My first real experience playing online games was with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I have many memories about rushing home after football practice to get online and play with my friends for hours and hours. During this time in my life, my friends and I would literally spend upwards of fifty hours a week playing online together and with random strangers. I remember this time as being immensely fun, as I carelessly played with different people from around the world and met many friends who I still keep in contact with today; for example, while playing Halo 3, I met another teenager from Virginia who was my age and we are still friends and talk to each other to this day.
What I do not remember, however, was people yelling and screaming, saying racist remarks, and generally harassing people as they try to play the game. I log on to the most recent game in the Call of Duty franchise, which is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and literally within seconds of playing I hear what sounds like a nine-year-old kid call me a word that is generally reserved for the most hardened of sailors. My immediate reaction is that this kid should not be playing this game, as he is obviously learning the wrong type of things from the people that he encounters, or maybe their parents are just failing at parenting … Whatever the case, multiplayer games like Call of Duty seem to have changed over the years, as roving bands of young children now stock the multiplayer lobbies, looking for their next victim. This trend is not limited to this one franchise, as it seem that the nine-year-old gang has a firm hold in almost every major AAA launch title that features multiplayer content. Also, while there are people of all ages who play these games, and I have been called some nasty names by the random middle-age sounding man, the majority of the comments seem to come from the under eighteen age group. So what has happened? Has the target audience of multiplayer games changed? Maybe when I remember playing Call of Duty 4 I am just forgetting all the times this happened as nostalgia rushes in and takes over. Do you think that this is why the ESRB labels these games as 18+, because this is the effect that these games can have on younger players? Also, my online experience has been limited to the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and very little PC, so is this the same experience on the other consoles and platforms as well? Or is it something specific to Xbox? I would love to hear what you all think!