Soapbox: Rage Against the Opposition
Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, fictional physicist and famed comic book anti-hero of the Marvel Universe used to be normal, that is, of course, until he was part of a huge gamma blast created by himself, resulting in the transformation into the mighty green monster – The Incredible Hulk. Now, I’m guessing everyone that reads this will already know a lot about Mr Hulk, especially since you’re the gaming population, and games can usually be associated with comics, but this is purely an example. An example of what online has done to me, and I expect a many few others, too. Let me paint you a little picture.
My first real online experience (well, excluding a brief go on Unreal Tournament 2003 and many a free internet game) was on the fantastic Gears of War. I had the 360 hooked up to Live and I was bursting with excitement. It seemed unusually simple to get connected, and when I was equipped with a Gold subscription I was all eager to see why online gaming has become so successful and now one of the biggest parts of modern-day gaming culture. The marketplace shone out to me like a marketplace of dreams, I was happy as could be, and all before I had even played my first game.
So I loaded Gears up, ready to dominate the battlefield. I had completed the game on casual so figured I wouldn’t be too out of my depth. Saying I was wrong would be an understatement – I sucked hard. I still loved every minute, and all the things about online that offline could never do like talking to others through the headset or playing others in full-screen, FULL-SCREEN! Following this, I started practising, in and out of Hardcore and Insane story playthroughs, and made steady progress, but with my progress came something of a shock. I started getting angry, started hating. The curse words came in all flavours, and while all the time my language was never voiced to my opponents or teams through the headset, I nevertheless became frustrated a lot of the time, and baying for the blood of my killers.
Now if you’re thinking the reason for my hatred was because I suddenly was a great player of the game and hated losing then you’d be wrong, I still had a lot to learn, I was merely above average, it’s the effect of online and my competitive side suddenly screaming out that did it, well, in my opinion. Every person who killed me was then on my hate list. Of course, my opponents could have been anyone – a fifty year old family man, a young teenager who’s stolen his big brother’s game, but none of this mattered online, I still envisage my opponents as grunts, hateable humans that couldn’t be more of a nuisance to society.
I begun to think why had I started becoming aggressive, was it my passion for games? I had mostly been of the ‘it’s only a game’ mentality, especially when playing football with friends or even in offline multiplayer games of TimeSplitters 2, so why should Gears be any different?
I decided to try other competitive games and see if it had the same effect, and started with PGR3. I thought maybe the reason for my anger could have been (as stupid as it sounds) the brutish characters of the Gears universe, so cars would be a nice change to see if my online rage pursued. (It’s worth noting that my dark side only really came out in ranked games, not games with people on my friends list or player matches that had a nice spirit to them. With ranked matches more seems on the line, and people are generally better players of the game and so more aggressive. They must’ve been influencing me, tsk.)
So I started up PGR3 and jumped into a few races, and thankfully my happy side remained for the most part intact. I still had my moments – If someone barged my car intentionally then anger would creep in, or if I got beaten by just a few seconds I’d curse to the Gods and back, oh, not forgetting the many times I would spin out due to my own failings, gosh, fun times. It seems armed muscular men must bring out the ‘tiger’ in me.
Is this is a good thing though? Or is it all part of the fun? I’m trying to think whether I secretly get a thrill from shouting about the place (again, not to other gamers – in my own vicinity). When my father plays PGR3, while not as vocal as me in his grievances, he still gets really into it, and often has a bad thing or two to say about the opposition. One of my friends, too, is made menacing with a couple of competitive online games, is this just natural for us humans? Is competitive online gaming to video games what road rage is to driving? It certainly looks that way. Now **** off while I finish this game of Call of Duty 4, you ****.