Half Life Dog Last month, I talked about my experiences 'going offline' for an extended period after two of my computers gave up the ghost. Through this, I’ve learned that disconnecting from the internet can be a very refreshing experience, as it can help put things into perspective so you can connect with others in a different capacity. Yet having said that, the one conversation that stemmed from this piece, in regard to online communication, got me to thinking about how this has evolved over the years in the realm of gaming.

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.

People Talking
I was conflicted, as on the one hand the idea of chatting over voice comms would free up a lot of wasted moments typing out long messages, which would be particularly beneficial where every moment counted (such as in boss raids or dungeon runs). Voice communications would also let you multitask quite a bit better. Yet, on the other hand, part of me felt like it would make some people uncomfortable, particularly if they valued their privacy. Some people get online and play games to relax and unwind, with the intent of losing themselves in the fun. Those people often don’t want things to get overly personal or break some unseen boundary into the real world.

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?

Shut Up Poster
Like most things, whether or not you choose to get into something like this depends on what your personal aim is. In my time with online gaming I’ve found that some people simply don’t want to use it. This is particularly the case in groups that like to role-play their characters in 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.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. So please stay tuned for more crafty content coming your way, care of Jessica's Journey, as written by Joypad Jess from NerdyButFlirty.com.


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