Learning To Like Voice Chat
Not long after I first starting playing Everquest 2 I began afresh on the European PvP server Darathar and met a lovely bunch of blood thirsty bastards. We formed a guild together (all of my buddies from Splitpaw and their’s from whatever game they were last banned from) called The Mutineers and embarked on a hand-holding, tune-whistling, flower skipping journey of scandalous PvP havoc and hell raising. It was also the first time I ever used voice chat.
Initially I was incredibly shy and refused to participate over Ventrillo instead listening only and making up feeble excuses like I couldn’t afford a microphone or was unable to speak because I didn’t have a tongue. I’d spent the last six years chatting via the keyboard, conjuring brilliant (if I do say so myself) roleplaying illusions of my characters like the camp and narcissistic Warrior, the repugnant and narcissistic Cleric and the dumb and narcissistic Berserker, and I’d be damned if all of that was going to be taken away from me. Plus, it turns out a lot of guild mates were Cockneys and I honestly couldn’t understand a fucking word they were saying.
Eventually I relented and bought a microphone and I think for the first three months all I said were the words “pardon?, “sorry?” and “excuse me?”. Communicating using our physical voice sure was a drag. Then something changed. The guild disbanded and I moved over to the US PvP server, joining one of the European guilds that existed there, full of members from a variety of different countries such as France, Italy, Latvia, Austria, Scotland and America. Finally, some people who spoke English properly.
I’m not sure why I came out of my shell at this moment but my guess it that it had something to do with not only becoming gradually accustomed to voice chat but also by finally meeting some very likable and easy going gamers. Soon I no longer became aware of the microphone on the side of my head (except when my girlfriend used to point and laugh at me) and learned to enjoy the benefits that voice chat systems can bring to a MMO. Not only does it make PvP a hell of a lot faster (there’s nothing as annoying as getting cut down half way through trying to type “help me!”) but it also makes the bond of friendship between players more real and intimate. I don’t think I would have felt as close to my EQ2 companions as I do now had I not spoken to them over Ventrillo and actually heard their personalities, inflections and humour come through.
I also became more confident in my own voice. Strangely enough, even though I’ve lived in Scotland for over 20 years, I’ve never developed a Scottish accent and instead have what most people tell me is an “American twang”, despite never having even been to the US (some people even think I’m Canadian). Unlike in real life though where I’m forced to constantly explain my peculiar accent, people in virtual worlds take it in their stride and don’t bat an eyelid or ask me anything about where I’m from. In fact, one of my male Austrian friends even complimented me on what a powerful and beautiful voice I have, which, to be fair, did leave me feeling more uncomfortable than flattered but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Although I’m very comfortable with voice chat now I still miss the old days of keyboard only communication. There was something quite dramatic about being able to create a completely fabricated and extreme online roleplaying personality that other games had no choice but to engage with (yes, I did get kicked out a few groups in my day) and that’s just not something we see any more. Sure, I suppose one could still roleplay over voice chat like an actor but, maybe it’s just me, that’s make me very uncomfortable. I think shouting down my mic pretending to be a mad Priest would also scare my neighbours somewhat.
So that’s how I learned to like voice chat. How do you feel about it?
If Gordon ever won the lottery he’d hire Brian Blessed to do all of his voice chatting for him.