Young Star

Signal noise

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There is a spectre haunting online gaming — the spectre of the Filipino gamer. That might be the beginning lines to some racist tirade against “Peenoise” and their lowbrow behavior when it comes to the online gaming community, but part of it deserves mention. The rest will unfortunately sail on the foul but favorable winds of jingoistic misogynistic bigotry and hate speech, which seems to be in fashion for the politics of today.

In all things — from discourse to Dota 2 — the Filipino gamer is infamous for rudeness, for stubbornness, and for a dogged desperation to win everything, no matter the cost. In losing, the Filipino gamer is characterized by a sourness comparable only to that nourishing stew of sinigang perfected by the same mothers who deplore this unhealthy addiction to technology. There’s also the saltiness — a term that has accumulated worldwide renown as an accurate expression of immense frustration in Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) clashes or bad Counter-Strike calls. The international community thinks “salty” refers to “salt rubbed in wounds,” as in “to inflict further, unnecessary pain.” But we Filipinos know what it really means: alat; kaalatan; maalat. That’s the literal translation of salty, which sounds as bad as it tastes, and is twice as undesirable in video games.

If we are sore losers, we are also abhorrent winners. No team that has lost to a Filipino gamer, whether in real-time strategy games, first-person shooters, or MOBAs, has ever walked away without fists clenched, mashing “report” buttons wherever available, only to find that the threat of online sanction will not cease or stymie the torrents of invectives hurled against mothers, sisters, girlfriends (or the lack thereof), references to sexual abuse as the only fitting metaphor for the digital violence that has transpired, or dismissive lectures about unfortunately easy opponents. Filipino gamers do not bury the hatchet — they dance on the graves of their enemies.

I do not write to rationalize this behavior, nor do I condone it. I would like to apologize, as much as I can, as often as I can, to anyone who ever had to encounter a Filipino gamer of the deplorably famous caricature we now carry in the e-sports scene: we detest intelligent plays because we feel it behooves us to realize our own faults; we are absolute in our bitterness in losing and gracelessness in winning because, most often in life, we know nothing but the former. Without admitting that there is some unfortunately complex reason or some acceptable apologia somewhere that exists to validate or reasonably temper this behavior, I can only go so far as to acknowledge that it is a symptom of something more: a social and psychological frame of mind that isn’t just contained to online gaming, but which is essentially a Filipino trait. It’s the desire to have more, without changing for it.

In the recently concluded Manila Major, pundits from the e-sports community predicted the home team Mineski as the team with “least different hero picks.” This means that in Dota 2 — a game that literally has hundreds of heroes to choose from — the expert opinion about the Filipino team is that it will doggedly stick to heroes it is known to pick. Contrast this to teams like OG, with the illusive Miracle and his legendary vocabulary with game heroes. In sports, the local basketball scene is replete with athleticism and vigor, but admittedly lacking in versatility and strategic differences. In politics, we elect the same sorry excuses for human beings to solve the same problems they cause without holding them accountable for failing in the first place. I could go on, but you get the point — we want everything, but we expect things to simply come to us.

What happens when things don’t work out that way, though? The psychological taste buds kick in — the bitter losing, the salty cussing, the sour winning. More dangerous than these knee-jerk reactions are the lasting principles against principled gaming — the off-handed dismissal of intelligent plays (or, one might say, intelligence per se), the convenient discrimination against an international community that is attempting to keep things all about the game, and the sad, sorry reputation of cartoonish proportions — of being “Peenoise” in a growing and expanding e-sports scene. Sound and fury signifying incompetence.

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