There’s over 2.2 Billion active gamers in the world. E-sports is one of the fastest growing areas, with a projection of 270 million viewers by 2020. Yet, with the growing number of participants, why is it that there seems to be an even faster growth in toxic gamers?
Let’s take a brief trip back to the year 2000 and a younger, less-hairier me is playing Unreal Tournament at a LAN Centre with around 10 others from school. It was my first real multiplayer experience on PC and only fueled the already-burning fire of love for games. Sure, console games had been there already, albeit limited to huddling around a single split-screen for GoldenEye or Mario Kart; but there was something special about individual “stations”. Online gaming was still its infancy and console gaming didn’t arrive until the ill-fated Dreamcast late 2000 so most multi-player battles were from the same room. There was frustration, maybe the odd curse word, but it was all fun; because that’s what gaming should be, right?
However, in recent months, there seems to be an exponential growth in what some people call Toxic Players. People who believe they are completely “pro” at the game, that everyone is inferior to them and that when anything wrong or unpredictable happens within a game, directed verbal abuse seems “normal”. I say normal because it has become an expected part of playing competitive games now, which is a sad thing indeed.
As examples, any player can have a bad game; new player, returning player, young player, making a mistake, trying something different, feeling ill, being distracted, sneezing, breathing….you get the idea. In any sort of competitive match, sometimes you lose a point, get ganked or even have a battery go dead in your controller. Sometimes, it’s just about someone new just getting into a game.
I’ve only recently got into League of Legends and, while I’m using the above as an example, it’s certainly not the sole offender here. After playing a number of MOBA’s, this does come up on top and by that I mean it’s almost EVERY single game where there’s someone who will make some sort of abusive comment. Another culprit is Overwatch which had so many complaints about toxic players via forums their Game Director (Jeff Kaplan) changed their regular developer video to a plea for all players of the community to play nice (below).
There a line between Raging and being completely Toxic; it’s not difficult to understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But people cross it, never to return. Insults have ranged from wishing cancer on players/family, incest, rape, killing in a variety of ways and using every swear word there ever was. What is it that makes them think this is fine? What about the detrimental effects it could have on somebody; for me, it’s just feeling a little peed off and put off the game due to some gamers ruining the whole gaming experience, but for others it could have destructive repercussions. My 9 year old plays Minecraft online and has played some Battlefront too – the latter of which I’ve had to delete a number of direct messages that have included insults and abuse.
Of course there are times when plays from a single person can mean the difference between a win or lose, but get frustrated, offer help/advice/tips, ask them to stick with you and accept the learning curve. My two kids are already on track for following in my footsteps, but what I don’t want is for them to think it’s okay or normal or expected for abuse to be in their own games. I wouldn’t want someone with depression or who struggles with mental health wanting to relax or de-stress by playing some games (as many do) to be the target of harassment. Personally, I don’t want to have to be riled into justifying reasons why it’s okay to not be a professional and flawless gamer – I mean the numbers speak for themselves and it’s only going to grow further.
Have you been a victim? Why do you think people believe it’s okay? And what can be done to help make the community a friendlier environment for the future?