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Toxic Behavior in Online Gaming, Is it Necessary?

03 Dec 2018 | Ayyub Mustofa
Toxic behavior happens not only due to intention, but also an opportunity

Toxic behavior has become a persistence issue in online gaming industry, especially online gaming competitive. If you often play games, such as Dota 2, Mobile Legends, or Overwatch, you must have seen people with this habit. Emotional, blaming others, using bad words, and selfish are only some of the toxic characteristics.

What actually causes toxic behavior to arise? Is it inevitable? What’s the impact? is it always positive or negative? Through this article, I’ll invite you to reflect. Not to patronize or judge, but to create a game ecosystem that can be enjoyed by everyone. Let’s go!

MLBB Official Forum
Source: MLBB Official Forum

Toxic is a choice

There’s no standard definition of toxic behavior, generally we define it as a behavior that intentionally disturb other people’s convenience. The type of toxic behavior in each game can be vary, but generally, it’s a social interaction that includes cyber-bullying, disturbing other players, acting nosy, cheating, and many more.

As the slogan from one of the popular private tv shows, toxic behavior occurs not only because of the intention but also an opportunity. Based on the research conducted by the Haewoon Kwak (Qatar Computing Research Institute), there are some things that make online game is a place for toxic behavior, such as:

  • Competitive Element. The nature of competitive online games makes us put the victory over everything and feels like the game is not fun if we didn’t win.
  • Anonymous. Because we use nickname, and most likely won’t meet directly with the other players, we kind of feel free to say anything or act like there’s no consequence in online gaming.
  • Counterfactual thinking. A psychological phenomenon where unwanted things happened, we tend to imagine the alternate event. For example, “If only our marksman had attacked the Lord, we must’ve been win by now!” Counterfactual thinking can have positive impact (evaluation material), it can also trigger us to blame others.
  • Negative social culture. When we grow up in an individualist society, where there’s no empathy, or having fun watching other people suffer, it’s a matter of time to get those bad things arise in us. Online gaming offers the opportunity.
Blizzard always watch out for toxic players in Overwatch
Blizzard always watch out for toxic players in Overwatch | Source: Blizzard

We can say the toxic behavior will not happen if all the team members play fair. In fact, no matter how good the team plays, there’ll be winner and loser in competitive games. Dota 2 statistics for example, shows the average players in the world has a win ratio around 50%. It means, losing five of ten matches is normal. If you have win rate up to 60% or 70%, you are worthy to be a professional esport player.

The question is, how do we react to the defeat? Accepting well that your opponent is better, or angry about it, like certain supporters making riot when their favorite team lose? We might not be able to control the result, but at least ourselves.

Toxic is fun, but…

“Trash talk is part of the game, bro,” said one of the players I met on a Dota 2 match in Southeast Asia. There are some people who enjoy toxic behavior, regardless of the game results. This type of person might be happy to see other people suffer, at least in cyberspace.

Better focus on battling than cursing
Better focus on battling than cursing | Source: Microsoft

I can’t stop or control what makes people happy, and I think it makes sense if someone gets a pleasure from being toxic. Maybe they’re being exposed to a superiority complex phenomenon – bring other people down and being arrogant to cover the flaws in cyberspace. One thing they didn’t aware is the pleasure obtained from sacrificing greater pleasure: victory.

Let’s ask ourselves. When our team play bad, do we act like toxic to make them play better? When our team losing, do we say bad words to make them win? I think we all know the answer. No. Then why do we act like toxic?

One thing that might be an explanation to this behavior is, we act like toxic to create some happiness even if we’re losing. Losing is not good, and toxic behavior can help us reduce the bad feeling. Anyhow, this is a mental for losers.

A champion will not go down by hard times
A champion will not go down at hard times | Source: PGL esports

There’s a popular jargon in MOBA world, “Comeback is real.” No matter how bad the game is, if we keep fighting, there’ll always possibility to reverse the situation. The same thing mentioned by a popular Street Fighter athlete, Daigo Umehara, in its book titled The Will to Keep Winning. Even though the opponent is way stronger, as long as the screen doesn’t say K.O, there’s always a chance for victory.

In my opinion, winning the hard way until a comeback like this is the most satisfying victory. Not only satisfied of the win, but also the way to escape from unfortunate situation. Winning against strong enemies is more valuable than winning against those weaker players.

Competitive is fine, just stay sportive and positive

Think of playing the competitive game as a marshmallow test. Toxic behavior might help us feel great or happy for a moment, but in the long run, it’ll accumulate and bring harm to ourselves. For example, I often heard people complain about their favorite MOBA game is dull, as one of the reasons is the toxic players.

MOBA, but...? (fill the blank)
MOBA, but…? (fill the blank) | Source: Nintendo

Spending time for cursing or insulting people in cyberspace can spread into real life. Moreover, the words used by toxic players in Mobile Legends are kind of harsh. Not only telling people stupid, but they often bring up parents or SARA. We didn’t know, whether they’re teenagers, folks, or elementary children, everyone is similar under the shield of anonymity.

There are some things we can do to reduce toxic behavior in competitive gaming. E.g:

  • Frequently play fighting games. Although competitive, fighting game is different with team-based game, such as MOBA or some first-person shooter. In fighting game, the only person responsible of the game is ourselves. It’ll train our mental to accept defeat and introspection, rather than blaming external factors.
  • Following influencerswith positive behavior. In the current informatics era, parents role in educating children is getting smaller. Influencers like Youtuber or streamer have a big influence in building someone’s character. In order to gain the positive habit, it’s best to avoid toxic YouTubers, and often watch the humble and cool ones.
  • Play with friends. One of the reason why toxic behavior arise is because we play anonimously. Play with people we knew will eliminate the anonymity, so we can be motivated to help each other. On average, online games have a kind of guild or lobby feature, we have to use this better.
  • Turn off chat. Sometimes we act like toxic as a form of revenge. There’s nothing wrong with turning off chat feature to avoid it. Without chat feature, it might help us to focus on the game to win.
Hurt? Your fault
Hurt? Your fault | Source: Steam

Currently, the esports industry is getting popular in Indonesia. However, it won’t happen without support from non-professional gamers community as loyal fans. We need to continue growing positive culture so that our favorite game can be more popular and attract new players.

Eliminating old habit is not easy, but I’m sure we can do it. How about you? Have you been playing sportive today?


Original article is in Indonesian, translated by Kristin Siagian