LOL U Mad Bro? Toxicity in Online Gaming

Throughout the history of online gaming, the player toxicity aspect has always been a primary issue for game publishers. To put it simply, toxic gamers harass other fellow gamers in some form of “cyber-bullying”. The term “cyber-bullying” is defined as “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.” Gamers typically demonstrate this type of behavior during the game sessions that they are frustrated with. Rather than discussing the ethics of gaming toxicity, we will examine the history of how this behavior came to be, actions and policies created to combat toxicity, and its effects in online gaming.

lol gg ez, you’re bad

Toxicity is known as a form bad-mannerism that simply implies that one player will purposely say or write negative messages to other players to discourage them from continuing to play the game. It was widely known that this type of behavior nowadays is strongly discouraged as there are many policies protecting other players from the taunt of a typical “rager” gamer. However, if you look back at the “old” days of gaming in the 2000’s, friendly taunts and trash talk were extremely popular in South Korea in the Proleague tournament for Starcraft: Broodwar.

Victory Celebration in Starcraft: Broodwar ProLeague

Why?

To understand exactly why players are toxic we need to understand how toxicity became a norm. In an online setting, people realized that there was little to no consequence for speaking out about their opinion of others. In this case, the toxic message that people are using to belittle others as a form of self-satisfaction has little or no impact on themselves IRL — In real life. Of course if hurtful comments like “kill yourself” were said in person there will be some form of retaliation.

Toxicity is an online disease that spreads like wildfire even for players who are traditionally more well-mannered. The phrase of monkey-see-monkey-do applies quite well when it comes to the “risk versus reward” mentality of a gamer. As more and more malicious activities involving belittling others (as a form of self-satisfaction) goes unpunished, it becomes“okay” for players to behave in a poorly mannered way.

As for why players behave this way, it is rather complicated to give you a straight answer. I have personally spoken and behaved in toxic ways against my opponents while I was a professional gamer. Was I justified to bad-manner my opponents? Very likely no, but it was entertaining and in a way it became an extra layer of communication with my opponent. It was strategically more ideal to “tilt” your opponents by taunting them. Let’s face it, if you are playing in tournaments with thousands of dollars on the line, you want every bit of advantage you can get to win. This form of bad-mannerism or toxic behavior is different from games that focuses on team versus team, where the type of behavior is rather belittling a player’s teammates.

Post-match statement versus Heart in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

A gamer who ridicules his or her teammates can often be found in games that do not go their way. More often than not, the angry player will try to seek for a way to share the blame.It is much easier to point out another’s mistakes than it is to acknowledge your own faults during and after a game session. You will often see players preemptively make toxic statements so that they can protect themselves when it comes to sharing the blame. Although there are many other reasons as to why people are toxic in online settings, I believe it is to mainly shift attention and blame away from themselves.

Strict Policies

When it comes to small scale toxicity, player behavior can be monitored easily and punished accordingly. However, with large scale free-to-play games such as League of Legends and DOTA2, it is very difficult to spot a toxic player among the millions of players. Riot has for many years taken a scientific approach to cure toxic behavior while Valve bunches the toxic players together in the same group. (so they are stuck playing among themselves). Positive and mixed results were shown in both game titles over the years. Although there isn’t exactly a cure for toxicity, companies have taken preventive measurements so that the majority of players deal with as little toxic players as possible.

How Society Sees Toxic Behavior Now

In the modern day of online gaming there are still a couple of toxic players here and there per game session. One thing to note is that veteran gamers are now more resiliant to being “triggered” by toxic and “troll” gamers. Today gaming communities are more willing to openly and publicly denounce bad-mannerism and toxic behaviors of other players. What we are seeing here is a trend and movement to stop and educate younger players that this type of behavior is unacceptable. That being said, online toxic behavior will never truly be eradicated, however, with better public education and criticism on this type of behavior, online gamers will slowly become much less susceptible to toxicity and cyber-bullying.

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