in the future.

      It is a difficult thing to find your niche when it comes to writing about games, and the idea behind videogame girlfriend is not so much about being a girl whose boyfriend plays games, it’s more about someone on the margins of the game world, who watches and experiments at a distance, and about why it can be so intimidating to take the plunge into today’s gaming world. I had always intended the tone not to be taken so seriously, it’s just a place where I try to sort out my thoughts that I never really expected many people to read. I am flattered that anyone even took the time to get mad about it, so for that I thank you. I hope you’ll continue to read.

      P.S. To the rest who are mostly concerned about why I played a PVP server, I didn’t even know what that meant when I started playing, and when all your friends are already on a server, what choice do you really have? I stand by my opinion that camping someone is WOW is rude no matter who you are.

      All the Best,

      • Vivienne Chan

        If your article wasn’t meant to be serious, then yeah, I can give it some leeway. Like I said – your point about people beings dicks in online games is a legitimate one, if poorly supported.

        And I did give your blog a fair go, reminding myself all the while that it was a personal project rather than a critical one, but I had to stop at the “how to get your girlfriends to play video games with you” (or something like that) post. I found that entire thing completely offensive to me (for one it perpetuates all kinds of awful stereotypes about girls and gamers and girl gamers), but hey, I’m probably not your target demographic.

  • miaou

    Your boyfriend gets mad at ‘noobs’ online because he is playing to have fun.

    Everyone who memorises every nook and cranny of a game’s levels and systems is also playing to have fun.

    The way they are playing these games is for the competition (either against other players, in WoW, or against the environment or score in L4D). It’s fun to win and the only reliable way to win in any game worth playing is to know how the game actually works and be able to exercise that knowledge against your opponent. It’s also fun to face a stiff challenge and have to learn more about the game or your opponent’s playing style to meet it, even if you lose.

    Nobody older than 4 or 5 really finds just picking up the pieces of a chess set and moving them around randomly on the chessboard much fun; at some point a person with any interest in chess is driven to learn how chess is actually played. You would be evicted from even a ‘casual’ or ‘friendly’ chess tournament if you turned up and moved the pieces randomly like a child. You’d be spoiling everyone elses’ fun; everyone else turned up for challenging games against people who knew what they were doing, or who were at least prepared to engage with the rules of the game.

    In chess and other non-digital games played with a board or cards or balls or whatever, nobody who even knew it were a competitive game, whether they even knew the first thing about it other than that, or even if they hated sports or whatever, would defend your aimless and ignorant manner of playing, they’d intuitively know you shouldn’t be having fun if you ‘play’ it like that.

    For some reason, and you, Heather, are far from the only one in this hobby who believes this, all bets are off on ‘fun’ when it comes to videogames. Thousands of people ‘play’ these games just to roll the pawns around in their palms*. I’ll give you that videogames are a degree more visually impressive and often more mechanically complex than traditional forms of gaming, so the pleasure of just mucking about with the things that make pretty sparkles might entertain even adults for some amount of time, but at some point surely the desire to learn how to actually play emerges nonetheless?

    All games are competition (against another player, a previous high score, the simulated environment, whatever), playing the game requires engaging in that competition, engaging requires learning about how the systems of the game work and taking it seriously. If you refuse to learn how the game works, then there is no reason to expect that you should be able to have fun with it. This should be true of videogames as well as literally every other category of game in existence.

    If you are the recipient of any personal hostility (i.e. booting form Left4Dead) in online games, it’s because you are ruining other peoples’ fun, and I hope in light of my argument you can see why that might be. This is why most online games these days have matchmaking.

    As a sort of aside; when you say something like “it’s just a game – it’s supposed to be fun” you are not taking games seriously. I would really hope that ‘games aren’t meant to be taken seriously’ is not a sentiment held by anyone seriously thinking of pursuing a Ph.D in games – that would strike me as intellectually lazy, as though you’re taking this course because the bar is lower in games academia than in, say, film. What can one hope to add to the conversation about videogames if one has spent an article complaining that they shouldn’t even need to learn how to play games properly?

    And no, none of this has anything to do with the equipment you have between your legs. Women are perfectly capable of competition, as the existence of women athletes and sportswomen at high levels of play in those games should attest. Men are just encouraged to be competitive more often (so that even men who dislike competition are pressured into it).

    If my tone in this comment is a bit cruel, then I’m sorry, but this is a topic that rustles my jimmies to no end.

    * That is what RPG servers in WoW seem to be for – but then the players construct their own social game out of the roleplay, and I bet you wouldn’t dispute having to learn how that worked to have fun with it. The key for you may just be in finding a type of game you enjoy enough to learn about.

  • William Geldernick

    This is just awesome! Love the article but even more the responses. I grew up playing video games since Pong; arcades in the 80’s, consoles in the 90’s, and now as an adult that can afford a great pc I’ve been playing mmo’s for about 7 years. World of Warcraft by far has been the most AND least enjoyable. In fact I googled: “why people can’t get along playing mmo’s” and got this and I’m glad I did! This is an opinion piece and I completely agree with you. Though pvp servers are made for competition and to enjoy assassinating eachother. What I see in your piece is that the casual or part time gamer really has a hard time finding their niche in WoW. I liken it to rush hour traffic – everyone has different driving ability levels, different “geared” cars, different levels of knowledge, and last but I think most importantly, different morals…mostly competing for that next open lane. It can be frustrating, painful, or fairly peaceful, even enjoyable, depending on WHO you are. My fascination personally with the game is by far, simply just the graphics- I am a casual player with just some skill. And the visuals keep me buying more pc hardware and coming back or trying to find another mmo to try. And it has been, in my experience, so addicting and such an easy time sink that I’ve invested and really wasted so much of my real time, energy, focus on an altered reality- that for me it really has become like that hilltop in MOP “Mason’s Folly”. But the fact still remains that these games still are enjoyable. You can even see the gaming industry trying to retain this casual gamer base in various ways through match making or LFR or simplifying the game. I’ve had quite a few great times playing with others but from sitting in my pc chair, I’ve found very few people of the quality I would call lasting friends and I think it’s just simply that where a game’s goal is to build yourself (your toon) up either people take advantage of eachother in this goal or they get in eachothers’ way. This is of course opinion and it is relative. I think it’s funny the lengths people will go to prove their points or opinions about a fantasy game…proving only how vested they are in something that is barely “semi-real”. I feel ya Heather! I wish you well on your film career and any pass time you’d care to share with real friends.