This is off topic for the kind of stuff I normally write about.. But I figured I’d tackle this whale of a topic.. Mostly because in recent days I’ve seen (and experienced first hand) some of the ‘toxic behavior’ that can be found in today’s gaming.

Don’t get me wrong.. It’s out there.. and rampant. I’ve been gaming since I was 3 (started early on an NES!). But really didn’t see anything like online harassment or just that ‘toxic player’ behavior until recently.

The rise and MMO-style gaming, collaborative gameplay and ease of access to a variety of methods of communication has allowed toxic behavior to ‘flourish’.

What do I mean by this?

Think about it.. Fifteen years ago there really wasn’t much in the way of massive online gaming. Most of it was first person shooters. If you’d get into a random lobby, and someone would trash talk chances are you wouldn’t see that person again (hell, even today with games like Call of Duty you might only be in someones lobby for a round or two, then never see them again and you’d move on).

g910-orion-spark-rgb-mechanical-gaming-keyboardWith games like World of WarcraftCounterstrike & League of Legends (to just name a few) we’ve seen large communities rally around these games. I’ll admit, I was an avid Warcraft player since its launch. Though I mainly stuck to my own thing and rarely got involved in anything large (I only started raiding in Cataclysm).

Now, these games started with simple text-based chat.. Then voice programs like TeamSpeak and Ventrillo (and now more popularly Discord) sprung up to fill in that gap in communication… Then you’ve had the rising of social media, Twitter and Facebook to name a few.

Now how does all this fit in, you wonder?

As the internet and gaming has evolved, communication has become more integral in how we play online. Complexity of games require it, for the most part, these days. But along with that necessity comes the odd player who will do something to piss off other players, harass or just make the overall gaming environment less-than-enjoyable for those playing.

I was on a text-based game (MUSH, or MultiUser Simulated Hallucination) awhile back.. and I’ve been text-based gaming for many years.. I had been on this game for awhile, and we had one player who always needed to be the center of attention. It got to the point where we had players avoid situations in which this other player was in.

As time went on, this player would forcefully push situations onto other players in game (keep in mind, this was a heavy Roleplaying game). It then went from the ‘In Character’ world, to the ‘Out of Character’ areas.. eventually resulting in the player being banned for sexually harassing other players.

Throughout the entire ordeal, we slowly lost good, long time players who had been on the game. They no longer wanted to play because the environment was so ‘toxic’ with this one player around, that they couldn’t bring themselves to log in. There had been several occasions where this player went on rants in channels where he would threaten to hurt himself…

How the fuck do you deal with that? Especially as an administrator of the game?

Tin phone communicationOn games like Warcraft, it’s a little more cut and dry – ignore / report the player, end of story. On a text-based game, it’s a little harder to deal with because it’s a small community of players that play these games…

In the end, he was banned form the game.. he then went on to other text-based games where he did the exact same thing.

Now more recently…

As I previously stated… I typically do my own thing on games like World of Warcraft.. Though last year I got involved in a group and had a regular ‘clique’ that I hung around with.. Discord, and all that. It was good. Though we had our fair share of bumps along the way.

There’s drama in online gaming.. and in social media. It’s not avoidable.. Right? Right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

The ‘center’ of our group was a girl a year or two younger than myself. She was the one doing all the organizing and everything. We’d play WoW, and Overwatch and other games. All-in-all, there were probably a dozen core players grouping together regularly.

Last month I joined a new guild on the server I am on.. and was pushing pretty hard on my character. Perhaps, maybe, I did distance myself from the group – a bit.. Not out of any malice, but because I was busy with Guild stuff.

Fast forward to March 10th.. I get my Nintendo Switch (yay) and I’ve been pushing hard on that thing.

Now, March 17th, both myself and another member of our group get a message from the girl saying we’re ignoring them, being mean, elitists, etc… and she doesn’t appreciate it.

Everyone is entitled to her opinion. I don’t reply because I am at work. The other person replies.. and, like myself, is confused where this all was coming from.

Important Note: This is not the first time this girl had gone off the deep end at someone for something that really wasn’t there.

At the end of the day, after outlining our position, we get deleted, banned and blocked from everything. Discord, Mumble, Twitter, Facebook, Battlenet.

Ok.. Still not clear on what I did other than get a harassing message about how I’m a jerk for not being there and playing with my Guild instead (which, isn’t true because I haven’t been playing on WoW either).

How do you handle this? You have someone who creates drama at every turn (claiming that they hate drama).. Guaranteed they are talking about it behind our backs to create MORE drama.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So what do you do to avoid it?

Everyone, at some point in their gaming career.. is going to find themselves in a toxic situation.

For me, it’s about backing out of that situation. Don’t get pulled in, and don’t ‘feed the beast’.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are involved in large communities. In my case, it’s odd because I still communicate with some of the people that are ‘mutual friends’ with the person causing drama out of no where.

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Don’t involve others in it

If someone’s doing that shit to you.. try and leave it between them and you. They may feel they need to bring others in.. But don’t start turning people against one another. When those battle lines are drawn, it caused even more problems. And chances are, both parties involved are going to lose friends over it (everyone takes a side).

It’s a bag of crap handed to you, it’s a matter of it not hitting the fan and spraying everything (and everyone) in sight.

Now, I see that I’ve written an essay on this.. So I’ll leave it there. Because, honestly, this is a topic that could be researched and written about until the cows come home (There is no Cow Level).

Feel free to share your stories, thoughts and tips on avoiding (or getting out of) these situations.

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