Grumpy Gurevitz: The Sound of Gaming

See what it says, "Play Together". The emphasis should be on the words "Play" and 'Together".

I own all the main gaming platforms, bar PC (I’m a Mac man you know) and over time it’s become clear that each machine has a different core demographic. I say it’s become clear, but I don’t mean I have done extensive research and can provide broken down stats to make my point. Hell no! I’m an opinionated columnist and Ill just write what I think based upon my experiences.

It has wires and everything, and it works! Great thing is they are cheap, so if you lose it or it breaks it's not hard to replace.

So, what have my experiences taught me? Well the Xbox Live community is far more likely to own and, more importantly, use a headset. This is what makes gaming social, the ability to plan, discuss and support your fellow gamers by using good old fashioned verbal communication. The PS3 crowd seems to either not own headsets or never have them plugged in. I’m assuming this is because Sony went for Bluetooth headsets. There are USB ones but they’re pointless, as they must be attached to the main console which is normally a long way from where the player might be seated. The problem with Bluetooth headsets is that they cost more, need charging and some are a pain to pair – with variable sound quality. Sony’s own official headset is actually very good, but not widely adopted.

A superb bluetooth headset. It should be mandatory issue with the PS3. I wonder if Sony would ever package one with the actual console....

This lack of headset adoption amongst PS3 owners can lead to a very quiet experience lacking in the same level of vibrant social interaction that can be experienced on Xbox Live. If Sony could start again, I’m sure they would have gone for a less exciting form of connectivity which would have driven up willing participation. Then again, they might have also launched without PS2 backward compatibility (now dropped), SACD support (now dropped), touch sensitive buttons (now dropped) and such a high entry price (now dropped).

The Wii, well that has no headset option to my knowledge. Instead a small, select number of games support WiiSpeak, a microphone and speaker setup to facilitate chatting. It’s very public and is meant to be, as part of Nintendo’s way of making sure rude words and the like are not being spread via their servers. The idea is if everyone in a household can hear what is being said, then less naughty things can be said or heard. The unintended outcome is that no one really has one and hence the level of speech being shared is muted to say the least. WiiNoSpeak could be its real name! To be honest if I am at home playing, I think my wife has to put up with enough noise already (gun shots, explosions etc) without having to deal with random rants between me and fellow players whilst she watches the latest BBC reality show on my PSP. I’ve suggested she turns down the sound on the PSP of course.

This is WiiSpeak, and no I've never seen one in the wild either.

However, apart from the differences in technology between the platforms, I have noticed a distinct difference between the ‘speech cultures’ between the platforms. Well, with regard to the Xbox and PS3 at least. As I’ve already described, the Nintendo audience is really very quiet. The amount of Xbox sessions where I have heard racist, homophobic and generally idiotic language is remarkable. I have had threats to my family (not that I disclose whilst playing that I have one, players were just guessing), including to ‘slice them up’ and other acts which require a culinary skillset (Cooking Mama must be very popular with some Modern Warfare 2 players). Being called a F***ing Jew boy, or black this or gay that is not really my idea of a nice time and it does nothing, nothing at all to draw me to coming back online. The fact I do is because I’m thick skinned and love gaming, but if I was a parent and knew my offspring were listening to this I would be very angry, and I would probably not want them to experience it. Not that it’s hard to stop them, as I can put locks on the games or lock them out of voice chat, but that’s not the point. Why should anyone have to put up with such language? The hatred in the voice of some people is frightening.

Back in PS3 land the number of situations where this has happened is greatly reduced. That’s because, as I have already pointed out, there are a lot less people actually using a headset. Yet it’s no wasteland such as in the land of Mario. I have plenty of quality conversations via my PS3 with complete strangers. Often they are polite, even supportive and helpful for newbies or just oldies who are rubbish at certain games! I’m not saying you can’t have such nice conversations on the Xbox, and I’m sure it has something to do with software and the audience it attracts. For example, I would assume that BattleField Bad Company 2 has a slightly older (and hence possibly more mature) audience overall than the mass consumer Modern Warfare 2. Also, I have nothing but politeness from my fellow assassins in Splinter Cell Conviction on Xbox. Software aside though, I would imagine that due to its original high price the PS3 has an older audience overall, and ironically due to the barriers in the way of cheap and easy voice chat (due to that Bluetooth headset option) it’s resulted in people who really want to chat, and not gamers who get a kick out of abusing others.

How though can we bring the quality of chat on the Xbox up to the same quality as that of the PS3? Microsoft will remind us that there are ways of reporting Xbox Live players who are abusive. I’ve reported one person in my years, but I wonder how many other people have bothered to report individuals. I also have no idea how effective reporting someone is, after all what proof do we have?

We could, if we wanted, all be friends. Just like this group of people

One ‘easy’ option would be that all ‘open’ chat situations, meaning anything that was not a party created by the players themselves, would have their conversations recorded. It might be expensive for Microsoft (and Sony) to implement, but the fact players would know what they were saying was being recorded might really put some people off using such foul and hate filled language. Indeed there is an argument that anything spoken in such a ‘public space’ is subject to the same local laws regarding hate speech and such like. Perhaps it could be argued that the Xbox Live service itself comes under some of the same legislation which covers traditional broadcasters when it comes to what can and cannot be broadcast? It would be interesting to get a legal viewpoint on this.

I don’t want my gaming sessions to be filled with vocabulary back from my playground days when I was 12. That was 20 years ago and I have moved on since then. I want to play, cooperate, help fellow gamers, or be helped by them. Not ‘cuss’, swear and verbally intimidate my way through a session.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to

One comment

  1. Krazyface /

    I had a blue tooth headset for my PS3 ages ago when I first bought it (sort of) and after letting the voices come into my head on Warhawk I changed my mind instantly. After shooting some guy out the sky I was met with a chant of “I’m gonna f*** your mom” for the rest of the match. Now, I’m what you’d call ‘thick skinned’ but 20 minutes of that was enough for me to know I don’t ever want to hear what another angry idiot gamer thinks again; ever.

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