The Good Side of Xbox Live Preteens

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When it comes to online gaming, we tend to focus on the negative. But every now and then something will happen to make us reassess our views.

It’s an ancient truth of the universe that if you want to play Halo online, you must be prepared to run the gauntlet of 12-year olds armed with racist and homophobic epithets. But while we’re busy girding our loins to weather barrages of hateful name-calling, we tend to overlook the very positive experience we can have. In Issue 270 of The Escapist, Chuck Wendig tells the tale of how in the midst of adversity, he found a leader on Xbox Live.

I used to tell people, “You want to witness the worst in humanity? Get online and play a multiplayer FPS on Xbox Live.” See that guy over there? He’s going to call me an “f” word, rhymes with “maggot.” Some other dude will call a totally different dude an “n” word, rhymes with “chigger.” Fuck this, fuck that, slap a bitch, sexism, racism, misogyny, misanthropy.

But then it happened: a match of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that changed all that: A match that showed me how cynical my thinking had become, and how wrong it was. Not “wrong” in the sense that it never happens … But “wrong” in the sense that it allows noise to wash out the signal.

We were getting stomped. Mashed. Teabagged. Bent over a barrel. Smacked around like sock monkeys.
In the desert sands of – Fallujah? Baghdad? Beirut? Tatooine? – my teammates and I couldn’t get a foothold. Every time that we turned a corner, there stood our enemy, an OpFor motherfucker with an angry AK-47. The gun chattered. Bullets stitched across digital bodies, the screen went red, our hearts thumped the drumbeats of our dooms, and the sand-swept ground of the Crossfire map claimed yet another Marine corpse.

But then. A leader – not just a soldier, but our general – rose from the madness. I’ll call him Pip.

Pip wasn’t exactly the square-jawed, combat hardened veteran you might expect to lead a team of US Marines – being pre-pubescent and British – but he reminded Wendig that despite Xbox Live’s reputation, it wasn’t all bad. You can read more about the fate of Wendig’s squad in his article “The 12 -Year-Old English Kid Who Carried Us to Victory.”

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