Toxic Trends in the Games Industry

From competitive to casual, unpleasantness is rampant throughout games. Players storming out of servers left and right complaining about hacking and ping in a fit of rage. It seems that nearly every game there will be arguments and complaints, it’s always somebody’s fault. Or is it?

The toxic trend of the games industry manifests itself in many forms. Furious players who ruin the games for others, the competitive champions who tarnish the competitive scene or disgruntled developers lashing out and cracking down on criticism. But there is light from the depths of the well of toxicity, with some companies and genres creating a community free from the showing how to respond to this toxic behaviour.

Possibly the worst to be infected by this behaviour are team based games such as DOTA 2, a titan of the MOBA genre. The headlines focus on huge prize pools of millions of dollars, but games are commonly flooded with insults, berating players that they ‘missed their ult’ before abandoning the game as soon as signs of a loss appear, annihilating everyone else’s chance of winning. It seems rare to be put into a game where everyone is content to work together outside of playing with friends.

However we do have two glorious buttons, and never before have ‘mute’ and ‘report’ been so valued. They deserve a medal for the amount of times they see action, but with the amount of reports that go out it seems that it would be difficult to judge them all fairly. DOTA 2 may just have the edge in that department however with the system of Low Priority. Low Priority matches all those who have been reported enough or abandoned games, separating them away from the other players while they are in that matchmaking system. With this Dota is helping to pave the way forward, helping with the problems within matchmaking, rooting out the toxic problems within their community and separating them from the majority of players.

Many indie games however have instead built a supportive community, working with and talking to developers rather than shouting into the void of hate. Indie games then not only pave the way for innovation in gameplay but also through the supportive community they have created, having them provide feedback for their complaints. This helps build the game rather than tearing it apart. GameJolt provides the perfect example – commenters suggest features and additions helping to improve the game.

It is evident that the indie community cares about its games not only through the devoted community which strives to create a welcoming, if not sometimes weird community for others. It also shows through the crowdfunding potential, bringing to light new and innovative games that would otherwise not have been produced. These include Star Citizen with its colossal funded amount of over $106 million, or the life brought to Yooka-Laylee and the long-idle genre of the collect-’em-up platformer. The indie community is one that sets a shining example, through giving life to a supporting and devoted community rather than one that lashes out at the developers and other players.

There are games which break away from toxic trends, finding a niche community devoted to their games. The master of this is From Software with their devoted community who support and rave about the games and the story and who become deeply invested in the lore. While this can sometimes prove a little daunting towards a new player, and perhaps be a little smug that you can’t beat Ornstein and Smough faster than the Twitch chat, it’s still a strong example of a broadly positive community. The difficulty of Dark Souls seems to be what has formed the community, creating a barrier to entry that you have to make your way through before entering into the arms of the community at which point you will already be invested into the story and the world. If anything more of a testament to the games and From Software, being able to create a massively deep lore, enough to keep people invested and longing for the next instalment and the next bout of circle strafing and dodge rolls to outwit your opponents.

It’s not just casual play where things get nasty – many trends leak into the far stricter competitive e-sports. Of all the problems around the nascent sports these trends potentially endanger it most of all, ruining the reputation by making players look childish. Thankfully, developers and leagues are on this, and these issues are treated harshly, dealing out lifetime bans to some offending players.

Human beings have long been unpleasant to each other – it’s a sad part of our nature. But it’s something which needs to be kept on top of and discouraged where possible, so our industry can keep on growing and including everyone.

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