Cold Dark Heart

Cold Dark Heart
Curing the Noobonic Plague

Bryan Lufkin | 3 Aug 2010 12:59
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The issue of skill is another contentious one, however. Some experienced gamers grow frustrated when inexperience costs wins in multiplayer matches where a hardcore and casual find themselves on the same team. Such a skill imbalance results in the mostly hostile reception toward casuals online. Currently, there are over 600 definitions on UrbanDictionary that derive from "noob," including "noob fest," "Noobus Maximus" and "Noobonic Plague."

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It is especially apparent in online multiplayer competitions. FPS console games like Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty are very popular, and pit people from all over the world, and of all different skill levels, against each other in combat. Outfitted with a headset and anonymity, players are poised to trash talk any enemy or ally they encounter. But what many don't realize is that they were all "noobs" at one time.

David Braben is the founder of Frontier Developments, an independent games developer based in the UK. He reinforces that when GoldenEye 007 came out for the N64 in 1997, many gamers complained that the controls weren't user-friendly enough.

"Thankfully ... all this is now forgotten, and [GoldenEye] spawned perhaps the most successful genre in our industry, the console FPS," Braben writes. "There are still purists that think mouse and twenty hard-to-remember keyboard buttons are the 'true' FPSs, but that is a whole separate rant which just reinforces my point. It's no different to what a typical 'casual' gamer feels when they try to play Modern Warfare 2, especially when they get whupped instantly by pixel-perfect expert players." Braben reminds hardcore gamers that, at one point, they were new to gaming, too.

"We 'core' gamers have had a gradual build up over a long sequence of FPSs since GoldenEye, each very slightly more complex and unforgiving than the last," he says. "If our 1997 selves were magically brought forward today with just the experience we had then, we would probably be considered as casual gamers too, by today's standards."

Again, all internet niches have their share of trolls: sports, movies and TV, and politics. But with the growth of the videogame industry's "expanded audience" showing no signs of slowing down, will seasoned players gradually become more accommodating to gaming greenhorns, or will the diatribes reach a breaking point?

Jamie Madigan says that "this is just human nature to seek out an 'us versus them' outlook, and that it's not good enough that our group be good. The other group has to be inferior."

It's important to keep the psychology that's in play in mind as we witness this historic shift in videogames. Gaming has entered the mainstream and it's here to stay. And, as with anything else, there will be some people who know more about it than others. Heaving sighs of exasperation aren't necessary when someone's never heard of Cloud Strife or the Konami Code, bottom line. The internet is already replete with a-holes. The gaming community shouldn't be adding any more into the mix. Hopefully, time, maturity and open-mindedness - and maybe written applications for YouTube membership - will ensure kinder treatment toward new players, both on and off the internet.

Bryan Lufkin is a freelance entertainment writer and hardcore gamer who knows far too much about obscure 16-bit RPGs and Pokemon evolutionary stages. Get gaming, movie and TV news from his blog.

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