Opinion: Are Gamers the New Jock

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By John Hartzog
 
As nerds we all remember the awfulness of gym class; locker rooms, showers, playing sports that many of us lack the skill and coordination for. We also probably remember the jocks, those athletically superior high schoolers who made it their job to torment us due to our lack of physical prowess. However, as nerds we found solace in our comics, games, and the community of friends that slayed Demogorgons with us.
 
Flash forward over a decade later, and the age of nerd has been ushered in and geek has become chic. People flock to the theaters for the next big Marvel release, people line-up for the hottest video game, and conventions are racking in record crowds. However, has this surge of popularity, particularly in gaming, come at the cost of the community that once bound us together? After, all League of Legends community is legendary for being venomous and other online games suffer from similar problems. How could we have fallen so far from what the camaraderie that I have experienced in the past? Let’s take a look.
 
I began my first foray into online gaming with my first massive multiplayer online role-playing or MMO’s, in 2004. I bought and began playing Final Fantasy XI. This had all the natural trappings of MMO’s, quests, missions, leveling, gear grinding, crafting, and more. However, the one thing it didn’t have back in 2004 was a dungeon finder. That quaint feature in World of Warcraft and other modern MMO’s allowing players to jump right into the action with random people. Now, this system did make adventuring harder. Raid groups could take hours to put together, only to fall apart due to time constraints and your night could be wasted. However, it brought a sense of community to the game. You spent hours with people within a digital world that resided on the same server as you, so it wasn’t uncommon to run into that player again later. Those who tended to grief others usually had that reputation follow them and that hurt them as they began to be blacklisted and could not find groups. Eventually, they were reported enough to be permanently banned. Secondly, since you spent a considerable amount of time with people leveling actual relationships formed. I am still friends to this day with many of my old Final Fantasy XI group. I’ve been invited to weddings, seen the birth of their children, shared in joys and hardships through a bond that developed over the course of grinding non-stop for 3 hours, several times a week on a virtual game. Comparatively, MMO’s today have a dungeon and raid finder. It pairs you up across multiple servers with people you are unlikely to ever see again. This places a social barrier up allowing players to grief others without repercussions. Who cares what you did when a simple query can match you with a potentially better group. Players forget or just don’t care that there is another nerd at the other end of that keyboard. We end up isolating our fellow nerds when we should be bringing our community together.
 
The last few years have also seen the rise of Swatting and Smurfing. These practices are new forms of providing grief to our fellow nerds. First-up, for those who don’t know, Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service to respond to a bogus threat. While, this practice isn’t exclusive to nerds; there have been many high profile incidents with Twitch streamers being swatted live by their followers. This is dangerous as this places people’s lives in danger as police try to resolve a perceived threat. SWAT teams have busted down doors and held guns on children because of this practice. This is a type of harassment that has landed some nerds in court, but most of these cases go unpunished. We should enjoy our Twitch and other game streamers as they are able to bring us entertainment, never thought would be possible. The rise of this medium should be championed and should not be the cause for unwarranted harassment.
 
Smurfing on the other hand, is a less serious but still irritating to deal with when playing games. Smurfing occurs usually in competitive modes, when someone truncates their skill on purpose to fall into a lower skill rating. Think of Tom Brady growing a beard, giving a false name, and joining up on a local community football team. His skill level is much higher than your “Regular Joe” and such most teams would not provide much competition to him while he mops the floor with them. While, I’m sure it’s a great ego boost, this can frustrate lower skill players in online and competitive arenas. Nerds all know that there is an ebb and flow to competitive matches sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. However, when your only job is to add to the kill feed of a smurfed player, you no longer receive any enjoyment from playing. This leads to a smaller player-base and declining popularity of games that are meant to be shared and appreciated.
 
I can understand frustration, we all get triggered sometimes while playing games or engaging in our hobbies. However, remember that we are a community that struggled in basements playing Dungeons and Dragons for far too long. Now that we have paid our dues and find ourselves in a popular spot, we have a major decision to make. Be like those gym class bullies, picking off the weaker of our own kind or embrace everyone in our community weird and non-weird alike and show everyone that we can be better.


    2 Comments

  1. AlexFebruary 17th, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    I do feel that sometimes this tends to be the case. I’ve played games before where I was obviously new and rather than have someone be patient and let me learn my stuff or slowly explain to me what was wrong with what I was doing, I was kind of swept aside.
    I remember times I was kicked from games like Counter Strike when I didn’t fit in with their game.There was even a time I was kicked because they didn’t want me to play how I liked to play – for example, I tried playing the sniper and realized I liked it, and the gamers there didn’t like it that I was sniping and I don’t remember them nicely telling me why (whether maybe they had arranged for a different gaming thing or whatever. How would I know?)
    I am not saying this is always the case for me (and not that I am a very active gamer anyway), but it can be frustrating a bit.

    Having said that, I do get where some of their frustration comes from too. If people played a game for a very long time and saw many newbies and helped many newbies, helping more and more might feel repetitive and frustrating, especially when newbies will make mistakes as newbies do.

    We just have to try and try because there will be mean people, but there will be many who will help.

  2. zboxMarch 31st, 2017 at 8:59 am

    The gamer community is one of the most toxic out there. I enjoy my games, but damn.. just damn dude. The competitive edge of a lot of modern gamers, along with the outright hatred, remind me of the stereotypical jocks of the 80s. It is all there, the huge ego, the cruel way they treat others, the inability to have a shred of humility, the jocks rule the online world now.

    Back then in the 80s, when my friends and I sat around a table rolling dice and creating our own worlds for D&D, we never behaved that way, in fact it disgusted most of us.

    Something happened, I first noticed it around 2008 on the WoW forums, the community of wow did a massive shift, the friendly people started to vanish.. it must be the fluoride in the water!! Lol, but really it has changed a lot, and I don’t see it coming back. Prior to that, most gamers I played with in MMOs were a completely different breed.

    Anyway, I found your article while searching for “Gamers are jocks” in google. Glad I found it, it was an enjoyable read.

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