That’s why Wiseman and Burch say game makers should feel obligated, as creators of the most popular entertainment medium for boys, to inject some emotional nuance into their work.
Making cooperation a part of gameplay is an easy way to do that. Many games already require players to use teamwork to win, but Burch and Wiseman say more can be done. Football matches require players to shake hand after every match—what if there was a digital equivalent?
In middle-school, I sent a recruitment request email to a Quake clan leader (there has to be a better term for this) full of overly aggressive sentiment and profanity from my friend’s computer. What I did not realize was that his father was able to track all outbound communication from the machine. I was later disciplined for my vulgarity by my parents and was forced to apologize to my friend’s parents. Full of embarrassment, I learned that the type of dialog I had engaged in was not appropriate. I also learned that even seemingly “anonymous” communication could be tracked.
I also recall seeing the term “gg” for the first time after a Starcraft match. After learning that the acronym stood for “good game,” I was taken aback. This may have been the first time I had seen resolute, positive communication in an online multiplayer setting. Sending “gg” at the end of each match became a ritual. This ritual can now be seen in Hearthstone. There has been much praise for Hearthstone’s use of limited speech commands, with a majority of matches ending in, “Well played.”
Fast forward a few years where I was called out by an openly gay high school classmate for being a “dick.” I am uncertain as to exact circumstance but I do recall being deserved of this title. At that moment, I had become acutely aware of my thoughts, actions, and communication toward others.
Not only does removing abusive communication from a game create an uninhibited environment for play and experience, I would bet that it has a lasting impact on real-world perspective and interaction. As long as slanderous behavior is met with positive reinforcement from in-game peers, the cancer will grow. Those shrouded in anonymity may be wise not to display this behavior in public but will continue to bank harmful viewpoints in private until disciplined by peers, companies, or guardians. Here’s to hoping Donald Sterling opened some eyes.
Discipline is necessary. I fear that those children continuing to engage in lewd behavior are not being disciplined or monitored. What is worse are the adults who continue to engage in such behavior that may never be disciplined or monitored.
One additional bit on innovative interaction in multiplayer games:
Though players can’t harm each other, they can help each other. Touching another player recharges the power used to leap and (eventually) fly. In cold weather, touching warms both players, fighting back the encroaching frost. More experienced players can guide new players to secret areas and help them through difficult parts of the game.
Journey players are not better people than Call of Duty players or Halo players. In fact, they’re often the same people. The difference is in the design of the game itself. By so thoroughly eliminating all forms of negative interaction, all that remains is the positive.
Players do want to interact; real people are much more interesting than computerized entities. In Journey, players inevitably find themselves having positive interactions with others. And, as it turns out, many people find these positive, cooperative interactions even more rewarding than their usual adversarial gaming experiences.