Why Some Games Foster the Git Gud Attitude

What makes some games have toxic communities? In the second article in my series on online community, we explore why some games foster toxicity

Call of Duty. Halo. League of Legends. DotA. StarCraft. Any one of us could name a game that sometimes gets labeled as a toxic community, full of trolls and people more than willing to crap all over your investment in a game. THe header photo representative of an all-too-common attitude, particularly in certain games. So what is it about these games that foster this type of attitude?

Have At Thee! 

I think it has a lot to do with the ultra-competitive nature of these types of games. PvP games lend themselves to trash-talking, which I will admit, I have indulged in. But when I engage in such barbarous activities, it's always good-natured. I never minimize anyone's game time or skill level; instead, I make myself out to be some kind of god, gifted by Gaben (almighty is he) himself with fast fingers and quicker wit. This is obviously not true, as can be seen in my Destiny/CoD/Halo/LoL/anything K-D ratio.


The problem becomes when trash-talking is taken to a new level. When a player begins to attack another player's game time or experience, this is bad. When a player tries to make a link between his opponent's ability and their worth as a person, this is worse.

A Pulpit From Which to Assault the Masses

Unfortunately, I see this a lot, particularly in games where there is an open lobby following a match. The sore victor or loser, whichever is the case, is given the ultimate pulpit from which to attack their opponent. In these games that have voice chat, the discourse gets even more vitriolic.

At least in text based lobbies, an attacker has to put his or her thoughts onto a screen, thereby giving themselves a chance to reevaluate their words. No such buffer in voice chat. An angry or gloating player can scream out whatever first comes to mind, with little to no filter.

On the other side of the coin is PvE and co-op games. Do people still rage and attack players? Sure, but more often than not, it is coming out of frustration with how the round/raid/whatever went. Did a particular player not carry their weight? Did a boss do a combo that is too OP? Was the collective "gudness" of the group not up to par? Any one or more of these could be true.

Oh, you wanna put me down? Good luck fighting him solo

This is where I believe that PvE games will never have as violent or toxic communities as PvP. In PvE, most players seem to know that if they decide to tear a player a new one for not carrying their weight, it could come back on them the next round. In addition, it does not do the group well to introduce animosity into the mix. Tensions are already high due to the challenge of the game; players that tend toward PvE (myself included) don't want any additional stress from not getting along with their teammates.

 TL;DR: When a game is intrinsically cooperative, players are much less likely to gloat over a particular player. This leads to a community that almost never tries to do the worst: link a player's "gudness" with their personal worth.
The Ruler and The Ego

To me, linking a player's skill to their personal worth is the worst act a gamer can commit. Games may be fun. Games may be important. Games may be the most important thing in your life. But at the end of the day (or perhaps the beginning of the morning, depending on how the last gaming session went), the game is a game; an escape, not a ruler by which to measure yours or someone else's self-worth. Players who think they are a better person than another simply because their weapon is more blinged out are indulging in a dangerous thought, one that can ultimately lead to superiority complexes that carry over into real life.

Published Aug. 15th 2015
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