It Sucks To Find Out Someone You Game With Is A Jerk

Overwatch

Trust is the goopy bonding agent in the petri dish that is an online gaming team. Toss a bunch of strangers in a Call of Duty, DOTA 2, or Overwatch queue and you'll find that the team that's communicative or empathetic or just plain likes each other pulls through more often than not. Trust isn't something you can see, though. If a team is doing things right, all trust looks like is winning and laughing. I never think about trust until it's broken.

Trust depends on feeling that the person you know shares your values, whether that it's right to flank the left of the objective and launch a coordinated attacks or that treating everyone with dignity is the only way to be decent.

The other day, during an Overwatch match, I learned that someone I'd been playing with for a few weeks wasn't the kind of guy I thought he was. We'd played a dozen or so matches together and, in-game and out, forged a bond. I didn't know much about him, of course, but I had a sense that we cared about the same stuff in this game and, a little, outside of it. Then he made a racial comment and another and another even after I asked him to stop, and that bond shattered. The trust was gone.

It's weird: Offline, spending an hour or two of your free time with someone every day means you're practically best friends. You know them, you know how they go about things, and if they act in a way that offends you or inconveniences you, you feel a little betrayed. Online, without the formalities of "Where did you go to school" and "What do you do," it's harder to notice trust sowing it seeds and sprouting. But it does, if only through coordinating attacks on an objective in a video game and not superficial facts about ourselves. Which makes it all the more surprising when that sort of trust is broken.

I'd been playing Overwatch with a guy I'll call Danny for a few weeks — not all the time, but pretty often. Over the last year and a half, I'd been collecting what I thought were competent, communicative, and trustworthy players to queue up with in Competitive mode. Danny was one of them.

Everyone has their own checklist of qualities they look for in someone they friend-request through an online game. I like players who are open to switching roles if our team composition isn't working. I also like players who call out when enemies are approaching teammates, compliment each other on great plays, and consider ways to help the team work like one coherent organism.

So, for example, if I'm matched with someone whose Reinhardt shielded our Mercy against the lion's share of deadly ultimate attacks, I'll be impressed, sure; but if they communicated respectfully with the team, switched heroes when necessary and weren't a complete arsehole, I'll consider sending them a friend request and queueing up with them again. And now that Battle.net's mobile app is basically my new texting service, I'm not opposed to letting players I really trust insinuate themselves into my non-Overwatch hours. Each of those decisions I make is weighed by a calculus of trust: Do I feel comfortable around this person? Do they exert themselves? Are they consistent? Will they respect my boundaries? Are they, for the most part, in a good mood?

These things matter from a gameplay standpoint as much as an emotional one: My games with Danny weren't a few off-the-cuff pick-up games, but matches in Overwatch's competitive mode, where egoes (and quantifiable skill rankings) are on the line. Losing means plunging into the dark, embarrassing depths of ranked Overwatch, a dishonor that everybody who encounters you in-game can see. If you're like me and take your Overwatch ranking as seriously as your weight, you've got to trust the randos you queue up with regularly enough.

I can't remember what led me to accept Danny's friend request aside from how flexible he was as a player. Danny liked to chatter throughout matches — mostly to tell the team what he was doing, so we could accommodate, and make jokes we'd all riff off. He sounded pretty young, maybe a college student. In-game, he'd pull his weight, switching between tanks and DPS heroes. Not the best player, but certainly one I felt I had a lot in common with, Danny was a pleasant presence on Overwatch and, a few times, offline in Battle.net conversations about anime or whatever.

One of the most demoralising encounters I'd witnessed in Overwatch was what assured me that I could trust Danny. I'd introduced him to other buddies I'd met over Overwatch, and he introduced me to his; one of whom said he was a queer man. One night, a stranger on our team was furious that we had barely put a dent in the enemy's defence. He blamed Danny's friend, and Danny's friend blamed him. That's when the stranger proceeded to emit strings of hate speech, calling Danny's friend every manner of derogatory term. Well-acknowledged among Overwatch devotees is how getting mad at other players is a surefire way to lose your head and, as a result, the game. We lost. Danny's friend logged off, clearly upset, and, for a long time, Danny was silent over voice chat while he consoled his buddy over Discord. That's a decent thing to do, I thought.

I had completed and won eight of my ten placement matches for Overwatch's latest competitive season last week and logged off exhausted, but ecstatic at my 100 per cent win rate. A few days later, I logged back on to continue in my path of carnage. I was feeling good, and after queueing up with Danny and three other buddies, was bound to be feeling great with a 10/10 win rate and, if I was lucky, a higher ranking than last season. We queued up for our first match, shot the shit, and waited.

Danny was more talkative than usual, trolling a little in the lobby and pretending to pick heroes who would have been laughably unsuited to this map. We were enjoying ourselves. On our way to the point, the team was flush with momentum. Our tanks stood out in front, shielding our squishier gun-toting heroes from harm's way. Flankers slid to the sides of the map, picking off enemies and carving out a forward path. Our healer dutifully monitored everyone's health. And then, out of nowhere, with no context, Danny said something about how he was a cool guy, because he's met a black person.

"What?" we all said in unison. "That sounded kind of racist," a buddy said. Danny apologised. We were thrown, losing the objective, but tried to group up and get back on track. Then, Danny said something like that again, but worse. "Dude, you're being racist," I told him. Completely losing my focus, I played poorly. We lost the game. Later, my friends would admit that it had tripped them up, too. Why was this guy being so gross?

Queueing up for my last placement match, I was quiet. There was tension. We weren't sure what to think of Danny anymore. "U got all silent. U OK?" a friend we'll call Cameron asked me over text chat. I didn't respond and, instead, dedicated myself to moving past this feeling of uncertainty. I really wanted to win that last match. And I really didn't want Danny to be a bad guy. "UGH i suck i'm sorry," he typed into chat. "Plz no racial comments…..," I responded. The silence continued into our second game. Again, struggling to maintain a coherent, stalwart defence against our enemies, our team was scrambling to pick off opponents helter skelter.

"I'm sorry," Danny blurted out over team voice chat. "Yeah," I said. A new vocal barrier had arisen and, with it there, communicating my strategy to my teammates was difficult. I lost track of Danny, no longer caring where he was or how I could help him. He made another racial comment. We lost that game, too. None of us can remember exactly what he said — we were caught between shock and focus.

Watching my skill ranking calculate after my final placement match, the meter stopped just about where I had ended the last season. Days later, I would remove Danny from my friends list. I didn't realise I had trusted him until then because, for the weeks we played together, playing with him, and online friends like Cameron, simply felt like being a churning gear in a machine. I didn't realise that it was trust that prompted me to communicate my plans with teammates. Or that trust was what allowed me to care about my teammates' health meters or enabled me to make the risky play that wiped our enemies. It wasn't a trust founded on late-night phone conversations or secrets confided; it was the belief that that this guy was someone I could rely on.

"Lesson learned," Cameron would later say about Danny. He pointed out that, together, we'd surely reach the next ranking by the end of the season. "I honestly believe we will. We are forging our team." Last night, Cameron, with whom I've been queueing up with for months, made three comments about my being less capable at Overwatch because I'm a woman after I'd told him to stop. Moments later, I earned "Play of the Game" with a quad kill as Roadhog and logged off.


Comments

    Ehhh I live in Alice, the amount of racial comments from the people that live here and still manage to be friends is absurd. Obviously there is context and intent that matters, but as someone with both European and Aboriginal family I tend to see it from both sides.

    That being said, I have also played on public discord servers with people that don't understand that there is still a line (Tarkov discord plz).

      The author is American, so maybe it's a bit of a gap with the (generally ruder) Australian culture.

        Or the special snowflake holier than thow “I’m offended” culture gap of America?

        Nice sweeping generalisation about Australian culture though

        Last edited 10/11/17 4:54 pm

          I would say that's pretty accurate? My department is made up of mainly English and N.Americans. And they are legitimately amazed at how much more ruder we are with our word use and what not. Whether we mean it is one thing, but it's definitely apart of the culture (for better or worst).

      I ran away to Alice when I was 16. I couldn't believe the divide between the two cultures. I was racist when I got there, but soon had my stomach turned enough by peoples' comments that I moved forward.
      Sad to think people are still minimising the people they share their territory with up there. That city changed me for the best.

    I guess I am the opposite. My discord/friends list has been getting more full of people who do not treat taboos as so sacred and I tend to prefer non-judgemental conversation. I think it's more a case of just wanting to be around people who are more like you.

    So someone you met turned out to be an arsehole. So what? Block them and move on.

    Why the hell are games like Overwatch and League of Legends such serious business that shit like this keeps generating articles?

      Well, it's just a discussion piece about the changing nature of social interactions. Traditionally, you'd only really consider a friend when you've got to know them and you feel you can trust them.

      In this context, that feeling of trust is generated within a fairly narrow, but intense, set of circumstances.

      And when that person does something essentially unrelated to those circumstances, but no less important (i.e. being racist), it shatters that bubble of trust.

      Fair enough, no surprise, move on. But still, it's worth talking about the emotional and psychological steps that occur in each of us when we build relationships with people, even informal, temporary ones over games.

        As someone with a crass sense of humour the point forgotten here is that trust goes both ways...

        As i said i have a very unpolitically correct and crass brand of humour i assume mostly because of my fondness for the great stand up comedy. However i rarely if ever indulge in such humour unless i am with my own group of mates who i trust because the average person would be terribky offended by some of my sensibilities..

        As a devils advocate perhaps this Danny person finally felt he could trust the author and group enough to let loose as it seemz like before this incident he was acting like a fine and respectable player... and promptly walked intl a social faux pais so he does whag most ppl do try to salvage it by acting "cool" and then makes it worse. And now the game is ruined for everyone and friendships are broken

        Sure the author trusted this Danny but maybe Danny seems to have trusted the group and author much more than the surface to do something socially faux pais.. but instead of moving on and saying dude thats uncool and move on the author chose to wallow on the offence and make it even worse for everyone. Danny seemed to at least be remorseful from this story but the damage is done and frkm what i can tell ghe author doesnt care anymore..

          I forgot to add of course Danny could also just have been an arsehole pretending to be nice... im only working off one perspective here.

          And i woulda edited my response but all any edits get thrown to mod hell for some reason..

          But I also think there's a difference between having a rough or dark sense of humour, and being a racist.

          One of my friends has a very politically incorrect sense of humour, but she's also really judgemental and more than a little self righteous. Some of the things she says border on plain racism, but she only ever sees it as being politically incorrect and speaking plainly.

          My point is, from the tone of the article and what the author says, I don't think it's just a matter of being offended by someone's sense of humour, but rather being disappointed by someone who they thought shared their values ended up being a racist.

    Losing in a game should not make you feel embarrassed, or dishonourable - it's fairly trite to say it's just a game...but yeah, it's just a game.

      Speaking as someone this used to apply to, a lot of people use online games as a crutch if they're have difficulties IRL (family, friends, job, etc) and can only turn to online friends. Not saying this is a good situation to be in, but its common. It can definitely feel like more than a game if someone makes you feel bad about the one thing helping you keep yourself on the rails.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Cameron was one of those people, though who knows :)

    While this is not about online play and probably not nearly as bad as your experience, it still did make me uncomfortable.

    I had recently joined Xbox One Community group on facebook that had popped in my suggestions. A few days someone posted a picture of a modded xbox one elite controller that had a swastika under and eagle (from wolfenstein i think) on the d pad. The rest of the controller was pretty cool.

    I pointed out in the comments that maybe a swastika is not the best symbol to put on ur controller.

    Someone else asks me whats the problem with a swastika. So I explain how it was adopted by Hitler's Nazi party.

    The guy replies "I got no problem with a swastika"

    I said "That's up to you. I thought you weren't informed about it, so explained"

    Then I left the community group.

    I think we're seeing the collision of ideals and expectations more and more in the gaming space.

    There are people for whom online gaming is a social pastime and as such, should adhere to the same social standards they'd expect in face to face interaction. I've never done or said something in a game that I wouldn't be willing to repeat in person. That's just me.

    Others however treat gaming as completely trivial, unconcerned with their behavior or how it might affect others. They are simply unable to feel any empathy or connection with the the names and words on a screen. For those people, gaming is just way to blow of steam, to get away with things they'd never dream of doing in real life.

    When those two groups run into each other, you start to see these issues. I get the world has it's share of jerks. I'd just rather not be on the same team as them.

    I've had a bit of an opposite experience, not through gaming though. Had made friends at my friends with this guy at my mates bucks night. A couple weeks later we're all having fun at the wedding, I add him on facebook to try tee up drinks/footy. Anyway after a week or so, I see him do nothing but spread hateful things online during the same sex marriage vote. Needless to say, I don't see him in the same light I did before. I won't be having drinks with him

    I had this happen to me in LoL. I'd started duo queuing in ranked with another guy I met in solo queue when my support ended up botlane with his ADC. We managed to carry a few games with our synergy, despite his insistence on playing off-meta ADCs that were hard for me to support like Draven, and were doing pretty well. I noticed he had a slight tendency to blame other players on the team when we lost, but frankly he was at least usually right to do so, because some of the berks we got stuck with were utterly hopeless and frankly WERE the reason we were losing, so I just humoured him.

    Then we had ONE really terrible game. I went with a non-standard Kayle support because I was frankly sick of playing Braum every game, while he went with Quinn ADC, which is NOT really a valid pick. And we got utterly destroyed in botlane by the enemy. And then, to my shock (although in hindsight I probably should have seen this coming) he started blaming and flaming me, laying the blame for the lane completely at my feet (even though he'd made a terrible ADC pick and played it badly) and going off at me about how bad I am. I realised I'd actually teamed up with a typical whiny LoL brat (he'd mentioned earlier that he was still in high school). Before the game was over I'd already muted him, and once it was over I briefly told him how disappointed I was in him and unfriended him. And since then, I've never trusted anyone ever again. My friends list has absolutely nobody on it other than my one real-life friend who used to play (and quit) so I'm going it alone every game. Which sucks, because solo queue is cancer, but trying to make a new friend only for that "friend" to let you down is worse.

    A clan I was previously in was ripped apart by one persons drunk racist assault on another. They were quite good mates until the offender found out about the others cultural heritage, pretty ironic really.

    It's a challenging trying do deal with alt-rights as they're often consumed by their phobias. Any attempt to reconcile their views is often left with them rambling irrationally, unwilling to acknowledge any argument based in fact.

    Totally agree, trust is king in any online team based game and I'd probably argue at least a small degree of familiarity too.

    Unfortunately people surprise you in bad ways, be it intentional or not.

    However in my situation I'd of finished the matches as professionally as possible if only because I'd feel bad for ruining my other team mates chances at getting a decent rank placement if I just tanked it due to one fools comments.
    Tbh I'd probably also pull him aside and tell him how inappropriate he was and being the forgiving type would give him 1 more chance to rebuild trust depending on their response. As isn't it better to try teach someone to be a better person than just leaving a bad influence out there?

    Now only other thing I noticed was and it could have been how the article was written but it seemed to me the author came across a little thin skinned. Don't get me wrong what Danny said was out of line and you should never have to put up with it but completely losing focus over assumingly 2 comments? To me it does sound a little over reactive. But too be fair I have been playing on easy mode all my life so perhaps I have not had to put up with as much crap to get me to do the same reaction when it happens again.

    I dunno, it just seems to me ppl are just too quick to judge hate and vilify for whatever reason good or bad, instead of stepping back and taking a breath, so they can think about it properly. Could just be me tho, perhaps I'm willing to not sweat the small stuff and give people a chance to redeem themselves.

    I've had to do this multiple times, and as someone with PTSD, it doesn't stop hurting, that breach of trust. I shouldn't be trusting of people I met in a solo queue comp match but I do, it's just in my nature. And whether it's crude jokes, sexist comments, racist comments, or even being rudely kicked out of a PSN party because I wasn't playing the same game, it really breaks your morale. I've been frequently solo-queueing in Overwatch as of late, even though I have plenty of 'friends' on my friends list. ATM, I just stick to this one friend who's a fellow support main and dual-queue with him, because we're more flexible together (and unless I get super tilted, it works). If he's not available, I just don't play Overwatch for that night. Solo-queue is too risky, and it's tiring to have to just shut up and stay quiet when you're grouped up with someone nasty - even if they're an amazing player.

    And on the same topic, my Mum has been dropping a lot of racist comments lately and it pisses me off so much. She says like 'sorry it's racial, but' and it's just... stop there, Mum. I don't want to hear any of it.

    You're playing a video game, mate. The amount of trust you actually need to put in is so minuscule. You only need to trust that the other person is doing their in-game job, which requires no judgement of an individuals values and beliefs. If you can't handle the banter or what he says is a bit too edgy, thats fine but you only have yourself to blame.

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