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Zip it! Ten Reasons Why Voice Chat Sucks

Nearly a decade ago, Microsoft reps were constantly telling everyone that voice chat would be the defining experience of online gaming. They touted Xbox Live as nothing less than a revolution in that regard, with friends communicating cooperatively in strategic shooters like Rainbow Six, or engaging in some good-natured trash talking during competitive play. The picturesque world envisioned by Microsoft was like a montage of all the sappiest Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola commercials – with families sitting on living room sofas together, laughing, clapping each other on the backs, and chatting into their headsets with their neighbors down the street. Yes, console gamers absorbed all of this propaganda with wide, innocent eyes and dopey, love-struck smiles.

Oh, how naive we all were. Now that voice chat has entrenched itself as a standard feature of online gaming, it’s become quite clear that it’s not all puppy dogs and peppermints when donning our headsets and firing up Xbox Live or PSN. So what are the most annoying aspects of this, one of the most overrated features of online video gaming? Well…without further adieu, I present to you: The Top 10 Reasons Why Video Game Voice Chat Sucks. Enjoy.

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10) Volume blasters

Maybe the person on the other end of your headset is sitting two inches away from the television. Or perhaps they are using their home theater’s sub woofer as a bench. Whatever the reason, you can constantly hear sound effects from their game in your ear piece. Now, despite the fact that this can be both extremely annoying and occasionally disorienting (sometimes you might jump to an explosion happening on his game, instead of your own), it ranks very modestly here at number ten. The reason for that is because these “volume blasters” can sometimes play to your advantage online. For example, if the “volume blaster” is on your team in a cooperative game mode, you can be alerted immediately to any action at their location, and can respond quick enough to finish off any kills they might have started. Of course, you could also run into a group of six opponents engaged in a synchronized tea-bagging of your friend’s corpse and get steamrolled. It’s a roll of the dice, really.

9) Girls disrupt the “Wa”

In case you didn’t know, “Wa” is the Japanese pronunciation for “peace” or “harmony.” You see, no matter how civilized, normal, or “harmonious” things are in an online chat lobby, everything goes completely to crap as soon as a girl speaks. Fifteen seemingly normal males suddenly turn into blabbering idiots who want nothing more to wave their epeen around and talk in deep, manly voices. It’s a phenomenon that seems strangely similar to what you can see in those wildlife documentaries – you know, the ones where a female aardvark wanders into the middle of a bunch of males, and the males suddenly begin hopping around on their hind legs, gyrating their pelvises and squeaking loudly (please don’t wiki that, I totally just made it up). One would think that these males would have encountered females in the flesh before, either at school or work, and would be adequately prepared for the possibility of an encounter online. One would also think that these males would be smart enough to realize that the girl they are fawning over has a 0.03% chance of looking like Jessica Alba, and a 52% chance of looking like Donald Trump (best not to wiki those statistics either).

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8) Faulty headsets

Have you ever popped a VHS into your two-decade-old VHS player, pushed pause, and then turned the volume of your TV all the way up? If you did, you’d notice that the humming noise you get is remarkably similar to the humming noise that accompanies a broken or faulty headset. Oftentimes, a broken headset user will come into a lobby only to be heckled immediately by a bunch of people who don’t feel like listening to the monotonous droning all game long. “Ahhh come on! Turn that **** off!” “You kiddin’ me? Your effin’ headset’s busted man!” Sometimes the broken headset user turns off their mic. Other times they don’t – that’s when the proverbial poo hits the fan and people get the heck out of the game lobby or just remove their own headsets. The morale of the story? One faulty headset can ruin it for everyone.

7) Voice changers blow

Supposedly, voice changers were introduced so you could talk with a certain amount of anonymity online. By altering your voice to sound either very high or very low, you could safely play online without fear of being recognized by those sleazy loan sharks who have been after you and your family. Um, yeah, let’s be honest, voice changers have no real purpose other than to annoy everyone else. No, people are not going to be amused and/or entertained by an emphatic Chipmunk-style, duet rendition of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady.” And no, if you are nine years-old and use the voice changer to deepen your voice, you will not sound like Barry White – you will, however, sound like a less intelligent version of Sloth from Goonies.

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6) Food munchers (and drink slurpers)

It’s fine to eat and drink while you play video games. In fact, munching on a bag of Baked Lays Barbecue Flavored Potato Chips while playing a favorite game should be chalked up as one life’s finer pleasures. That said, please turn off your mic before eating if you are playing online. Nothing is more disgusting than hearing the moist smacking of someone’s lips as whatever horrendously unhealthy fast food meal is slurped down their gullet. Now, this food muncher in question might actually be a weight-lifting health nut, and his meal a cup of nonfat yogurt and rice crackers. But, since we can’t see them, our imagination automatically attaches the absolute worst imagery to the disgusting sounds emanating from our earpieces – he becomes a 450 pound fat man wedged into a lay-z-boy and eating cinnamon twists dipped in rocky road ice cream (a tub of which he has cradled between a flabby arm and one of his giant man-boobs). GET IN MAH BELL-EH! The same goes for drink slurpers – nobody wants to hear those suckling sounds of your lips on a straw, nor the inevitable little burps that follow.

5) Sore losers

These ones are easy to spot and extremely annoying. You’ve just wiped the floor with everyone in the match and have been kicked back to the lobby, when– bam! you’re assaulted with a colorful string of obscenities that would have made Richard Pryor blush. What did you do to deserve this? You kicked everyone’s ass. HOW DARE YOU? You clearly should have taken it easy on Blazzdawg420 so to not hurt his delicate sensibilities in front of all his foul-mouthed, imbecilic friends. Some of these sore losers even go so far as to stalk their “offenders” with voice or text messages labeling all tactics resulting in their defeat as cheap or “lol-faceroll-noobish.” Of course, the block or ignore functions help filter these clowns out of your future matches, but there are always plenty more to pop up in their place.

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4) Sore winners

As you could probably guess, these dandies are very similar to their sore loser cousins. They usually pop up during post-match lobbies, and regurgitate very similar strings of obscenities as their above-mentioned, whiny brethren. Only, sore winners are more annoying for two reasons: 1) they frequently come in packs, and 2) they are better at the game than you. “Learn to play ****-tards!” “Holy **** I’ve never seen anyone suck so ****ing bad at this game! Get the **** outta here you losers! HAHAHAHA!” Clearly the subtle concept of humility is lost on these foul-mouthed donkeys, and they revel in the fact that other people in the lobby can’t send them a right hook to their jaws through an ethernet cable. Naturally, as with sore losers, you can block or ignore these guys – but oftentimes there’s a certain pride in us that hopes we get them again next match for a chance to shove their words back down their slimy gullets.

3) Phantom conversations

Anyone who’s ever played a voice chat-enabled game online has almost certainly had to deal with a phantom conversation. They are extremely common and, like Chinese water torture, will drive you insane slowly over a long period of time. “Yeah…But I don’t think tha–….Maybe, what if Chris and–…NO WAY!…did you tell him that?…that’s ****ed up…nah, not really…HAHAHAHAHA!…he’s a dick…just get over here…SAFEWAY!?” Did that make sense to you? Didn’t think so. Maybe this phantom converser is talking on his cell phone with his Xbox Live headset still on, or perhaps he is chatting with someone in the room at his house – whatever the reason, their one-sided conversations will grate on the nerves and usually kill all other relevant, game-related chat. How hard could it possibly be to switch your mic off when not directly talking to people online? On the bright side, every once in a while one of these phantom conversations turns out to be some kid getting told off by an angry mother, and that, you have to admit, is pretty hilarious.

2) Mouth breathers

There are times when breathing through your mouth is fine. Like when you’ve just finished running a marathon or tried to eat seven chili peppers on a bet. But, most of the time, you really probably should just go ahead and breathe through your nose – especially when your headset’s mic is two millimeters from your mouth. Not only is the rhythmic sound of air rushing past the mic annoying as hell for everyone else, but it brings to mind visions of some dim-witted, slack-jawed gamer, dully playing Modern Warfare 2 with a glazed over look in his eyes. Some people even manage to reach near-Fatty McGee levels of wheezing (refer to Adam Sandler’s “They’re all gonna laugh at you” album) – if you simply can’t help but wheeze and breathe heavily out of your mouth while gaming online, move your headset’s mouthpiece slightly up and out of the way, or just turn off the mic unless you have something to say. Capiche?

1) Kills the immersion

Four burly, thirty-something year-old commandos burst into an old warehouse. They are heavily armed. “Looks clear, “ one announces to the others as they begin fanning out in an obviously battle-tested search formation. “All clear on this side,” says the bearded commando in the red beret. “Nobody’s in here boys,” the M-16 wielding, blue-camouflaged commando grumbles, as the team reassembles near the center of the warehouse. Suddenly, a fifth commando rushes in the room and approaches the others. His countenance is lined with numerous battle scars and the etched lines of somebody in their fifties. His face a stony mask, he turns to everyone and says in the piercing voice of an nine year-old, “HEY YOU GUYS SEE FAMILY GUY TODAY—HAHA WTF MY CAT JUST FARTED!” Immersion…killed. One could argue that minus the whining kids and foul mouthed idiots, voice chat actually adds to the immersion, but, really, when was the last time you played a game with random people online and didn’t encounter one or the other?

So, yeah, voice chat sucks

In Japan, most people don’t even use voice chat. Those that do enter into a lobby and offer up a respectful “Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu” (loosely translated to, in this situation – “let’s have a good match”). In games, such as BlazBlue, in which they can play against British and American gamers, many Japanese create lobbies with “No Voice Chat” restrictions. Can you really blame them? Over the years, voice chat has become increasingly more annoying as more and more sore losers, mouth breathers, food munchers, and immersion killers flood PSN and Xbox Live. For every match played with respectful, non-moronic gamers online, you’ll probably play three or four against people who fall into one of the above categories. So here’s to taking a step back (technologically speaking) with USB keyboards and wireless keypads, whilst simultaneously moving forward several steps in terms of pure online gaming enjoyment – because, after all, caps lock ragers are far less annoying than their potty-mouthed, headset-wearing cousins.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @Joshua_Luke.

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