Toxicity in games

As you may or may not know from my inaugural post, I play Dota 2. I don’t claim to be one of the best in the world at it but, after 1100 hours of playtime, I would like to think that I have a fair understanding of the mechanics and main playstyles in game. Combine this with an avid interest in the professional Dota 2 scene and I like to think I can speak with at least some authority on many matters Dota 2, and today I’d like to talk about the toxic community in Dota 2.

Last night I played a few games of Dota before bed. I always try to end my night on a victory so I don’t end up brooding about what I could have done differently while trying to sleep, and last night I had some difficulty in achieving that because my second to last game was so terrible that, if I hadn’t won the next game, I would have kept playing until a victory occurred or until I got reported missing because I hadn’t left my room for air or nourishment in several days, because toxic players, like the ones on my team, are more like bullies than teammates.

I will start by saying that it is rare that anyone has a game this bad. I have maybe had 4 games of this magnitude in my Dota 2 career, including this one, so, having played around 1000 games, I assume that 1 in 250 games in the norm for this sort of thing. Naturally I can take a few jibes here and there, especially when playing something like Dota which I know I’m good at and, in my heart, really enjoy playing, but these people just set out to annoying and irritate and bully, and in a very complex team-based game like Dota 2 or League of Legends, these people can really ruin the experience for a whole team and, more importantly, completely ruin your chances of winning.

Many games have very good ways to deal with these sorts of things. Call of Duty is a game famed for the 12 and 13 year olds playing it while screaming “cunt,” “fuck” and “nigger” down the microphone but this can really easily be fixed by just muting the offending players (in CoD this took literally 2 button presses) or by turning off all non-game audio. In my experience, things like WoW or EVE Online actually have less of a problem with toxic players. I would argue that, because everyone who plays is paying for the experience in games like that then they are less inclined to cause a fuss, especially since, if they do, they could lose their account for the game they paid to play and may have invested countless hours in. Of course these games have their own problems, scammers and hackers most of all, but the companies who run the game have much better ways of dealing with them. Dota 2 itself tries its hardest to deal with them by allowing you to mute their microphones and typed messages, as well as being able to report offending players. If a player is reported enough then they are put into “low-priority matchmaking” which is to normal dota players what the Pit of Sarlacc is to anyone in the Star Wars universe. What’s more is that, if you report someone and they do eventually get enough reports to be subjected to this fate then you get a satisfying little message to tell you that action has been taken against them.

But, ultimately, whatever Valve tries to do against these people is useless because, once they’ve played the sufficient number of games in low-priority, they are just back into normal matchmaking and the cycle can repeat itself until they grow out of it or they find another game. Even in the games where you mute any or all players, the flamers, as happened last night, can abuse the in-game chat-wheel, which is comprised of a few stock phrases which you might need to use at a second’s notice, and they write “Well played!” whenever you die to add salt to the wound.

The unfortunate thing is that toxicity will never go away. I have flamed players myself, usually in response to their aggression and sometimes jokingly but once in a while I’ll have a bad day and I’ll just snap and take it out on someone who’s just having a bad game. The key difference is that, for these types of toxic people, you won’t get a message saying they’ve been put into low-priority and everyone ends up forgetting about it and moving on. Now I am getting better at realising when I should and can play Dota and when I should do something else. When I am revising for exams and I get frustrated because, no matter what I try and test myself on, there’s always something that I get wrong, I should go and do something else.

As far as avoiding toxic players goes, it becomes a bit of an issue because you don’t know if they’re going to be helpful or harmful until they’ve already done one or the other. I know this is a fairly weak point to end on, so I’ll share my view on doing something you love. If you really enjoy it but people who are mean or are poison to your art make you want to quit it then you probably want to find something else to do. If, however, you find that naysayers annoy you, and may linger in your mind from time to time for much longer than they deserve, but you still want to keep doing whatever the hell it is your doing then you should keep at it, no matter what it is, because you might have found something you want to do for the rest of your life.

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