I play Halo 3 online on Xbox live quite often. While I enjoy the actual game, the post game banter can be rather horrific. If my team wins, the vanquished all too often throw out a chorus of vulgarities and insults. In the rare event that my team loses, we are regularly treated to shouted obscenities. If I am playing a “pickup game” with random people, woe to the player who has a bad game-his performance is critiqued with such phrases as “fag” and “you c**k sucking, a** f***ing fag!” While this does not happen all the time, I am always surprised when I hear a calm voice saying “good game” or “wow, that was close…you guys played well.”
Having competed in sports since I was 15 and being an ethical person, I find this sort of behavior annoying and disturbing. The proper way to act after any sporting competition is to politely say “good game” and behave with decorum, honor and dignity. Since, as Kant argued, people are rational beings with moral worth, they should be treated with proper respect. Shouting insults at strangers over a video game is hardly showing proper respect. Further, there is the matter of reversing the situation. I assume that those shouting out their rage and hate would not like being on the receiving end of that treatment. Finally, such behavior diminishes a person. As Plato argues in the Republic, such behavior can corrupt the soul and make a person worse.
In terms of why people behave like that, part of it is that anonymity provides them with the safety to act out. They can screech vulgarities and hatred over the microphone, knowing that they will never receive the corrective beat down they no doubt so richly deserve. Another reason is that such behavior is tolerated in real life as well. This sort of thing might be regarded as harmless and those who are opposed to casual vulgarity might be regarded as prudes. But, the way a person talks and thinks affects the person’s character. A person who is casually vulgar and insulting is either expressing a defective character or is in the act of damaging his character.
What I also find annoying is that people are so poor at insulting. All most people can seem to come up with is “fag” and they tend to just repeat the same vulgarity over and over. Presumably they hope to make up for a lack of creativity via the use of volume and repetition. I must admit that once my disgust got the better of me. This is how it played out:
Player: “You fag! You f****ing suck! You f****ing suck! You f****ing suck!”
Me: “That is not very sportsman like.”
Player: “You’re a fag! You f****ing suck! You f****ing suck!”
Me: “Is that all you’ve got? Don’t you have anything original in the way of insults?”
Me: “You just keep saying the same thing over. What about some originality, buddy?”
Player: “You’re a fag!”
Me: “That is not original. You just keep saying that.”
Player: “F*** you, you fag!”
Me: “It is my considered opinion that you f*** dogs.”
Player: “What!? What did you say, you fag?”
Me: “You heard me just fine, you poodle f***er.”
I felt bad after doing that, but it did shut him up.