Hell is other gamers.
It’s not news that the anonymous, competitive world of gaming is home to a great deal of abuse, cheating and general assholiness. Even ordinarily courteous people can turn into Humungus-style goons when the veneer of civilisation gets peeled back by the structures of online gaming. Whether it’s name-calling, bigotry (in varieties you haven't even dreamed of), griefing, cheating or just poor sportsmanship, most gamers have encountered shitty behaviour if they’ve played online. I certainly have: according to one heavily-Australian-accented player, my online play demonstrates my fondness for “getting raped up the arsehole, mate, hurrh hurrh hurrh”. The psychology of these creatures is as mysterious as it is awful.
The offenders represent a minority of players, but so vocal is that minority that it often overwhelms the more upstanding citizens of Internet gaming who must exist somewhere. It also gives gaming a bad name - the homophobic, racist, misogynistic, potty-mouthed teenager-cum-Call of Duty player is almost a cliche now. They put people off - myself included - from taking part in what is surely designed to be an enjoyable experience by making it an intolerably noisy and negative one. Cheating can be just as bad, ruining even good-natured matches by taking skill and competition out of the equation, all for the sake of a better leaderboard position.
Luckily, the curators of the major multiplayer gaming networks are taking measures to improve the tone of gameplay. Online play with the Xbox One features a colour-coded scale of reputation, moulded by feedback from other players: green for “good”, yellow for “needs improvement”, and red for “avoid me”. Start dropping and your company will be less desirable. Fall too low and privileges start getting revoked. The only way around it is to behave better, which is a refreshing change in gaming's new microtransaction economy. You now even receive notifications when your reputation level drops, just like in eighth grade History when your teacher wrote a note to your parents about the cartoon penises you were drawing on the textbooks. This is appropriate, as drawing dicks has led to being a dick in clinical trials.
And on the other side of the tracks, while it’s by no means implemented, announced or even necessarily planned, a PlayStation 4 user survey has hinted at Sony’s potential interest in a similar system. It’s unknown at this stage what level of scorn they will heap upon substandard citizens, but it is widely rumoured to involve a stern Victorian schoolmarm and a ruler. We can only hope these rumours are true.
I like Respawn Entertainment’s solution for Titanfall cheaters: placing them in a digital ghetto populated exclusively by other cheaters to be force-fed their own medicine. If you cheat in Titanfall, you’ll be moved over to servers where cheaters and only cheaters roam. Says the game’s official website:
Great news: you get to keep playing Titanfall! Less-great news: you only get to play with other cheaters. You can play with other banned players in something that will resemble the Wimbledon of aimbot contests. Hopefully the aimbot cheat you paid for really is the best, or these all-cheater matches could be frustrating for you. Good luck.
I’d love to see cheating players pitted against each other, slowly allowing their AI hacks to overwhelm and eventually supplant their control until sentient Titanfall bots rise up and build actual giant robots of their own. It would be a cutthroat world into which that future would place us - one where our robot overlords could draw a bead on us from a mile away and glitch through solid objects in pursuit of their quarry. We’ll need to be tough to fight such an enemy, and to get tough, we’ll need to train. I for one plan on pumping iron on the beach at sunrise wearing aviators and several days’ worth of stubble as the wind tousles my hair and guitar solos crash like the rolling waves. Feeding sustainably from a resident population of spider crabs, I will transform myself from a slightly overweight guy with glasses into a sculpted killing machine who doesn’t need to see because he can feel danger coming through his highly-tuned musculature. Upon reaching peak physical condition, I will charge forth into the aimbot-infested megacity and throw one mighty punch before being sniped by an emotionless piece of software operating a rifle two kilometres away. My death will be sudden, and my corpse will be one of billions forming a sort of global chaise longue for death-robots. By then they will have evolved a sense of humour, and it will be abusive, childish, and cruel.
That is the world cheaters and assholes would leave us to. It’s the world we need to prevent. So report them, ladies and gentlemen, and hope they see the light. If we can't rehabilitate them, it could be your life on the line.