Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Toxicity in Games

I've been playing more MOBAs and MMOs lately. One problem in both of these genres is the other people I play with. Not the people I personally know; the random people. If you're a non-toxic player, then, you can probably stop reading here. If you ARE a toxic player, then please keep reading. The "you" from here on in is to be understood to be toxic players. This is my attempt to explain why I want them to stop being toxic. So, if you aren't part of the intended audience, this isn't for you.

I've heard it all before on how to deal with toxic players: "Just mute them!" "Ignore it!" "Get a thicker skin." "They're just words!" Let me dismantle this defense first. We're all adults/responsible individuals with our own agency when we game. Your words? They're not hurting anyone's feelings. You're not making people cry. No one is sitting up at night sniffing into their stuffed bear saying, "Tibbers, why did LeetDude31 say that about my mom?" You're not that powerful. All you've done is temporarily ruined this specific instance, raid or game. You're the kid who peed in the pool, so until that gets cleaned up, you've messed up responsible people's recreation time. Honestly, if I'm called a racial slur in the game, I don't think: "That wounds me verily!" I think, "Now I have to spend extra time after the game/raid reporting someone." Now, you might say: If it is just a minor inconvenience, why report it at all?

What you say probably doesn't bother me. I've had people threaten to kill me, like, to my face. So, you telling me you'll find my house and slit my throat doesn't register. But you know what? Someone else, who is not me, might ACTUALLY be afraid of that. Someone else MIGHT not be able to shrug off being called a ******* ******. So, just like I would step in and stop some stranger on the street from calling someone that, I need to take the time to police my e-community. It's the same reason you report minor infractions at a gaming tournament, because sure, Bob may only have drawn an extra card against you as an honest mistake. But, if Bob has drawn an extra card for the past three years in every game he's ever played, it starts looking less of an honest mistake. Reports record a pattern of behavior to ensure people who get banned/punished aren't banned for a bad day.

Speaking of: When I have a bad day, I log out and read. I maybe talk with a friend to get some perspective. Or I play a game to forget that I had a bad day. I don't call someone names. I don't kick puppies. I am not cruel to Internet strangers to make me feel mighty. There is a perfectly good dragon there for me and my friends and/or Internet strangers to get together and beat up for us ALL to feel mighty, or an organized battleground where we can beat out our frustrations in organized multiplayer. There's no stress relief in bullying people online. If you have a bad day and can't keep yourself from lashing out at people, don't turn on the computer. Friends Don't Let Friends Game Angry.

Next: I like my gaming community. Gaming is my hobby. I want people to enjoy my hobby. I don't want them to judge me for my hobby. I want them to try it out and maybe come play with me. You're an ambassador for my hobby. When I tell people what I do to relax, I don't want them to associate me with people who think racism is edgy and artsy, or that instructing people on proper suicide methods is a normal part of my day. You're actively making our community seem like an unsafe, unwelcoming place. We're not six year old kids who need to write up "No Girlz Allowed" on our clubhouse; we're adults who want to share our passions with other people. Stop making it HARDER for us to make people feel like they can enjoy being a part of our community.

I grew up playing D&D. I played Gemstone. I play WoW. I've played Warhammer Online; I host boardgame days routinely. And -- in all of this -- I have always welcomed anyone and everyone who wanted to try. I've convinced people to try the game; I've helped newbies. I've put in effort to make my community a better place. I enjoy gaming. The people I game with are some of my best friends. And I know that there are many people who their only friends are the people they game with. And, frankly, that positive community is more important than your desire to "express" yourself through vulgarities. Because, this is our SHARED space. That means we have responsibilities.

You can freely express yourself on your blog, on most forums, in your house, on Vent, TeamSpeak -- whatever. But in our communal, shared space that is the game? There is a code of conduct; if you don't like it, there's the door. Hell, in most games, you can form guilds, clans or private chat channels and say whatever you want! Just don't come into trade chat and spout racism and expect me to accept it as part of my game experience. I'd kick you out of my apartment if you said that to my face. Not because it "hurts my feels," but because as an adult, I don't see the need to associate with or entertain people who are vile.

If appealing to your dignity and my desire for us to have a decent community doesn't work, here's another simple reason you should stop being toxic. There is a tacit agreement between you, me and whatever third party is hosting our little get together. They've promised everyone will have a good time, or at least, that we'll be neutral and pleasant to each other. If you decide to break that agreement, I'm not the one who should suffer by having an unpleasant experience. Riot/Blizzard shouldn't suffer by losing players and getting a bad reputation as a hive of scum and villainy. The only person who should suffer for breaking this agreement [whether it is the ToS, the Summoner's Code, the Universal Rights of Humankind, concepts of basic human decency -- whatever] -- is you, the toxic person who isn't willing to uphold their word.

Want to know what's good for you, though? Riot/Blizzard still wants your money, so after you cool off, you're welcome to come back. There's also a large enough player base that even if I ignore you, there are plenty of people who might still play with you! But, if you want to stick around, we expect you to be a decent member of our community.


Honestly? Toxicity in gaming has gotten better -- comparing my League of Legends experience a few years ago to recently, I find the community is much, much better. It is still at an unacceptable level though, and I feel that we need more players who are willing to speak up -- both in game, out of game and through reports -- to make our experience better.

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