To many of us, gaming is often an escape from the harsh realities of real life, a place where we can forget our woes and become a part of something bigger. But the truth is, there is no escaping our troubles. Our problems and fears will always find a new path to reach us, no matter how hard we try. This is especially true with rejection. Rejection sucks, plain and simple. No one likes to be rejected, let alone for something that is out of their control. We have all been rejected in video games, and the experience is almost always negative. But does it have to be?
Like you, I have felt the sting of rejection more times than I can count. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, but then there are those moments that can shake our very core. Perhaps you were not only rejected but were trolled or verbally abused as well, so much so that you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. Or maybe you are like me, someone that secretly longs to find a group of friends to play games with and share a few laughs, but is ultimately cast aside after things appeared to have gone so well. Pathetic, right? Not really, everyone longs for companionship after all. These are the moments we doubt ourselves most when we ask the age old question “What’s wrong with me?”
Don’t worry, there’s nothing is wrong with you, probably. The problem isn’t with you or me, but with the impersonal nature of gaming. Millions of people play online video games daily, and odds are they don’t know you. Add to this fact that most of us appear only as random names or avatars, it’s easy to see why people can be so rude online. Although it’s true that people become more likely to befriend someone they have spoken with, grouped with, or have met in real life, it still doesn’t guarantee you won’t be rejected at some point.
I experienced this myself last year while playing World of Warcraft. At the time I was in a tight knit guild where I formed friendships with numerous players. We raided together, ran dungeons together, even played other games together. It was an awesome time with no end in sight. Or so I thought. After only a year, the dreaded drama llama hit our guild hard, causing the roster to scatter. I tried my best to find players a new home and keep them together, but in the end, I failed. We kept our Discord up as a way to keep in touch, but soon after people began to disappear one by one. This wasn’t surprising to me, as this tends to happen when guilds dissolved. What was surprising was the fact that as the Discord roster shrank, so did my friends list.
Every friend I had made, every guildie I raided with suddenly disappeared from my friends list. I tried reaching out to several of them, only to learn the frightening truth: they had blocked me. This alone hurt me deeply, but what really devastated me was learning that after the guild broke up, many of the core players reformed a new guild with the same players that caused the drama in the first place. I immediately felt abandoned and betrayed. Why? What did I do wrong? Where all those moments and laughs we shared just lies? Needless to say, the experience ruined the game for me.
The experience has since left me wary of trusting others, but one good thing came of it: the experience humbled me. I came to realize that behind every profile, avatar, and screen is a living, breathing (at least I hope) person that deserves respect. I realized no one deserves to be rejected like I was. This made me reflect deeper, to the times I treated people like garbage and brushed them aside. It was all a vicious circle, one that I had a hand in perpetuating. While I don’t see an end to this cycle, I believe that we can reduce its impact. As gamers, we are part of a unique culture that often is as volatile as it is accepting. We need to see past the names and avatars and treat those we interact act with respectfully.
When there comes a time we must turn someone away, we should do so in a manner that maintains everyone’s dignity. If you are someone that can easily brush of rejection, that’s great! But remember, everyone is different, and some can take rejection better than others. I know it sounds preachy, and I hate that it does. But as a culture, we must learn to reflect on our actions and their impacts. For if we don’t, then we risk toxicity consuming our culture. Besides, we all know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. So why the fuck would we do it to someone else?