At this point, it seems like a cycle. For whatever inexplicable reason, the quality of any online community slowly begins to corrupt itself over time, and the levels of toxicity climb exponentially as time goes by.
But what causes this phenomenon, and what type of games suffer most?
Trash talking in any sort of gaming, whether it be sports or video games, is far from unusual. But where it becomes problematic is when these rituals become insidious attempts at gatekeeping, griefing, and just general anonymous malice.
There are innumerable stereotypes that surround gamers, but perhaps one of the most insidious is the vision of an utterly socially-unadjusted individual flaming complete strangers in some form of pathetic attempt to expulse their deep-seated angst.
The issue is that this is far more common than most would like to admit – and with the catastrophe that has taken place at the most recent Madden tournament, it’s time for us to sincerely look at the manifestations behind such behaviour and how gaming communities can crack down on it once and for all.
Anonymous trolling has been a favourite pastime of many online ever since they uncovered that the appropriate construction of words could trigger another across international borders and send their day into a downward spiral.
For gamers, however, the cost-effectiveness of such a manoeuvre was even more valuable. Why dominate your opponent through superior skill when you could bash their ego and morale into the ground with your words?
The trouble is that very many repeated actions progress into habit the longer they are acted upon over time. After a while, the underlying motivating factor begins to blur into the background, and what you’re left with is something akin to an automaton performing programmed patterns over time.
Extrapolate that into a community, and what evolves is a set of communal norms that one feels pressured to partake in for fear of ostracization – such as the need to berate others for your own personal gain.
Toxicity only grows when there is no method present to uproot it and hold it accountable.
For years, the only reprimand that instigators could expect was a measly ban of several hours, a kick from the match, or no action against the admins whatsoever. While that has begun to change across many popular online multiplayer games, the problem seems to be as rampant as before – if not even more.
Perhaps it stems from a vocal minority feeling as if their freedom of speech is being infringed upon (and one could argue that some of the most egregious chatbots that patrol the matches do border on outright censorship), but at this point, the causes don’t matter – only the solutions.
There is no end to the number of creative solutions that developers may pitch forth to deal with the rampant toxicity in their games, but the only true source of healing won’t come from the outside, but from within.
For far too long, gamers have been complacent to those who gleefully adopt the title of “edgelord” in bids to showcase their verbal ability through sheer bombastic claims and actions against the opposition. And who can truly claim they’ve never sat by the sidelines at least once and watched while such a scene unfolded?
While it is true that attacks on one’s character through a virtual medium may only phase some individuals, it is far too fraught of a risk to
Trolling, harassment, and toxicity will continue to abound in interactive online communities until the communities as a whole come together and act as their own vanguards against toxicity and harassment.
Until then, this wheel will just continue to spin.