Gaming became much more popular due to problems brought by Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the countries went to apply quarantine rules and after all we are stuck at our homes. We consumed our entertainment tools like books, TV, films and music in rapid pace. Gaming came to rescue to fill our spare time and amuse us. But gaming is not like other tools. Specifically online gaming. We need to interact with other players to achieve the goal of that game. As we all know wherever there are human beings, there is conflict. This is what we call “Toxicity”. Probably the biggest and hardest problem to solve about online gaming industry.
Before diving deeply, what is “toxicity”? According to Cambridge Dictionary toxicity is: “The level of poison contained in a drug, or the ability of a drug to poison the body.” This definition can also be applied for toxicity in gaming slang. In gaming toxicity is: “slang for the actions of a rude and unwelcoming gamer or gaming community who detriments the experience for other players or developers.”
I am sure 99% of gamers encountered a guy who opens his microphone and starts shouting, swearing and throws racist words at you. Specially if you played competetive games like Call of Duty, DOTA2, LoL (League of Legends), Overwatch… you are far more than familiar with toxicity. But what causes people to be toxic? Lack of social skills? Competitive environment? Anonymity? Based on the research conducted by the Haewoon Kwak (Qatar Computing Research Institute) there are different reasons that make online games a place for toxic behavior, such as:
Competetive Element. The nature of competetive online games makes us put victory over everything. We don’t have fun if we lose.
Anonymous. We use nicknames. We most likely never meet directly with the other players. This sense of freedom makes people say anything or act like there are no consequences.
Social culture. Our societies started to became more and more individual focused. There is no empathy, we watch and have fun from people suffering. It’s a matter of time to get those bad things arise in us. Online gaming offers the opportunity.
Toxicity is a problem that includes us all.
Gamers are fighting against toxic behavior by themselves in most of their gaming sessions. Major companies saw this and decided to combat toxicity together. More than 30 companies, including Blizzard, CCP, Discord, Twitch and Epic are teaming up through an organization called the Fair Play Alliance. With Fair Play Alliance, by sharing research, lessons learned, and best practices, the companies will be able to develop a better understanding of why toxicity happens, how to deal with toxic players, and most of all, how to stop toxicity from happening in the first place.
Being competetive is fun but do not forget to stay sportive and positive
We all love the crunch moments that pumps adrenaline. We love to compete and try to be our best to eliminate and eventually defeat our opponent. But we don’t need to do this in a toxic manner. We can still beat them but there is no reason to harm their feelings, swear at their mum or pity their creep killing skills. Trash talking is always there since we are in a competetive environment but we should know our limits. Most of the people are so focused to stay toxic throughout the game that they are the main reason their team lost the game. For my toxic fellows out there that loves to shout at their mics, I know you are the best but at least try to be more respectful. We are all human after all. A little bit more sportsmanship will not kill you.
What you can do to reduce/avoid toxicity in your games?
There are not so many ways to reduce/avoid toxicity. Since online gaming is a newly growing business, companies still looking for ways to reduce toxicity.
Turn off chat. If you encountered toxic behaviour, most of the games have the feature to turning off chat. You can turn it off and continue with your game.
Play with friends. If you have friends that play games, try to play with them. Less unknown people = less probability to encounter toxicity.
Try playing solo online games. Like FIFA and fighting games, there are many different ways to stay competetive and play online against other people. These type of games still give you the excitement of online games and keeps you away from toxicity.
Like i said, online gaming is a newly growing industry. There are many projects and organizations that are trying to reduce toxicity in games. Toxicity will eventually happen. We are human and we are all different from each other. Having conflicts between us is natural. But we can not just go and swear in to each other’s ears. Toxicity will grow with the growth of online gaming. Companies and us gamers should move together to beat toxic people and we should bring them back in to our communities. Do not forget: “Toxic people are human too!”.