The Unspoken Challenges Of Party Chat

sony headset 01

It may sound surprising, but the first time I experienced the party chat feature on any system was last summer. Two friends and I decided to play through the original Borderlands on the 360 (I’m always down to play the first Borderlands, and neither of them had done it before), and they introduced me to party chat.

The in-game chat was fine, but the party chat was superior. It was entirely helpful that we could talk through any situation, including getting booted from the game (a rarity).

I suppose, based on that experience, I was forever conditioned to what a party chat experience should be. Both friends and I had a healthy level of respect for each other, as well as our respective ears. Mute was employed when necessary.

Now juxtapose that with what I consider my “real” entry into party chat: Destiny.

An entirely different ballgame.

When it is just two people, it is manageable. When it is three, it can start getting silly. Four or more, and you have slowly simmering chaos. There are just too many variables in headsets, conditions, and the wild and wacky people involved to count on anything.

Six people, and most certainly nearly no one is hearing what other people are saying. Add to that a few more, and you might as well just put on one of those white noise machines and drone out.

So go figure that a full fireteam in Destiny is six people.


Most times, the party chat is fine. Issues here and there, but overall, fine. I’ve only once muted someone, and that was because they were breathing through their mouth so loudly that it sounded like their microphone was inside it. I felt bad muting them, but I honestly couldn’t hear what some of the other people were saying. And in Destiny, especially in a raid, coordination is key.

It was a minor judgement call. And I still felt bad about it later. (Sorry, muted fellow guardian!)

Last night I came across another type of issue: the drunk person who goes a little too far.

Now this had less to do with my being female (though this person did, in fact, say some pretty disparaging things about women in general, and me in particular), and more to do with my having a working sense of hearing. So I did something I rarely do: I just left the chat and exited the game. It wasn’t worth it.

I will not allow a stranger to make me feel bad.

I think it’s terribly easy to forget that we are all people on the other end of these digital sources. I am a real person writing this. You are a real person reading it (thank you, by the way!). The people who leave comments, weirdly, also people. Anonymity clouds up so much of this. And I think this gets in the way of respecting others, even in a basic way.

I understand if there is a NAT error, people can’t hear each other. There isn’t much to be done about that. Sometimes exiting and returning can help. Sometimes not. Sometimes internet connections aren’t great and people get booted. Again, not much people can do about that. You can reset your internet connection, but it still may not hold out for online play.

What is in our control, is a basic default of respect for the people we play with. In this case, for their ears.

I have played with people whose microphone was so sensitive that even if they stepped away, into another room, you could hear every word of their conversation. This person knew it, and tried to adjust accordingly, but their microphone was just that keen on ambient sounds.

Another person I play with has a microphone that is so quiet I can barely hear them. No matter what they do, it sounds as though they are far away. Combine this person’s issue with the former, and you have a difficult time hearing anyone properly.

I suppose some people are more unaware than others. Some people (as in last night) will belch at full volume, somehow fart audibly (this has actually happened), or whistle over other people talking and it makes it incredibly hard to hear what anyone is saying. Do I think these people are intentionally being rude? No. Are they thinking about how their body noises effect others? Also, no.

Some folks like to carry on full conversations with people in the background. I understand that sometimes this will happen, but there are also people who do this when there are already many others in the party. Then, not only do you have potentially six people trying to coordinate, but you have another entire conversation working its way in there.

It can get crowded. Noise does that.

Some people are quite thoughtful and mute whenever something comes up. I used to wonder why people did it so often, and now I get it. It’s just politeness.

Politeness! On the internet!

If fainting were still a thing, I’d do it here. Or not.

I think party chatting is a new branch of etiquette that we must learn to adjust to. Am I perfect at it? Not at all. Do I try to be fairly respectful? Indeed, I do.

So I ask each of you out there that uses any kind of party chat feature to please be respectful of each other and remember that not everyone wants to hear farts in their ears.

That I know of.

What chat issues do you have come up while you are playing? How do you address them?

Categories: games

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8 replies »

  1. I’ve had very little experience with party chat, and that was only recently. My very first experience, I was soloing Diablo 3: UEE while my buddy was soloing Destiny and it was great to be able to have a friendly conversation at the same time! Then another “friend” joined the party (quotes because I’m not very picky about who I’ll accept a request from until they show a pattern of inappropriate behavior), the first thing out of his mouth is how he firmly believes PS Plus is ripping us all off. I didn’t appreciate him introducing himself by bringing his negativity to an otherwise fun outing. Since, I’ve also experienced some of the other things you mentioned, people having full conversations with others in the background, generally disrespectful comments, and my personal favorite, eating on mic. Like you said, be respectful of your impact on others. Just because you’re not in the same room doesn’t mean you’re not being rude.


    • it sounds like you and i are in the same digital boat!

      oh yes, eating on the mic. i have been guilty of that one, but i’ve asked prior if anyone can hear me. i usually just step away from the game and eat (imagine!). :)

      and well said!


  2. I’ve only been in party chat a few times and I haven’t had a that bad of a experience yet but sorry about the one you had.


  3. I’m constantly on a voice client with 20-30 people almost every night. If you get a mouth-breather, just mute them. If you get someone that is annoying, you just mute them. If you have someone that is way too quiet, you just say “CAN’T HEAR YOU” every time they try and speak – it’s definitely a problem on their end if other people sound fine. If someone flips you shit for being a girl, which they invariably will, just yell “SUCK MY DICK” at them, which defuses the situation and is always good for a laugh from the other people.

    I’m a voicechat veteran, ask me anything lol.


    • 20 to 30 people? holy mother of chr*st on a cracker. that’s so many more than my brain wants to handle.

      can you just join my chat sometime and speak for me? like i could be little mac and you could be my coach?

      and i don’t think i could say that in a party chat. though i have said, “suck it” or some variation thereof.


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