Do People Really Want To Talk With A Bunch Of Strangers In Splatoon?

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A lot of new details recently came out on Splatoon, but being a multiplayer shooter from Nintendo, what’s getting the most attention is its announced lack of voice chat when playing with random people. This is classic Nintendo going against what most people expect of a genre in which it has basically no experience.

This is far from the first time I’ve talked about Nintendo and online infrastructure, but I think this particular area is worth examining again in the midst of recent conversations about online harassment. It plays into what I think is Nintendo’s reasoning behind everything they’ve done in regards to online multiplayer.

The way I see it, voice chat in matches with random people has plummeted in popularity in most games coinciding with the rising popularity of party chat on Xbox. I’ll admit I don’t have the most experience here, but for the most part the online gaming I have done on consoles has been silent. On top of that I’ve heard a lot about how people just prefer to stay in party chat with their friends rather than walk through a potential minefield of harassment.

To that end, it’s not uncommon to hear people say they just prefer to play with friends, which is taking party chat one step further. I’ve heard the suggestion it’s the best way to avoid that perpetual feeling that you suck when you jump into games with random people who may or may not have hours and hours to play each day. Some games I play on PC have been a little more chatty in dedicated servers, most notably Team Fortress 2, but by and large people preferring to talk with friends has been the norm for at least a little while now.

And some recent stories suggest this is pretty much the main way to play online for a lot of female gamers. A significant chunk of them simply don’t want to reveal their gender online for fear of harassment of which there is far too much evidence. Sticking to party chat, matches with friends, and local multiplayer seems like a no-brainer in that situation — or just not talking in random matches.

This lines up pretty well with how Nintendo has tried to organize its online gaming, however ineptly. If you look at what the company has allowed and disallowed ever since it started online gaming on the DS, one thing becomes clear: Nintendo doesn’t want you to be chatting with random strangers online. People perpetuate the idea that Nintendo’s protecting children from predators but that was never confirmed by anyone. I think it’s come out of a combination of the company trying to do something unique and attempts to avoid the kind of harassment for which Xbox Live is infamous. Well, that and Japan generally not caring about online gaming on consoles.

Friend codes, as stupid a concept as they were, to me looked like the gaming equivalent of a phone number you wouldn’t just share with anyone. Even back then Nintendo said it thought of online gaming as simply a way to connect with existing friends who are far away. This seems to be how some people are beginning to treat it today on PlayStation and Xbox.

Of course people are still justifiably frustrated at the lack of choices Nintendo gives them. Of course people should have the option to talk with strangers… and then choose to avoid talking with strangers.

BULLETS:

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