Thursday, February 25, 2016

4.61. Bless The Beasts and Children

One of the less offensive
exchanges I was able to find in
League of Legends chat

The Gamer Parent Dilemma

As a gamer parent, I struggled. While the balance between gaming and real life was much better now, the threat of setting an inappropriate example constantly loomed. I did not want to fall back into my old "yelly" ways. A patient yet headstrong wife kept my profanity in check when around the young. Guilt from auto-piloting through my kids' formative years kept my conscience perpetually stung. This, too, kept me on the straight-and-narrow. But the struggle was real, a greater test of will than any month long crusade wiping to a single raid boss.

I feared repeating my Mother's mistakes, walling me off from video games for the most trivial of infractions. Mom's militant methods and illogical reasoning made no sense to a child whose only wish was to drop another quarter in the machine. She held foolish, paranoid beliefs: kids in dark basements rolling D20s and succumbing to the "horrors" of a degenerate lifestyle. A high profile story hit the news in 1979, telling of a Dungeons and Dragons player that had killed himself; it didn't help. The stage was set for an entire era of misunderstandings around that culture, long before I was old enough to defend myself or my hobby. Years later, now a parent myself, I refused to take the path Mom took.

The tables turned. In some sort of crazy, alternate dimension, gaming culture appeared to be gaining mainstream acceptance, no longer seen as a dark underground of brooding teenagers. And with its rise in popularity came new studies proving what we suspected all along: video games don't cause violence, no more than a book or a film or a musician would. This was all the evidence I needed to defend my parental stance that video games were a perfectly healthy medium to expose kids to.

And yet, "problems" persisted.

Sociologists and psychologists didn't point at video games...they pointed past them. Years before Nintendo became a recognizable brand in North America, experiments performed in labs and on college campuses demonstrated that human problems manifested under the right conditions. Deindividuation bred with online anonymity granted a temporary pass to scathing, racist, sexist behavior. Already a group susceptible to wielding the binary logic of a button press to pass judgement, gamers cared little about their words and actions. They shamed newcomers and threatened opponents with physical violence. If they faced an impeding loss, their uncontrolled anger transformed them into profane beasts. Gaming was rich with children who never grew up, partaking of a enabling hobby. Patch notes were mechanisms of vitriolic entitlement baked directly into the system.

And so, I struggled. Because I wanted my kids to love and enjoy games without the restrictions I suffered through. I knew that games weren't the source of the world's malevolence, but was a medium that allowed it. Cruelty without consequence. Following the herd. A culture of not caring. As a gaming teenager, I rallied behind the notion that video games didn't cause bad behavior. As a gaming parent, I now wondered why video games did nothing to prevent it.

In-game screenshot of a match in action,
League of Legends

The League of Extraordinary Douchebags

"Dad, come check out this game! You need to install this and play with me, it's free!"

I wandered over to my son's monitor and glanced at the playing field. Although the artwork was different and the UI unfamiliar, I saw what this game was going for. A thick green grassland was represented in the minimap, with a home page constructed in both the lower left and upper right corners. Further inspection revealed the map was a mirror image of itself, divided horizontally along a river-based axis that drew from the upper left to lower right corners. The focal point of my son's screen reflected the area of the minimap currently outlined; a zoomed-in view of just a small portion of the entire playing field. Small, unremarkable minions departed each base at a steady but mild cadence, heading towards each other; an inevitable death march. The entire scene smacked of an alternate-reality Warcraft III.

"Whatcha got here?" I asked.

"This is League of Legends. It's so fun."

Synapses fired as I started making connections.

"Ah, yeah, yeah. I remember Cheeseus and Sixfold talking about this on Vent awhile back. It's DOTA, right? Like what that Swedish guy was singing about...crap, what's his name....Basshunter. That guy." 

I leaned down over Hunter's shoulder and looked closer at the units. He clicked the map and directed a creature into a thick brush, attacking some creatures which hid among the trees. The creature bore a resemblance to a troll with a severe drinking problem; his engorged, reddish facial attributes looked exaggerated, even by gaming standards, and the creature swung a large, wooden club. Another purplish creature headed towards him; it was unmistakably scorpion-like. Hunter pointed at the insect.

"That's Skarner. They just added him." His eyes were wide with excitement as his face drew near to the screen.

"And who's this guy you're playing?"

"This is Trundle."

"Got it, got it."

I watched in silence as my son clicked on the map while tapping keys in rapid succession. Trundle and Skarner engaged.

" will you download it?"

I glanced down to the lower left hand corner of the screen, my primal gamer instincts scanning for threats. Sure enough, a chat window displayed the last few lines communicated among the group. One line, typed by another player, caught my eye.

[08:20][All] kydex3 (Sion): your supposed to be fucking mid retard. uninstal and kill yourself

"Classy community you've got here."

The excitement melted away from Hunter's voice. "I just ignore that."

What to do? Ban him from the game because of someone else's bad behavior? Continue to expose him to this and risk dissolving any mature, respectful behavior we'd already trained him to demonstrate?

I put my hand on his head, "You know it's never ok to behave like that, right?"

"I know."

"If it ever gets to the point where you feel like typing something like that, I trust you'll step away for a breather, instead. It's just a game."


It's just a game.

I patted him on the back, then returned to my desk and downloaded the League of Legends installer. As the file progress filled up, a random thought of the TV show Dexter popped into my mind. I remembered Dexter's father, trying to guide his son through life, training him how to suppress his rage, how to deal with a diseased mind craving human blood. Thank God I didn't have to worry about taming homicidal instincts. All that weighed on my shoulders was teaching my son how to navigate life as a gamer without growing up to be a complete and total asshole.

Mature fields next-level trolling from a player whose
10-Man team was denied access into DoD,

The Young and the Worthless

We discussed the option of which heroic to pursue next: Beth'tilac or Lord Rhyolith. At initial glance, the choice seemed obvious. Raiding guilds knew the challenge Beth'tilac posed -- already a gear check in normal mode, the arachnid would most certainly be our undoing. Flawless execution would matter little if we couldn't hit our numbers.

Lord Rhyolith, by contrast, posed little risk. Already a gimmicky fight that the roster was consistently annihilating in normal mode, any concern for Rhyolith would likely fall into the realm of communication. If anything, Rhyolith would demand the DPS teams pay closer attention to which foot was receiving what percentage of damage. DPS, in short, would be (indirectly) responsible for tanking the volcano with legs. We made the decision to focus our attention on Lord Rhyolith beginning that Sunday, August 21st, less than two days after our first defeat of Heroic: Shannox.

After clearing past Beth'tilac, Baleroc, and Alysrazor, Blain flipped the raid lock difficulty from Normal to Heroic, and we sank our first two hours of work into Lord Rhyolith. This, like all bosses, started with getting a feel for the differences, polishing the strategy used on normal mode, and tweaking where needed. We made little progress that night. The heroic strategy demanded grace and finesse in positioning. A Romanian gymnast we were not. 

Eventually, we converted back to normal, to secure a kill w/ loot. The team's morale was good; they were un-phased by the loss. One shots were rare (especially heroic ones), and this was the same process we took with every boss: practice and refinement. We worked until we got it. Some bosses were more obstinate than others, none of this was a surprise. There was absolutely no cause for concern at this very early stage in learning the encounter. Spirits were high and the roster kept a positive outlook.


The second weekend of work on Heroic: Lord Rhyolith began on the weekend of Aug 26th. We reset the lock and first cleared Beth'tilac, Baleroc, Alysrazor and Shannox, all of which were executed in the first hour. This freed us for three hours of work.

It did not go well.

The count of attempts is now lost to a haze. What memory remains intact is not one of the rapidly accruing attempts, but of the outside distractions permeating their way into my raid roster and its morale.

It was standard DoD raid law to keep distractions to a bare minimum. We'd come a long way from having to berate Ouleg for watching Nip/Tuck while trying to do work on Morogrim Tidehunter, but never disappeared completely. I had to keep constant tabs on the risk of waning attention. The most notorious source of distraction, surprisingly, was not Ryan Murphy-produced television, but instead, something built directly into the game client: cross instance chat. 

Blizzard's chat infrastructure was designed such that, even if you were in a separate instance dedicated solely to you and your team of players, chat still extended out across all the instances, allowing for multiple raid groups (each in their own instance) to chat amongst one another in a shared lobby. These instance lobbies would not cross content instances; Discord raiding Bastion of Twilight could not chat with Pretty Pink Pwnies raiding Blackwing Descent. But...if both The ORLY Factor and Costa were raiding Firelands, you can bet that they were sharing /general chat.

I sent messages directly to guildies and ordered them out of /general if I caught them chatting up. This meant I had to be in /general -- it was the only way to monitor for the behavior, culling it as quickly as it appeared. Lucky me. In order to keep the peace, I had to wade in to the filth, forced to listen to other guilds rant and rave in there inimitable Deathwing-US style. I tuned it out, yet it was a distraction nonetheless, always catching my eye, causing me to look away from Mature's positioning, watching for a recognizable name and being forced to deal with it.

I did not expect what I saw next.

[2. General] [Drecca]: Woot! Heroic Lord Rhyolith down!!
[2. General] [Bheer]: Yay us

I have to admit, for a brief moment, I was shocked. But then, I wasn't. Not really.

[2. General] [Drecca]: Wow that boss is easy
[2. General] [Drecca]: Any guild struggling must be awful

In retrospect, that behavior did not surprise me at all. Not one bit.


Fredrick said...

Every Thursday evening I check in with this blog, and I always get very happy when it has been updated :) Going to miss it when its finished!

Angelo said...

Fredrick, stay tuned, I will be interviewing Hanzo on our podcast following the completion of the blog. There will be tons of questions and answers to some of the most entertaining, insightful, and controversial posts of the blog!

Shawn Holmes said...

The "Chics that Click" discussed this blog post in a recent podcast: