When I picked up an XBox 360 last year, it was the first time I’d played multiplayer games with voice chat. Since then I’ve played likely more Gears of War than is likely healthy (I loves me some Annex when played right). And after playing online for a while you notice some odd behavior emerge.

  • What surprised me most was the singing. Frequently and badly. I've heard some terrible renditions of "This Is Why I'm Hot" and "Party Like a Rock Star". It seems to be generally tolerated and ignored. Being mostly anonymous online must bring this out, since I doubt most of these guys would (or should) sing in public.
  • There is something disturbing about hearing the high-pitched voice of some kid named "Skullkrusher1996" say how he's going "rape" people. And then after he has finished a spree of headshots to overhear him arguing with his mom telling him it is time to go to bed.
  • Of course, this game is mostly played by males. I'm not sure why all the chainsawing and curbstomping doesn't appeal as much to the ladies? The one time I was on a team with 3 women, they formed a "group hug" (of ugly Locusts). The closest I've seen guys come to that is surrounding a downed opponent to simulate sex by moving their characters around. Not quite as warm.
  • Oh, I almost forgot about the racism, gay jokes and unthinking pro-Americanism. It abounds, but it is mostly used as a lazy insult when nothing more specific is available. Unfortunately I've noticed more assholes who are American than from other countries. Canadians generally seem even tempered, as usual. The most common slurs I've heard are against anyone speaking Spanish, with anti-British sentiments coming in second. I've rarely heard slurs against African-Americans. That might not be surprising considering how many players try to appropriate the hip-hop language and attitude, even when their friends slip and call them "Randall Fishman" instead of "masterkillaz00".
  • While playing there have been a few meaningful conversations. In between rounds, one guy let his friends know that his wife was pregnant, who congratulated him before quickly returning to the bloodbath. Or a kid from Chicago talking with a guy from Ohio telling him about the gangs in his neighborhood, the terrible things he'd seen, how he stayed out of them, and how his family was moving out of the city soon. But he also threw in that if the guy from Ohio was ever in Chicago, the Ganster Disciples were good guys to hang out with. </ul> For the record, I'm hardly immune to the effects, either. I've certainly disturbed the missus when she's heard me barking to "let him bleed out" instead of finishing off an enemy, or seeing my enjoyment after sneaking up behind someone to shotgun an opponent. I'm sure part of it is the anonymity, but Gears of War must attract a certain crowd as I can't imagine the same conversations would happen over a typical Wii game.