The Fixer

Steve ad­dresses the prob­lems of mul­ti­player voice chat

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - INSIDER -

“Strangers can’t be trusted to speak to one another on­line”

When I was a young boy, I lived in a hole in the ground. I say “hole”, but it was more of a wet divot, a kind of dirty lit­tle nest that I had scratched into the earth with my bare hands and teeth. At night I would cover my­self in dead leaves and dis­carded crisp pack­ets to keep warm—China had yet to in­vent global warm­ing—and each morn­ing I would spring from my mucky bed as if born again, re­freshed and ready to face another mis­er­able day in the end­less sprawl­ing woods that I called my home.

While this might sound like a “glamp­ing stay­ca­tion” by to­day’s stan­dards, for me and every other mil­len­nial it was the bru­tal re­al­ity of grow­ing up in the tech-sparse waste­lands of the 1990s, where in­stead of mes­sag­ing a friend on What­sApp to see if they wanted to hang out, you just showed up on their front doorstep as though you were some kind of a mur­der­ous psy­chopath. It was the kind of un­hinged be­hav­ior that would get you ar­rested to­day.

Here and now in 2018, hardly any of our com­mu­ni­ca­tions are face to face, and if some­body shows up unan­nounced at your house it’s al­most cer­tainly be­cause they’re about to rob you or ask you to vote for them. In­stead we chat over the in­ter­net. Be­cause whether you’re slid­ing into some­one’s DMs or sim­ply snapchat­ting them on a bebo, on­line is very much the place to be.

The prob­lem

Which leads us to this week’s gam­ing prob­lem. Voice chat is the worst form of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion that there is. It’s a worse so­cial in­ter­ac­tion than when a Bri­tish tourist shouts “DONDE ESTA EL TESCO EX­PRESS” at a con­fused Mex­i­can woman. It’s worse than when a den­tist places ra­zor sharp in­stru­ments in your mouth and then asks you how you think Brexit is go­ing. It’s worse than for­get­ting a friend’s name, awk­wardly calling him “cap­tain”, then hav­ing a se­cond friend show up and ask to be in­tro­duced.

Voice chat in games is 80% the la­bored breath­ing of a teenager from one of those dusty states where the houses are made of bits of scrap metal and hub caps, and 18% in­ci­sive com­men­tary on what your mom gets up to when she’s out of the house. Of the re­main­ing 2%, about half is use­ful in­for­ma­tion about team­work, and the rest is just this one weird guy who’s clearly stoned and only speaks Ro­ma­nian.

Yet de­spite its short­com­ings, speak­ing to other play­ers has be­come so typ­i­cal of mul­ti­player gam­ing that an­grily shout­ing about ammo is now the most rec­og­niz­able stereo­type we’ve got. “Frus­trated guy on sofa with Xbox pad and head­set” has ap­peared in ev­ery­thing from makeover shows to tele­vi­sion ads about slow broad­band speeds. Voice chat rep­re­sents gam­ing.

The so­lu­tion

This one’s an easy fix. Ev­ery­body dis­ables their mi­cro­phones, and re­lies on the in­ter­na­tional lan­guage of emotes and good game de­sign to do all the com­mu­ni­cat­ing for us. We’re al­ready far along this path, with games like

Rocket League let­ting you trig­ger ba­sic phrases with a few but­ton presses, and

Over­watch au­to­mat­i­cally flag­ging play­ers who need heal­ing without them need­ing to say a thing.

De­vel­op­ers are also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly mind­ful of deaf play­ers, or play­ers who don’t want to use their voice when play­ing games, and cre­at­ing games that can be played without ever hav­ing to ut­ter, or hear, a sin­gle word.

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues aside, less on­line chat­ter can only be a good thing. If the last three years have taught us any­thing, it’s that strangers can’t be trusted to speak to one another on the in­ter­net, lest they start shar­ing their ter­ri­ble thoughts and ideas. Switch off voice chat, and we can take a bold step to­wards a qui­eter, more civ­i­lized way to play games on­line. If any­body needs me I’ll be in my hole. Steve also writes for City A.M.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.