Call of Duty: Black Ops II is my first time playing this series. I only play the zombies mode; I’ve never been into war games, because killing middle-eastern rebels or foreign armies really doesn’t appeal to me. But zombies? Bust out the semi-automatic weaponry, I’m there.
Once I started playing public online mode, it didn’t take me long to learn that if I didn’t mute everyone else’s microphone while playing, I’d hear some shit I didn’t wanna hear. The first time I played online, some dude was dropping n-bombs (from the context in which he used them, it was pretty obvious he was using them as a slur and was not a person of colour himself). I quit the game and henceforth was a quick-draw on the ‘mute all’ button before starting a match.
Not long after I started playing Black Ops, Hubby gifted me a PS3 headset. I think both of us anticipated this being used in the context of him needing quiet to study and me still being able to play PS3 or watch Netflix. I really never intended to get into mic’d online play. When I’d sign in to Black Ops, I’d mute my mic along with everyone else’s.
Once I got into playing more complex DLC maps (Mob of the Dead, anyone?), though, I could really see the appeal of being able to communicate with other players. I started leaving people’s mic’s unmuted in the lobby while I listened to players chat. If they sounded like reasonable people, I’d leave them unmuted. Soon after, I kept my mic on the first time, and was lucky enough to have an awesome team. No offensive remarks (just a lot of f-bombs directed at zombies), cohesive teamwork, and it was instantly clear to me what I’d been missing by playing without audio communication.
It didn’t take long before I stopped my lurking-vetting process of deciding which team’s I’d mic with. And it didn’t take long after that for the sexist bullshit to start.
The first remark, while annoying, wasn’t too major. I told the team I’d grab a quest item located in the map’s laundry room. “Oh yeah, perfect, the girl’s doing the laundry.” If I let myself get upset over that kind of stuff, I wouldn’t be able to exist in the world, so I let it go. But it got worse. A few days later, playing with a team that had seemed pretty cool at first, I got taken down by a huge horde of zombies who cornered me. As I asked the team if anyone could make it over to revive me, a player who had witnessed the takedown said “yeah, the chick totally got raped by those zombies.” My heart dropped into my stomach and I actually felt ill. I don’t feel the need to get into a rant about rape culture or rape jokes, but needless to say, I was not happy.
The truth is, overall, my experiences playing on headset have been better than I initially feared they would be. Aside from the relatively common “are you really a girl?” questions, most teams I play with have treated me with respect. I’m sure this is partly because I’m back to pre-emptively muting teams that sound too rowdy in the lobby. But those times that someone does casually toss out a sexist remark, it takes the wind right out of me. It breaks the illusion that everyone is there for the same reason as me: some good, clean, respectful, zombie-killing teamwork. I play video games to escape all the bullshit in the world, so this is not part of the plan for me.
I’ll continue playing Black Ops, and I’ll continue feeling conflicted about mic’d play. Maybe I’ll see you there.