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What's better: heals harming the undead, or voice chat?

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Last time, you decided that cool spellcasting gestures are better than seizing control of a rolling boulder trap. I assume you have very cool gestures to conjure a magical meteor or other big rock on command. Maybe a dramatic dragging-down (or up) with two tensed arms and clawed hands? Very cool. As we continue our scientific process, this week I ask you to choose between two things which combine help and hurt. What's better: heals harming the undead, or voice chat?

Heals harming the undead

Healers might be vital to your party's success but they rarely get to feel like mighty spellcasters, or even as if they're part of the fight. There they are, lurking in the back, tending to your wounds. It can feel nice to care for a party, absolutely, but it's even better when you get an opportunity to turn that magic hostile. You've just entered a necropolis, and your sparkly little heals are now shotguns ready to blow your undead foes' heads clean off. Well, as clean as can be expected when they explode into showers of bone dust or rotting guts.

It's a delightful bit of game logic: heals help the living, so of course they harm the (un)dead. Sometimes this is explained by heals being holy in nature, purging unholy horrors, and othertimes it's simply a fun little inversion. Either way, I dig it. The opportunity to play as a nuker after hours of healing is great fun, even if the healer probably stills need to top up heal bars (especially given how you play, reader dear, yes I see you). It's a moment to cut loose, just for a bit, and become something new. It's rare for this opportunity to last the full length of a game, ending as you leave the Bone Zone, but what a treat it was!

I like when games expand this logic. Final Fantasy games often also let you supermurder the undead by tickling them with a tuft of Phoenix Down, a consumable item usually used to revive party members—the ultimate heal becomes the ultimate nuke. In the Divinity: Original Sin RPGs, poison heals the undead, which adds new opportunities and complications to its elemental action, especially when you yourself are playing a skeleton. And Warcraft 3 mirrors the Paladin's Holy Light spell by giving Death Knights a Death Coil spell which harms harm the living and heal the deads. A fun spot of "yes and..." with make-believe logic.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, here's Katharine and Liam discussing where to start with the tangled subseries that is FF7Watch on YouTube

Voice chat

Some of the finest plays I have ever seen in team multiplayer games would not have been possible over text chat alone. Without the speed, precision, and alarm of spoken language, we would have lost objectives, fallen to ambushes, blown our own ambushes, failed to break through strong defenses, not pulled clutch saves, and missed fleeting opportunities. So many careful blows and grand strategies would simply not have worked, so many amazing moments would never have happened.

Some of my favourite social moments in games have come over voice chat too. Hyperbolic motivational speeches in Team Fortress 2 to raise our spirits and make us laugh before the gates open. Players masquerading as their characters. A madcap double-act of Americans audibly in their twenties who are pretending to be Vietnam War veterans, spinning shaggy dog stories and daft jokes I still remember 18 years later. A matchmade rando who completes your near-full party and turns out to be polite and funny and just a delight. A stranger simply saying thank you. Friendships started with idle chitchat. A player-turned-friend who ultimately led me to this career! Everyone's cries of joy at a hard-earned win. For those who enjoy a little salt, hearing someone's reaction to you killing them in Warzone. The wholesomeness of a young child being adopted by caring teamies, guided around the map, protected, offered good gear, encouraged, and congratulated.

The problem is, voice chat has also enabled some of the worst and most annoying behaviour I've encountered in multiplayer games. Screaming, spamming, blaring blown-out music, racism, sexism, ranting, raging, blaming, bickering, eating, distracting, arguing with their mum because they don't want to go to bed, whining, sleazing, telling deeply unfunny jokes, bullying... every manner of dickbaggery you can imagine. Inviting all this into our ears is a terrible mistake. Now when I install a multiplayer game, I instantly turn off voice chat, no matter how useful and fun it might potentially be. I do all my chatting externally over Discord with trusted people these days. But is it right to blame voice chat for conveying the true nature of the Internet?

But which is better?

I haven't enabled voice chat in a game in yonks, and might never again. And yet. And yet! And yet... Ah, what do you think? It's your votes that count.

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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