Though I’ve been obsessed with video games from a very young age, I have yet to get into the world of online gaming. I went through a phase in my early teens with RuneScape, and that was only because it was such a chill game in which I rarely participated in PvP combat. Most other online games are different, and they truly scare me. It’s frustrating—I’ve found my life passion and have even managed to build a career in it, but I cannot bring myself to get involved in the community and connect with other people who are passionate about the same stuff that I am. My people are so close, yet so far away.
The payoff for tapping into online gaming seems great; I’m sure I would make plenty of new friendships, and potentially even deepen connections I already have with acquaintances and coworkers. Considering I don’t have any good friends who are into video games like I am, the allure is strong.
But it’s right as I’m thinking about this that I remember what it was like living at home in my late teens with my two step-brothers who were obsessed with Call of Duty. I’m not going to quote them in this article, but the amount of shit they talked about other players was astronomical. Sometimes it was all in good fun, but I certainly heard them rip apart people who couldn’t hold their own up to my step-brothers’ standards, and I’d often hear the person get bullied out of the group.
It would be great if I could write this off as my step-brothers just being jerks, but it seems that this is actually the norm. The strangest thing is that most of these people seem to be okay in “real life,” but the second the headset goes on and they join a match, they’re relentlessly brutal. I’m not sure if this is due to a pride thing or if they’d be this way in any type of competitive situation. Though toxicity in the gaming community specifically has been pointed out and written about countless times, so I’m inclined to say it must be something associated with video games.
So, where does that leave me? I don’t have extremely thin skin in the way that if people talk shit about me, I’m going to go have a breakdown over hurt feelings after. But on the other hand, the online gaming community gives me uncontrollable—almost paralyzing—anxiety. What if I suck at this game? What if I don’t suck, but I’m just not good enough? What if I don’t talk in the same way other people do because I haven’t gamed online before, and I just sound weird? What if the way I do something in the game isn’t like how other people do it? I suppose I could simply seek out online games that don’t involve competition, but that seems like taking the easy way out, considering that I generally enjoy competition when I know what I’m doing.
At the end of the day, I’d like to say that the best move on my part would be to work to try and make the gaming community a less toxic environment. But realistically, I really can’t see that happening. Instead, perhaps I’ll spend all my time on Black Ops Cold War for a few months and hope that magically turns me into a master at the game. Playing online won’t be so intimidating then… right?
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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