If you haven’t read my first confession then (click here). The first confession triggered quite a response from some of my readers so I felt it was high time to yet again spill the beans.
I like to see myself as a fairly relaxed gamer, at least before I got my PC and started taking gaming a bit more seriously. However, when I think about the story I am about to tell I start having doubts about myself…
Before I became part of the PC master race (I like all gaming platforms by the way – I am just teasing) I was an avid Xbox 360 player. It seems bizarre now but I was playing before WiFi was invented so to go online, back in ye olde days, you needed a LAN connection. When I played the original Xbox I never had this and in the first year of owning my 360 (2008 I think?) I only played offline. It was 2009 when me and my family finally upgraded to wireless internet. It seemed crazy at the time. Not long after this upgrade I decided to invest in a years subscription to Xbox Live Gold. This meant that I had to make a new account which I called “OrcbaneMC2009” because I was cool…
A Gold subscription meant that I could do online matchmaking and join “party” voice chats with friends. I had a real life friend (I know it surprised me) in the next village over from me who was, like me, a Halo 3 fanatic. We were addicted and, if I am being entirely honest, pretty damn good. We would play online with some of his friends and it was an absolute blast – I had discovered my gaming Nirvana. On many occasions we were invited to join some clans which, in retrospect, would have been fun to join but, being a stubborn amateur Halo pro, I would always respond to their direct messages saying “I’m a lone wolf”.
We had good times, and we didn’t just play Halo, we were also obsessed with the Gears of War series, Fable 2, Battlefield and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. But Halo was our main pass time.
Being online most days we would come across thousands of other players and, on occasion, some would have a microphone and talk to us in-game. On rare occasions we’d add some of them as friends and play with them more regularly. Now, in 2009 I must have been about 12 or 13 years old so, realistically, I had no real clue what was going on so I never realised that it was possibly not a good idea to be talking with strangers on the internet. One day, me and my regular party were playing some Halo and needed a final member for our custom made racing map. The others had stayed up late the night before and had met “a Scottish guy” who was quite a lot older than ourselves (now don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into another kind of confession). I genuinely can’t remember his gamertag or what we called him, all I remember is that he was online all the time and, now I’m a bit older and wiser, I realise that he was a bit down on his luck and maybe even a bit lonely (damn this is getting sad now).
For story telling purposes let’s call this lonely 30 year old man Steve. He joined us on our custom made map that night and then became part of the group.
Steve was amazing. He was a great gamer and would always help you farm achievements or finish missions you were struggling with. He became integral to our party’s success in the competitive world of Halo and we became, in a way, our very own clan (though we never called it that). Steve was, most of all, reliable.
After some time of gaming with him and the regular crew it all became so normal. Until one day when everything changed…
On a late summers eve (it probably wasn’t summer or the evening but it sounds great doesn’t it?) two of the lads I gamed with joined the party chat expressing their concern of the age gap between ourselves and Steve. Me and my friend from the village over dismissed this saying things like “it’s all in your head” and “he’s not hurting anybody, he doesn’t even know our names”. But after some discussion me and my friend became more and more persuaded about the bizarre nature of the entire affair. So, eventually, one blocked communications with Steve and then the rest soon followed suit like the sheep they were. I, however, struggled with this. In my own mind Steve was due an explanation at the very least. So I decided to voice call him.
I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went but Steve and I played Fable 2 whilst talking about the situation.
I apologised for my friends all bailing on him and Steve said something along these lines:
“Oh I wouldn’t worry about it mate they’re just kids having fun, I don’t take it seriously.”
And I believe he didn’t, or at least he wasn’t giving me that impression. However, whilst playing my game with him I realised that my friendship with Steve was now over. Even if I wanted to game with him, he could no longer talk to the rest of the team and I didn’t want to choose a stranger over my real friends. So, during our game, I realised that I needed to follow the sheep and block poor Steve forever.
This might not seem all that heartless, after all we were just kids and we only knew Steve through online match making, but it was how I had to do it which was so painful for me.
After we left our voice call and game session I realised that the only way you can block communications with another player is through an option only available to you if they have sent you a direct message – Steve had never sent me a message and just removing him as a friend wasn’t enough because it was likely he would ask me why I deleted him.
I needed to cut all ties with poor old Steve. So, I sent him a message yet again apoligising for my friends and waited for his response.
Predictably, Steve replied saying not to worry about it and that he enjoyed playing Fable 2. I went on the message, scrolled down to ‘Block Communications’ and the rest was history.
I’m sorry Steve, I hope you went on to better things.
Before I finish I just want to say that I feel my ‘confessions of a gamer’ series is important, not just for the sake of normalising my guilt, but because bullying online is actually becoming a problem in our generation. I don’t equate any of my own actions as bullying but we should feel more empathy toward our fellow gamers. We all need to realise that behind every gamertag, behind every email address and twitter account is a person. A person who has feelings and emotions. Sure, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a laugh or disagree with people but maybe we should all have the following ethos:
“I shouldn’t say anything online to a person that I wouldn’t be willing to say to their face.”
It may sound preachy but I think getting a dialogue going is the first step. What do you think about how me and my friends dealt with Steve? Were we right to end the friendship or were we, perhaps, being overly harsh? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to reblog to help raise awareness of bullying online. Thanks for reading, stay tuned for my next post.