It has been about two months since I got rid of the poisonous cat in Rocket league. I wasn’t quite sure why a feature as simple as turning off text chat in a game would prove to be so beneficial. But, as I started to really dissect my interactions online, I started to discover things that I was becoming part of the problem I was trying so desperately to avoid.
Since its release, I have invested endless hours in competitive play featuring nitrogen powered rockets. Despite how silly it sounds to the uninitiated, I really appreciate how it exposed me to a genre that I didn’t know I would enjoy as much as I did. However, in recent months, I have struggled to really rediscover that Rocket league the spark that first attracted me.
My gambling habits have definitely changed over the years. I went from being a casual gamer to exploring genres and games completely out of my comfort zone. This was especially the case when I started to review games and write about them. From RPGs to tactical titles, I feel my preferences have largely evolved and matured with the exposure of the games industry.
Scratch that itch of competition
One thing that has remained constant has been the need to stay competitive. I constantly strive to be the first or fight my way to the top of any game I find myself in. First person shooters, racing games, battles royals, I always find myself with a persistent need to have the checkered flag waved in my honor or place in a first place in a competitive match.
When the pandemic hit, I noticed my tastes changed dramatically. I often found myself starting long, drawn-out adventure games, finding that I had no passion to progress in them. Most of the purchases in my library haven’t been logged for more than a few hours. I am currently still at a stalemate with Cyberpunk 2077, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Biomutant. As my world changed around me, I noticed that I found more comfort in games that I already knew, especially those that scratched that itch of competition. Apex Legends, Call of Duty: War Zone, and Rocket league became comfort food in the form of a game. Rocket league, above all, was my saving grace.
I still have a hard time understanding why I recently started to be good at Rocket league since I’ve been playing it (mostly casually) since launch. I don’t know if this was some sort of subliminal achievement affirmation I was looking for, but every lens blast, topper, track, and tire design became a meaningful unlock. I was spending hours every night and starting to progress in tournaments that I usually avoided.
A little navel-gazing
The world around me was still locked in a pandemic turmoil. Political positions, scientific debates and societal collisions were almost inevitable. This is true both in the digital world and in real life. However, when I booted up and logged in, I was able to forget about these concepts for a few hours. I was winning something, and playing something that I liked. I found comfort there.
Just like everything in life, the adage “too much good can be a bad thing” began to show itself in games. I found myself easily frustrated – at times furious – during games. It wasn’t so much how or who I played, it was more the content of the Rocket league text chat during these five minute spars.
Everything from “you suck” to “you are no good, delete this game” started appearing in the live text stream. I was afraid that Rocket league was showing signs of not being fun anymore. I asked myself, “Has my favorite game become a burden on my sanity as well?” I felt deflated, and mostly defeated, by something as simple as texting in a game about cars with rockets that hurl giant soccer balls into a net for points.
As this feeling started to become commonplace, I too found myself showing signs of toxicity within a community that I truly love. I started to fight malicious messages from users with my own toxic messages. I would respond with something sarcastic or spam “Nice Shot!” “Or” What a safeguard! Over and over again without hesitation. And, most of the time, the response was triggered by my own teammates.
While I could have easily ventured down this path of fingertip-spitting toxicity anytime, I decided to change the way I approach each game. I started to watch what I said when I said it. That was until the day I decided, “Hey, just turn off the in-game chat.” So I did.
A positive change in mental health
It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t handle the biting short messages, or maybe I did. But, for the most part, I’ve found myself becoming someone I wouldn’t even want to play video games with. It was slowly making its way into my playstyle and changing my perception of the game and the community. As I began to think about it, the sometimes unrelenting short messages were starting to take their toll on my sanity, whether I wanted to admit it or not.
To date, I have racked up thousands (you read that correctly) of playing hours in Rocket league. Without a doubt, I can say that completely disabling text chat in Rocket league was the best thing that ever happened to me. Smaller details, like how an opposing player is baited with certain types of shots, really started to become more noticeable when I wasn’t laser focused on the upper left corner of my screen. I wasn’t preparing for a catchy remark. Instead, I was getting ready to give the ball to my partners and help score the next goal. It really changed the game.
Now, I’m not saying it’s the right decision for everyone. Of course, if you have a strong team and rely on team chat for victory, you have more power. However, if you are feeling discouraged or defeated by spam messages in a match or toxicity in a game, I might suggest dancing through the menu options and turning off your text chat altogether. You might think you’re backing off from a fight or ignoring your issues or whatever. In my own personal experience, it practically spared my sanity, and it’s something to really spam “What a backup!” ” In regards to.