Why is it okay to play multiplayer online games in a state too impaired to play well, when you would be slapped and sent away for doing it in meatspace?

If it is your own group of friends, and you all know you’re messing around, that seems fine. You all implicitly agreed on the level of play, and you had disclosure up front of who was drunk. When you play with strangers, that is the equivalent of joining the local pickup basketball game or sitting down to play chess in the park. If you are too drunk to make a shot, you will be forcibly removed from the game. Even chess players may get violent if you get a dozen moves in and then decide to giggle about horsies and how high you are instead of making a move.

In online gaming, people queue up or LFG while too drunk to realize that it is a bad idea to talk about how drunk they are. That’s not quite true; they have enough restraint left to avoid mentioning it until you are committed. It is a rare group that advertises “drunk DPS seeks understanding tank and healer to carry him.” League of Legends players wait until they die a few times to start talking about how high they are, rather than mentioning it during champion select. And they generally have enough sense left to pick a system like LoL’s where you cannot avoid with their choice to ruin your game without suffering some punishment or significant inconvenience. After all, the joke’s not funny if you don’t have anyone to play the joke on.

The usual refrain at that point is “it’s just a game.” But no, most people have the good sense not to do that where other people are in physical proximity, so they know it is not socially acceptable. Except apparently it is socially acceptable, because very few people seem to attach any stigma to it, and the drunk troll is not the only one who will go with “it’s just a game.” So maybe it’s me, but I cannot see an ethical system that supports making a negligent, unilateral decision that worsens the entertainment of most people around you.

: Zubon

14 thoughts on “Impairment”

  1. Just be careful – that last sentence sounds awfully like the sort of thing that comes from the elitist guys who vote-kick someone because their gear isn’t all best in slot or their spec doesn’t match the latest FotM template. After all, having a sub-optimal character is a negligent, unilateral decision that worsens the entertainment of most people around you. I’m not saying the two are actually equivalent (to my mind, they’re not), but it’s probably too fine a distinction for some of the internet’s denizens to grasp.

    1. I greatly enjoyed this insightful comment, it got me thinking quite a bit.

      You know, I think in my mind, I have a little elitist inside me that says that both drunkenness and sub-optimal stats -are- worsening your personal performance and thus the entertainment of the people around you, and that a person with some personal pride and ethics would not inflict either on casual strangers.

      But at the same time, faced with a poor player of either stripe, I wouldn’t immediately move to vote-kick them out of a party and would likely just wince and bear it until a) we struggle through it regardless of THAT guy, b) the patience of others around me crumbled first or c) I can’t take it any longer, make my excuses and get the hell out of dodge.

      (I’d mark the name and check if it’s going to be a recurring thing though. Won’t see me choosing to play with them more than twice or so without some improvement.)

      1. This may sound a lot like justification, but what about when I play while being sick? If I feel horrible I’m probably not bringing my A game either. Where is the fine line that makes me unresponsible towards my gaming partners?

        For the record, some of the most fun games of Warsong Gulch I’ve had while playing a little drunk – I suppose I was playing worse than sober, but I am quite sure I wasn’t near passing out or acting like a dummy, that’s probably what was called out in the original post.

        1. If you’re playing with your friends who are fine with it, or by yourself, play away! But if you’re a hair away from about to puke on your keyboard, I really don’t think trying to PUG a dungeon is appropriate?

          I was feeling crappy to the gills with a really bad flu back in May – as you can see in my post, soloing for 15 minutes was about all I could do.

          I didn’t think it was right to inflict someone who was on the verge of blacking out from a body temperature way too high for one’s brain on a PUG that might take 45mins or more. (Nor cause myself to suffer that pain, for that matter.)

          1. Similarly, the folks who join knowing they do not have enough time to complete things unless they joined a perfectly operating speed clear group, which is even more ridiculous when they join PvP. “I only have 10 minutes left gogogo.” You had 12 minutes to play and you joined [almost any group content]?

            1. You’re talking about the extreme cases – I am talking about the “slightly to mediocre underperforming” cases.
              Being sick, distracted, watching TV, talking on the phone, whatever.

              In theory you would hope no one joins group content when they’re not even trying – in practice I think that’s the norm. Considering LFR in WoW for example, unless you’re one of two tanks.

              Ah well, I’m not trying to excuse anyone’s behavior (and of course at times I might have fallen into that bunch as well, doing that one last dungeon/battleground/whatever for points/marks/whatever and half falling asleep. I think you won’t be able to avoid it unless you’re playing with friends…

            2. See, the thing is, slightly to mediocre underperforming cases are not really too noticeable by most people, only the extreme ones are.

              Slightly to mediocre underperforming cases sneak by all the time, be it slightly not-so-optimal stats, a lower than average ability player, mildly drunk (I did a mild drunk experiment myself on a permadeath bullet hell game, talk about playing with fire, but that one only risks my character, nor others) or sniffling with a wastebasket full of tissues.

              And I personally think it’s too extreme elitist to boot the mild cases out without a word of explanation or giving them a chance, but some people do. I tend to notice but either keep my mouth shut or try coaching if they seem receptive or if the party needs it to succeed.

              On the other hand, if one is so extremely underperforming to announce to all and sundry that one is drunk, slrurring wrds whn typin and lurching around overaggroing stuff due to poor motor control, that probably becomes rather obvious to everyone in your party. :)

  2. Agree wholeheartedly.. I understand that these people are having fun in their own way but they don’t seem to realise that the rest of us don’t actually care how smashed they are, and that, in fact, perhaps not everybody will be all that impressed. Still, as much as it bothers me when it happens, rather them playing video games than driving or wandering the streets. :)

  3. I’m not sure the premise that “this wouldn’t happen if people were in the same physical space” is entirely correct. Back when I was young enough to spend a lot of time out at night, going to pubs instead of sitting at home in front of a computer a good deal of the evening’s entertainment was in “pick-up” games.

    I played a lot of pub games, mostly pool and darts but also bar-billiards and various electronic entertainments. At that time the cultural norm where I lived was often “winner-stays-on”, meaning you or your group had the table/board/ until someone else defeated you. As these competitions took place in pubs, a lot of the people playing, including me and my friends, were in various states of inebriation, all the more so the longer the evening wore on.

    Theoretically a point could have arrived where someone was too drunk to play but I never saw it happen. Too drunk to play well, now that happened often. So long as you were able to present yourself as ready to compete and you had your coin down on the table then when your turn came, on you went.

    Since the norm then was also for pool and darts to be played as doubles, thereby allowing more people to get a game, the impaired performance of one player would indeed negatively affect a more sober partner but that was a small consideration compared to getting teamed with one of your ever-widening social circle who was just crap at darts!

  4. I find myself on a very short fuse these days. If I consider somebody is fooling around and wasting our time in LFR, I will vote kick him without giving it a second thought. I do not care what gear people have, or how good their performance is. If they die, get rezzed while everyone else is running in, and are still lying dead, they deserve a kick in my opinion.

  5. Completely agree. I think the key difference is sufficient versus perfect. As long as your performance is sufficient for the content, I think it’s acceptable. Sure, maybe you SHOULD be doing 100k on the boss instead of 60k but the boss was only tuned for 55k in LFR. On the flip side, doing 30k isn’t sufficient. Basically a “if everyone else was at that level, would the group succeed?” check.

    That said, this is one of the many reasons I avoid LFR completely — I run Flex if I want to play an alt and sometimes even help others with Flex multiple times a week on my main. But you’d have to pay me to go into the cesspool of LFR.

  6. Well… I’ll say this.

    Though I don’t do it when I’m so gone as to be incapacitated, the only times I’ve ever felt comfortable enough to queue for STO’s 20-man PvE missions is when I’ve been rather inebriated. Sober, I’m far, far too sociophobic to even *consider* doing it. Even with lowered inhibitions, I would never consider queuing for a 10-man or 5-man. Too personal. Too hard to be an anonymous member of the crowd. I doubt I’ll ever do this any other game; STO is pure casual-town.

    People comfortable enough for casual social interaction rarely realize how easy things are for them. Even through the anonymity of a game avatar, I find interacting with strangers in real-time nerve-wracking enough to make my shoulders tense up and my hands shake. There have been many times I’ve logged off or teleported rather than deal with some who’s insistent about following me around or trying to talk.

    EDIT: Oh, and I never mention I’m drunk. In fact, I never say anything at all.

  7. This seems sort of arbitrary. What if I’m simply a bad player, and I know it? What if I’m simply having an off day? Should I not play at all, since doing so brings the experience for my team mates who could find a competent player to fill my shoes?

    Lately, my girlfriend and I have been playing League of Legends. She hasn’t played games since Mario World (snes) and is, quite frankly, terrible in a way only people who are uncomfortable with basic keyboard and mouse controls can be. Of course, whatever team we’re on is very likely to lose. Should we stop? Should she have to go play solo games so League’s ranking system will put her against similarly bad players until she improves ‘enough’?

    To give away my bias here: I often play LoL after drinks. I wouldn’t say I was ever anywhere near too impaired to be competent, but certainly I’ve played after I’ve had too many to drive.

    Personally, I think you have a responsibility to play games properly and to treat your fellow players with respect. I don’t think you have a responsibility to play with any degree of skill, or to always be at your best, or anything similar. If you can do that then I don’t care how impaired you are.

  8. Raelyf: I could be your girlfriend. :-D Before I started playing GW2, I *never* played a computer game at all. Which means, I had an extremely steep learning curve since last year. My guild friends (which also include three of my four nieces) have been extremely supportive and it’s always fun playing with them. I also feel that my gaming improved *alot* since GW2 release and that I now reached a level, where a dungeon run can even be plain fun … =8-) But I still refrain from joining PUG’s without an acquaintance. Just because I fear I might be underperforming compared with the other players and it would take away the minimum of fun I have doing dungeons, fractals or other instanced gameplay.

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