So I will start with an admission that I am an OGG. If you had to look up OGG, let me explain that I am not a Hawaiian airport or the text abbreviation for ‘Oh Golly Gosh,’ but you’re getting close if you found something like ‘online gamers guild’. As applied to me, it means Old Gal Gamer. Note that I use ‘gal’ and not girl as I am not a teenager nor still in my twenties. I also work in a technical field whose water cooler talk often centers entirely on any good science fiction television show or movie. Early in my career I came to understand that coordination meetings often involve yelling and cursing, to which I was often asked to leave the room. Now that I am older, they’ll do it around or me or sometimes at me if they are ignorant enough to think that I will permit that. I say all of this to let you know that I am familiar with the way men talk to men.
As an OGG who likes online first person shooter games, 98 percent of the time I am in a lobby with your sons, significant others, friends with benefits, boyfriends, or husbands. The game systems these days have platforms that allow instant messaging, private or group chats, and texting. Some of the games even allow you to upload your game play to your social media page. I wish I could tell you that your men are well behaved.
If you were not aware, some of the games allow the design of personalized emblems. It is not unusual for there to be female body parts, clothed and unclothed, in great abundance; but you should be aware that these often include extremely sexually explicit emblems portraying sexual acts and sometimes abuse and the myriad of self-portraits of their own genitalia. None of which engenders joy in anyone except a deviant. Of course, the guys will tell you they are just blowing off steam, quoting some cartoon character or rapper or even better, that their emblem is just an outlet for their creativity and expression. So no harm, no foul. Right?
Well you should listen to their conversations.
I am not a talker in the gaming lobbies (of course, no one who knows me will believe that). As any female gamer knows, speaking up in the lobby can get you a great deal of attention. Very rarely is that attention positive. A lot of messaging often ensues and should you show any interest is quickly followed by offers for online friendship, and requests for your phone number if you’re lucky.
Ladies, be careful who you friend; they are not interested in your skill at the game! But of course that is true for any girl or gal anywhere. That’s the nature of male-female interactions.
What concerns me more is how our men and boys treat each other in these lobbies. I think the schools have swung way too far with the anti-bullying stuff. Where are children today supposed to learn and earn the self-esteem that comes from dealing with problems without tattling? Don’t get me wrong, there are some situations that are just wrong and we as adults need to get involved, but just because someone thinks your idea is stupid and tells you so is not bullying.
In gaming lobbies, I am often a witness to the routine use of racial slurs. Disproportionately, anger leads to epic displays of unsportsmanlike conduct. What you should really be alarmed about is the verbal abuse aimed at your sons by our men. For one game, one of the players was probably a tween. His voice was changing, which has resulted in the endearing nickname for his ilk as “squeakers.” This young man was excited and talked throughout the entire match with the enthusiasm that tweens have. It was so annoying that I eventually muted him. Unfortunately, others in the lobby proceeded to make comments about his sexuality, threatening to come to his home. Even worse, some threatened to sexually assault him and/or his mother. This was my last straw. Unfortunately by the time I found and connected my microphone the game and lobby was over. I felt awful. I wonder how he slept that night. I wonder if he told anyone.
As this scene is repeated, I have listened to as many little boys try to defend themselves. I was particularly proud of the well-timed, monkey-butt retort from one boy who would not back down. Every once in a blue moon one real man speaks up and tells the offenders to leave the child alone. Of course this typically devolves into a shouting match. One guy told the child to go get his parents. The offender quickly logged off.
I know that posturing is a part of the male psyche, but what kind of society are we building if our men need to prey on our boys to boost their egos? It is so bad that the game vendor has a means to report offenders and can ban them from online play of the game. On some systems, comments can be incorporated into a player’s online reputation, not that most children would pay that any attention.
Many parents have finally started establishing guidelines for their child’s social media communications. They should be just as vigilant with their gameplay. They should know that the game systems have headsets that often don’t allow the game chat to be heard on the television with the sound of the gameplay. Despite protestations of your child, he is not always talking to his “friends,” and some of those “friends” he should not be talking to period.
As mentors, guardians, aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents, we have a responsibility to our children to protect them. In the grocery store, I watch as various mom’s one after another read labels to check the fat content and make sure foods for their little angels are gluten free. It’s not a big stretch to take the time to read the label on your child’s games! On most games there is an Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating. This often includes a rating of the interactive content that often reads, “…possible exposure to unfiltered/uncensored user-generated content, including user-to-user communications and media sharing via social media and networks.” Please pay attention.
Most of the online play for the really popular games is not so essential to your child’s future well-being to risk being a survivor or witness to verbal abuse. So pay attention. And if you hear your man ego-building at some child’s expense, give him something else to focus on. From my experience, there are some really detailed game emblems if you need some ideas. Sorry for taking so long, but my microphone is now on.
E. Angel is a former collegiate band geek and author of the upcoming Eco-Terror novel,Whistleblower.