Many moons ago, after months of hearing how cool it was, a friend convinced me to start playing World of Warcraft. At first it was very fun and exciting, I ran around aimlessly watching my friends show off their cool mounts and duel each other in front of me. I liked doing quests and loved getting pets, overall I really enjoyed playing up until I got up to level whatever it is where you start running into the other faction. I didn’t understand what PvP really meant, but I was instructed that's the kind of sever I had to pick in order to play with friends, and it ended up being a very unfortunate technicality. From that point on, there was many a late night trying to finish up a quest line or gain reputations points, (so I could finally buy that Pinto horse I spent hours patting longingly on Theramore Isle) where even deep in a cave, far away from everything, some jerk blood-elf rouge would somehow find me and mange to completely ruin my night. Now, I am a very non-confrontational person in life and in games so whenever a PvP scenario came up my heart started pounding out of control and even if I was somewhat equally matched (a.k.a the fair way to fight someone in that game, which almost never happens) I became so nervous I don’t know if I’ve ever survived a duel. Not to mention how many level ?? straight up bullies who are bored with maxed out levels who just wait around to kill you over and over again. When I couldn’t summon my big strong friends to defend my honor I often had to quit playing all together because of these bullies. I always wondered if I went to a Warcraft panel at conventions in my anime schoolgirl outfit and telling the sad tale of the night I stayed up until 4am trying to get my last bit of rep for my beloved Pinto horse and had to quit playing because of some rude guy. I wonder if it would have worked and even one person would have thought twice before ganking a random stranger, or if they’d just revel knowing they removed one more non-elite girl gamer from the equation.
It is this kind of behavior that puts a huge damper on my online gaming experience and discouraged me from continuing to play World of Warcraft, and has kept me away from online games in general. The world of online gaming has become so unnecessarily hostile that I don’t even dare to let a stranger join our group in Little Big Planet. Even with a game like Left 4 Dead, which I have played a fair amount of and felt comfortable enough to try playing online, turned out to be a nightmare. The problem for me is the lack of separation from the people who have every nook and cranny of every level memorized to the point where you don’t even get a chance to play the game at all before you're dead. It’s really a shame too because playing as the infected is one of the most fun game modes I have ever played, and I've hardly gotten to try it because my awesome car-throwing sprees are always cut short by crazy experienced players. There is no easing-you-in factor to the online multiplayer modes of this type of game, even if you've spent 40+ hours playing offline, chances are there is always someone who is ready to beat you senseless before you've stepped out of the gate. Even someone like my boyfriend, who is a very nice person and understands (for the most part) that games are supposed to be fun - still gets angry at “noobs” in games he has spent a lot of time playing. If even he has mean- online-gamer syndrome then there is little hope of curing the online gaming world.
After what I have witnessed in the online gaming environment at large, I hesitate to give it another go with someone other than my little sister. Perhaps, the “girl” factor comes into play concerning my fears, even in a room full of my male gamer friends I wouldn’t dare try to play a game I wasn’t already good at. Even though I like first-person shooters, I would never pick up a controller on Halo night for fear or being ridiculed and put to shame by more experienced players. It is great that female gamers do exist who continue to put themselves out there in these harsh gaming environments, but, not unlike many other male-dominated environments I have experienced before, they have to hone their skills ten-fold to disprove assumptions that are immediately cast upon them. Being able to beat the boys is the only way to feel comfortable playing. Unfortunately you can’t just be yourself and play for fun at whatever skill level you happen to be, a badass temperament seems to be the only way to survive the ordeal and come out feeling good. It is unfortunate though that someone who does enjoy gaming must go through a rigorous boot-camp before being able to comfortably play online, and there’s no easy fix to the problem. The thing that sucks is, online gaming is such an amazing venue for gamers, and could be an incredibly positive way to experience games and interact, if we all could only learn to play nice. If only every level ?? Tauren crossing the vast desert of Tanaris just kindly waved at little level 20 as he passed by and left the dueling for a worthy opponent, it wouldn't matter what kind of server you picked. The moral of the story is: next time you find yourself getting pissed at “noobs,” try to remember, it’s just a game - it’s supposed to be fun, and everyone has to start somewhere so don’t be a bully, us nerds gotta stick together.