I read an article recently about Destiny 2. I know right? Perish the thought, people writing about Destiny 2. So in this article, the author was complaining about the community tools in Destiny 2, particularly the public chat features. Apparently, there isn’t enough of it. I won’t link the article, because it isn’t my place to paint targets on people and it doesn’t really matter that we’re framing this around Destiny 2. We’re here today to talk about voice acting, and how games don’t need it anymore and developers in some cases are starting not to want it anymore. In-game, anyway. My Hot Take is this: in-game voice and text chat is obsolete, and third-party services are why.
The thing about Destiny 2 is, it doesn’t have public chat. You can’t just strike up a conversation with the random people you encounter while frolicking about the public zones and blasting enemies or playing public events. You actually have to encounter other players via matchmaking or form a Fireteam before chat options become available. Otherwise, interacting with random players is all about the emotes. Many players are confused by this, and a normal Google search returns plenty of people complaining about this lack of “standard” functionality. But at the same time, you’ll see just as many people expressing gratitude.
Voice chat was a huge deal for the last couple gaming generations and even further back on PC. But now, people are getting tired of it, publicly anyway. Nobody wants the lower thirds of their screen taken up by people being weird and trashy in public text chat channels. Get on World of Warcraft and you’ll see people yelling about things that have nothing to do with the game and yelling at each other. You can toggle it off, sure, but that’s effort. Even worse is public voice chat. Get in the matchmaking for a Halo game, for example, and all kinds of things can happen. Noise from bad connections, obnoxious, static-y music playing in the background or worse, edgy teenagers screaming racial slurs at you, other people and/or each other. It’s tiring, even with the ability to mute.
Some games, like Hearthstone for example, have removed communication between players almost entirely, despite being live-action, online games. Other games that are primarily online, like Splatoon 2, don’t have voice chat in-game, but use an external (albeit official) service. Sure, there’s general confusion and derision that Nintendo is doing something weird with that game (and Hori’s Frankenstein-ass headset didn’t help matters), but there’s a key thesis to Nintendo’s Switch Online app. Its purpose is literally that: purpose.
To make Nintendo’s voice chat work, you have to make a deliberate decision to use voice chat. The burden is to turn the voice chat on, rather than to turn the voice chat off. That makes it easier for players who don’t want unwarranted interactions to not have them forced upon them, turned on by default. People who want it still can have it, they just have to want it enough to turn it on. Everyone in-between just plays the game and figures it out without chat. Just like old times. This, in turn, and theory, improves the overall quality of player to player relations.
This is why services like TeamSpeak and Discord are so successful. People like being able to communicate and coordinate for playing online games – making successful runs through the raid in Destiny 2 for example practically requires it – but random, public chat is going out of style. Devs don’t want to use the resources to add and moderate public chat, especially when the work is often ignored in favor of these third-party services anyway. Instead, why not just open the game up to work well with them, and put the energy towards other hot features like Twitch compatibility or figuring out better ways to get players playing in the first place.