At around dinner time, I’m sitting down when this one guy sends me some very sexual messages, some very angry, sexual messages. I’m half-way through my cup noodles, when he says, “Don’t ever play this game again.” This is followed by an equally sinister message, delivered entirely in caps lock, “WHAT EVEN IS THAT BUILD?” He asks, I assume, because there’s no question mark – it’s more of a declarative sentence, bashed out on a keyboard, I suppose.
Between friendly banter, and the occasional ‘good game,’ I’ll get messages like this from angry people, who are incredibly upset with me. The way they behave, you’d think this was Nuremberg, and I’m on trial for updating my subscription to Playstation Plus. I message back, asking if this player “looks as dumb as he sounds” – and then I get nothing. No response. It’s all radio silence, a dull static buzzing in my ear.
A few weeks ago, I’m playing Smite when someone messages to say “We lost because you didn’t listen to me.” Like a strange, Christian Grey, the player comes across as extremely domineering, like a video game despot addicted to Tropico 5. Of course, I apologise for my insolence, but go on to win five games. By the end of my winning streak, I’m starting to think it wasn’t my fault, after all. Checking my game history, I see my K/D/A wasn’t so bad – it was the best in the team, in fact.
Either way, I seem to always get these hateful messages on PSN.
This time it’s because I’m trying to progress with Smite, you know? Master eighteen Gods, start on the ranked matches, work my way up the league tables, etc. Of course, I’m very familiar with the concept of ‘ranked matches.’ Back when Starcraft 2 was released, I spent many evenings building huge broods of Zerglings – cheesing my way through to the silver league, before my inevitable retirement. Then, there are the ranked matches in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Finishing relatively high in these league tables, I’m often left feeling that superficial sense of achievement that can only come through video games.
Now, I’ve wanted to get in to multiplayer online battle arenas for awhile; feeling like they’re the natural progression from real time strategy. And feeling like I’d missed the boat with League of Legends and Dota 2, I felt Smite would be the natural way to go. This intuition coupled with an admiration for all things mythological made Smite seem like an obvious choice.
As I go about my day, speaking to friends and colleagues, there’s a distinct notion that we must be discriminatory in the games we play. By no means is this an original insight; we’re all increasingly under pressure to make good decisions in regards to our consumption of time. Smite works because the game modes I play can be completed in fairly predictable time scales. For a Joust, I allocate approximately twenty minutes – whilst a Siege can take up to forty minutes. It’s kind of like Hearthstone, where time consumption is all fairly predictable for me.
This weekend, however, I allocated a decent portion of my time to ‘grinding’ Gods, attempting to achieve that prestigious, eighteen God mastery, as to begin my career in competitive Smite. Unfortunately, this led to some rather disastrous play, where I was testing out new Gods and new abilities. Sure enough, laughable hate mail came thick and fast from some very angry players.
What’s best is when you’re so good at a video game, you get hate from the people you’re up against. Now, as with all games, there are particular characters I enjoy playing – in Smite, one of those characters is the Egyptian Goddess, Neith. She has this move, right? Where she flips backwards and becomes immune to practically any attack that’s thrown at her.
Consequently, Neith is probably one of the most widely played – and widely abused – Gods in the game; especially when players don’t know when to tactically engage her. This has led to some of the best demonstrations of ‘rage quitting’ I’ve ever seen. And what’s more, some of the best examples of angry messages, combined with accusations of ‘cheap play’ and, funniest of all, accusations of ‘hacking’ – whatever that entails.
This bizarre torrent of mail isn’t reserved for the realms of multiplayer online battle arenas either. Look, I have this one friend who’s constantly receives messages from members of the PSN community regarding Warframe. Here, he frequently receives accusations of hacking, and other miscellaneous threats.
Some nights, I make two portions of instant cup noodles, and we sit down and read them all.
Boiling the kettle, we compare our hate mail.