So, you’ve just bought your first online game and are eager to jump in and start grinding levels and slaying monsters! You quickly build a character and enter the game world. You look around and see hundreds of other players running around on quests and fighting monsters. But, as you grip that cheap wooden battle-axe, you suddenly realize—you have no idea what you’re doing.
As soon as you figure out some basic controls, you start spamming out HELP messages over the game interface. This is met with a wave of hate and obscenities the likes of which you have never seen before.
Before you can even respond, you are struck down by a level 88 Death Knight.
“Well, that wasn’t very fun at all!” you might be thinking. What you didn’t realize was you joined a PVP (player versus player) server with Roleplaying chat on (where players only speak in-character). You were lost before you even began.
Unfortunately, for many gamers, this is how most begin their online journeys. I remember my first online games (Warcraft III and Final Fantasy XI). They’re fun up until you hit the steep learning curve, at which point you typically become a nuisance for experienced players if you can’t keep up.
The Internet, and games played over the Internet, offer everyone immediate access to just about anything and everyone they can think of. This type of accessibility can have its drawbacks, however. More connections along with almost complete anonymity mean you have the potential to run into some interesting situations.
It all started in the arcades—the original haven for gamers. Arcades were social venues which housed various video game machines that you could spend your quarters to play for short periods of time. Games required a lot of skill, and if you were good enough you were rewarded with your name on the high score list. This level of competition (combined with the fact that arcades required you to physically leave your home) made video gaming a social activity.
The first wave of consoles started a new trend: rather than go out to play in an arcade, home consoles allowed a player to play within the privacy of his or her own home, occasionally with friends. But it wasn’t until the 1990s when video games truly began to take an anti-social form.
Many of the games developed in the 90s were single-player adventure games. There were some pushes to bring back social elements to console gaming, such as party games and other multiplayer games, but this period cemented the stereotype of the anti-social gamer lurking alone in a dark room.
During this time, however, PC gaming was also becoming more popular, adding the advantage of playing games over the Internet. While consoles eventually caught up and added Internet connectivity, PC gamers have been re-connecting through cyberspace and re-inventing what social interaction means.
Many people still see this as anti-social behavior, but I like to think of it as a new frontier of interaction. Whether the Internet is the new standard means for communication or just an intermediate to whatever form of communication waits for us down the road, the impact it has had on gamers is substantial. That being said, it is important to remember a few things if you are unfamiliar with online gamers:
The Internet is anonymous, and the majority of people act accordingly
If someone wants to be a jerk, there is no sense of restraint that you might find when talking face-to-face with someone. Let’s face it, there are mean people out there, but don’t get discouraged if you run into one of them. You can always walk away (or Ctrl-Alt-Del away). Most just have too much free time on their hands and are best ignored.
This pretty much speaks for itself. Avoid being the person listed above when possible. The huge benefit of the Internet—being able to connect to anyone anywhere—comes at a huge price: there is little to no moderation. This is why most online games come with their own little warning from the company waiving their responsibility for online interactions.
Don’t take things too personally, especially in a game
For the above reasons, don’t take it personally if you encounter someone who is just out to ruin your day. Getting into arguments online or having negative encounters with fellow gamers has a chain reaction effect, similar to when someone is having a lousy day in real life. One negative event can make someone more likely to be negative to someone else later on. It’s much better (and relieving) to simply block them, switch servers, or exit the game.
Don’t be stupid
Sorry if this sounds a little harsh, but many gamers take what they do very seriously. Like the Death Knight example from earlier, if you wander into an advanced area without bothering to learn the proper etiquette, you are likely going to get flamed for it. It would be akin to walking into a fancy dress party in your underwear. Most games offer servers for beginners—an area designed for you to test things out few times without pissing anyone off. Failing this, the almighty Google should have answers for you if you are worried about impatient pro-gamers.
Take Your Time
Online gaming can be a great pastime, but don’t feel rushed to absorb twenty years of game development overnight. Find a game similar to what you are familiar with, and try to find a group or forum online that caters to beginners. You will normally be met with a lot more positivity than if you take the headstrong approach. Even better, if you already have a group of gamer friends, they might be able to help you get on your feet.
With these tips, you should be able to get into online gaming easily! But before you commit to paying a monthly fee for some games, perhaps try out similar games that you can play for free. For example, World of Warcraft allows you to play for free until level 20. So you can get in right away, find a beginner’s server, and get the hang of things before you commit. Star Wars: The Old Republic is now free-to-play as well, if you prefer sci-fi to fantasy.
If you are more the creative type, I would check out Minecraft. Though not free, it is fairly cheap to purchase. The game has many player-run servers; however, dedicated Minecraft servers through Mojang are currently in the works for a future update!
Have a game recommendation or some stories or tips from your own experience? Share them in the comments.
Photo by Anastasia Heuer