Over 80% of multiplayer gamers recently experienced some form of toxicity.
It’s a familiar story: you jump online for a few hours of gaming before bed. You load up Valorant and decide to practice your aim with the Marshall, so you queue for a casual match. Wouldn’t want to risk losing your rank! You don’t expect to win, or even do well — just to practice.
Several rounds later, you’re bottom fragging, but not worried about it. The score is tied. You buy the Marshall again. This time, your teammate speaks angrily over the microphone: “Can you stop trolling and buy a real weapon?” They continue to voice their frustration again and again and, after a couple more rounds, leave the game.
Another teammate says “Geez, it’s just unrated.”
Despite being a casual match, one player is playing seriously and striving for the win, but their teammates are not in the same mindset. The player gets frustrated and toxic.
They think: “Winning is fun so my teammates are responsible for my lack of fun because I’m trying my best to win and my team is not, as they should.”
Everyone has had games like these or worse. Maybe you’ve been the frustrated player, 59.4 percent of people in a study admitted to being abusive towards other players, or maybe you’ve been the person practicing in a casual match, or maybe someone was displeased that you’re having a bad game. Toxicity is inescapable in gaming these days, no matter who you are.
The Smerf team has spent a lot of time thinking about why this was the case, in the most general sense, and we’ve come to discover that much of the time it’s because of mismatched expectations.
One teammate wants to play seriously and win, even in unranked. Another expects to practice a specific strategy or weapon. Another wants to joke around, troll, trash talk, and have fun in a way that wasn’t necessarily intended through their game’s design. Another guy is trying his best but unable to hit his shots.
We think all of these things are okay, but also that it is important to find a way to minimize the negative impact we have on each other.
What might it look like if expectations and goals were more aligned? Your squad is okay with practicing strategies and weapons in a way that might not be optimal for winning, or maybe your team is looking to knife fight for an entire match. Everyone is prepared and unlikely to get upset over losing, doing badly, or if somebody is not playing the game in an unexpected way.
How can that happen though? It’s not that easy for even good friends to play with the same mindset every night.
That’s where Smerf comes in.