When I first got involved in online gaming, roughly around the year 2000, communication with other players was handled exclusively over text chat. This was the norm in games like Star Wars Galaxies, Final Fantasy XI, as well as the original Guild Wars, but over the course of the decade things began to change. The first time I encountered voice communication was in 2009, when I got into Guild Wars: Eye of the North, as the guild I was with wanted to use it for socializing as well as coordinating dungeon runs. I never really got into it with them, but it still got me thinking, thinking real hard about this development.
Still, in the years since those pioneering days, voice communication solutions have evolved a great deal. Programs like TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, Mumble, and RaidCall have all become mainstream solutions for in-game chat, plus many guilds and gaming groups consider using it a requirement for membership. Steam and Skype have also provided easy-to-use solutions, especially since you can easily create chat and call groups within those programs and most people already have accounts there. Getting involved is pretty simple since all you need is a headset with a mic and one of the aforementioned apps, but is it really something for everyone?
MMOs because they feel like external chat will “break character” too much for them. Ultimately, they have to choose between developing personal friendships or staying in character and keeping the experience pure. For professional or at least “hard-core” gamers, though, this is a no-brainer for them.
For some, using voice chat is a trigger for anxiety. Perhaps they just value their privacy or maybe they're worried about what others will think of them. Some transgendered gamers, for example, are highly self-conscious about their voices and worry that others will judge them. My personal belief is that you should never have to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with, particularly with things like this that are meant to be fun. A good middle ground that I’ve found is that if you're with a group that does regular gaming that really benefits greatly from the coordination of voice chat, you could require participants to join the chat program and listen in, but not require them to have a microphone and contribute. After all, with dungeon raids, player-vs-player, and other content like that, usually there’s a leader for the team and listening to them is the most important aspect anyway.
Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention that voice chat not only exists on the PC but also on modern game consoles as well. You’d be surprised that many people have no idea that it’s even an option, or they don’t make the connection when they see someone playing an XBox One game with a pair of headphones on. So, yes, we certainly have more ways to reach out to others, but just as I discussed in my previous piece, sometimes these extra ways to connect from afar can serve to make us get out less and participate less in the world around us.