So, I’ve recently become enamored with a video game that has a mostly online focus: Gwent Beta for the Playstation 4. The Witcher fans will recognize the game from Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt as it is a heavily reworked version of that game. Gwent is essentially a “card” game in the Magic: The Gathering sense, but the cards are often animated and the computer administers the effects of the cards and acts as scorekeeper and referee. The game, ostensibly a Free-to-Play game (meaning that it is free to play, but offers a store where players can purchase “kegs” of cards using in-game and real-world currency). Many gamers term this a “Pay-to-Win” in that those who are willing to pay real-world money often have a distinct advantage over those who just grind away for the (slower earned) in-game currency.
Now, I really don’t like this model and I was determined not to spend any additional money on this standalone game (I mean, I bought the Special Edition version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for double the cost of the base game. How much more does CD Project Red–the makers of both games–want me to do?) I was also resigned to the slow pace of earning in-game currency and losing multiple matches while my currency slowly accrued. It is also a beta and the current build on PS4 is buggy as all-get-out. It has crashed my PS4 more times and in many more different ways in the past 3 weeks than any other game that I have owned. And we’re not talking just random freezes, but hard crashes. It crashed so utterly, one time, that I had to pull the power cord from the PS4 and replug it in because nothing that I did would shut off the system. I even put up with that, but the thing that finally got to me and inspired this blog is the “taunt” system that the designers included with the game.
Now, I realize that they didn’t want to open up players to the abuse of a regular voice chat, but “taunt” system is the “canned” version of verbal abuse because no one online understands the concept of sportsmanship–i.e., being gracious when you’re winning and not being salty when you’re losing. You just play the game to have fun. However, these days, playing the game is not enough, it seems, unless you can decimate your opponent and then “taunt” him or her about it. There have been matches where I’ve done the math and I’ve clearly won and declined to play the rest of the cards in my hand because what’s the point? I’ve won already–I don’t need to destroy your ego or use the taunt feature to make you feel bad about yourself. We were playing a game and I happened to win that round. I’ve been in the losing seat just today, knowing that I did not have the cards and rather than the opponent just ending it, he/she played their entire hand and and added with a pre-canned taunt for good measure. Needless to say, that person did NOT get a “Good Game” response from me. And this is increasing. Where it was rare, it has become something that happens 3 out of every 4 games–and there’s no mute button that I know of (except the mute button for the TV which blocks out all sound effects)
I see this in other online venues as well. If players can’t win/aren’t winning, you can be sure that some will choose to leave no matter how bad it hurts their stats or the team’s performance. “Backing out” is the term for it if you aren’t a gamer (i.e., “this sucks, let’s back out” and blip they are gone). Winning too has taken on this same level of destructive behavior, but instead of just taking a loss and learning from it, the winners are now narcissistic braggadocios. They are the greatest thing on God’s earth if you listen to them after a match. There are even people online–YouTubers and the like–who brag that they just want to get online and “crap talk” with their buddies. That’s what is fun to them.
Really? I thought it was about playing the games and having a good time while online. Why does the idea of sportsmanship (being a gracious winner or loser) have to die for you to feel like you’re having fun? When did just playing the game not become enough and it was decided that in order to have fun you have to belittle other players? And why are we okay with that?