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Xbox Live Party Chat – The Death of Conversation within the Game Lobby

First off I should mention I adore Xbox Live and always have. It is the core Xbox feature that for me and many others, thrusts the platform far beyond that of what Sony and Nintendo currently offer. The fascination of sharing team instructions, having a laugh and of course belittling the enemy proves too wonderful to resist when it all works.

Ever since the Microsoft Xbox 360 console appeared, Xbox Live has quite rightly evolved with some truly remarkable features that expanded the system far beyond the original Xbox. There was an oversight though that aggravated many users and this was the lack of a dashboard chat option.

The birth of Xbox Live was a momentous time for individuals who enjoyed console gaming. Within just a relatively small time frame, games including MotoGP, Midtown Madness 3, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, Mech Assault and others were key to building up a community of online gamers who yearned for not only competing against others from around the world, but also the ability to have a conversation and possibly form bonds that would result in a new friend you could add to your ever growing list.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 - Microsoft Xbox

The only downside was the inability to easily coordinate which games you would meet up in unless you were already within the same title. This was quite unlikely unless you used your phones and even this was difficult to organise quickly.

Original Microsoft Xbox Console

The result was a new ability within the original Xbox dashboard, that enabled friends to gather in one area with up to a total of 16 gamers and chat without the requirement for all the participants to own the same game. For many, this was like using Skype to make free phone calls with pals dropping in and out as you pleased within group conversations. This included your own friends who were on your list and also friends of friends and soon finding new similarly minded chums to share gameplay experiences with turned out to be incredibly easy.

When the Xbox 360 launched, it completely overlooked this previous feature and instead relied on a far more limiting private chat ability between just two people. The only way to again take part in group conversations was to jump into the same game and use its own chat system. This was the case for quite some time until Party Chat appeared.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Console

Party Chat is a boosted form of what the original Xbox dashboard spawned all those years ago, except it has had the possibly unintentional effect of turning a once bristling game lobby full of chatter (good and bad) into a completely silent one. This of course is not always the result, you may hear the moans of a teenager being told off by their parent for playing too long, the screams of some moron who believes it is funny to shout down the microphone or if you are lucky – a few gamers to strike up a conversation with.

Party Chat creates a private area for friends to gather, even if they are all participating in different gaming titles. It is a marvellous feature there is no doubt about it, but the team spirit and aural communications we enjoyed have now become more of a rarity as gamers simply stay within the confines of their friends list. A team will simply include a mixture of individuals with no microphone plugged in, a selection within different Party Chat areas and one or two brave enough to particulate in the actual business of sharing crucial game information.

There are a few gaming titles that restrict Party Chat use to limit the possibility of cheating by giving away team and enemy locations and actually also forces you back into the lobby with random individuals. This is crucial for sharing team tactics and also acquiring new people on your list outside of the usual clusters of friends, but alas this is certainly not widespread among Xbox 360 titles.

When I remember what I consider the golden years of the original Xbox and it’s Xbox Live service, the lack of the same buzz is disappointing and it actually makes me a little sad that this key experience is now a little diminished.

The trouble is which is the best way forward, should more titles force gamers to participate in a lobby rather than sticking within their own Party Chat areas, ditch Party Chat altogether (which I am sure would upset a lot of people) or should we just accept that this is the consequence of having such abilities?

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James Woodcock

James is a Freelance Journalist, Copywriter, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming, gadgets and technology, both retro and modern. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles, including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, whilst also interviewing well-known industry figures for popular online publications. Creator of the ScummVM Music Enhancement Project and host of the Game & Gadget Podcast. View his portfolio for more information.

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4 thoughts on “Xbox Live Party Chat – The Death of Conversation within the Game Lobby

  • Good post. I remember those golden days of XBL very well. But back then, it wasnt as mainstream. I felt that a more hardcore and mature crowd made up the majority of XBL back then. Thats what made it so awesome.

    Now, all XBL is filled with is annoying teenagers and racist people who scream and yell. Yes Im sure theres still those hardcore and Mature people like us from back in the day. But I believe those golden days are gone my friend.

    • Thanks for your comment…

      I think you may be right, the fact there was so few online titles in the beginning made it so easy to meet up with friends as well.  We all tended to migrate together.  Today, there are so many Xbox Live titles (which is of course great!) that keeping the same collection of people together from one title to another to enjoy the same sort of banter is next to impossible.

  • My friends and I were just discussing this the other night when, for the first time in YEARS, we left the comfort of our party and ventured into the real world of Gears of War 3. The first thing I heard when we finished he round were 2 immature pricks screaming and yelling profanely about how we didn’t play the game RIGHT and what sexual positions we were in with our mothers last night, and I realized why we converted to the party chat in the first place. A couple of us are from the south and have a bit of an accent, so when we tried to just be civil and offer a “good game guys” we then were bombarded with comments about moonshining, and having sex with our cousins, nascar, and whatever else they thought would relate to our heritage. The real problem I have with today’s public gaming community is the lack of any kind of morality, humanity, or respect for others. The fact is that, even though you can’t see the person on the other end of the mic, they are real flesh and blood, with the same feelings and passion for gaming and that you have. How is it that the youth of today can have no empathy, and they try to say the most hurtful and damaging things that they can imagine, to a perfect stranger, for no reason other than they were beaten in a video game. They try to say the worst thing they can, if my entire family died in a terrible accident and these punks knew it, I know they would make fun of that and try to truly hurt me emotionally. Why do people want to act this way? It truly embarrasses me to be an American, when our youth acts to represent us in this way it only tarnishes the already dull image the US has with the world. It is poetic that the image used in this article is from Rainbow Six 3 because that was the game that got me involved with online gaming. In the early days it was rare (for me anyway) to have someone act this way toward others. Now we did poke at each other with friendly trash talk, but there was always a feeling of comradere and a respectful environment. I have been a gamer for over 30 years, but with the trend that is developing in the gaming community with this kind of treatment of fellow gamers, I have been contemplating the idea of retiring from gaming. That will be a sad day for me, but it’s not worth the verbal abuse!

    • Would be a shame to quit online gaming altogether because of some immature gamers.


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