I was originally going to make a video based on this post last year, but I think it’s best to put it in writing, especially since I’m attempting to overcome my writer’s block. If you recall my last post in the new series, #PoorSportsmanship, I encountered a player on Overwatch who wanted to have his way in a match where it would not have mattered anyway. This inspired me to go back to my roots and recalled the “negative vibes”–toxic gaming behavior from other players when it comes to online games; coming from a creator Point-of-View, as well as in real life.
A lot has changed in the past decade when it comes to dealing with toxic players, even inspiring companies such as Riot and Blizzard to implement a player rating system to indicate whether the player in question is on their best sportsmanship. While it’s a step forward, there are still players out there that get energy from engaging in toxic gaming, and when it comes down to reporting a player, it may not be enough to warrant a temporary, or even permanent punishment.
That also brings us to the idea of shaming the player through means of images and video, and even text. Is it a good idea, or a bad idea? There will be a couple of personal scenarios that seek to explain calling out a player indirectly, followed by the future possibility of seeking a conflict resolution by actions or words.
A Victim of Toxic Gaming and Poor Sportsmanship
Scenario 1: Let’s go back to the era of Ragnarok Online, around 2004. For those who have not followed Centaku Media in the past, the blog actually started as a journal for my Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft progress. I used to nitpick about whatever toxic gaming moment I came across in the game on my personal LiveJournal. Most of it was quoting what the offending player said or did, but the worst of it all was when I was married in-game to a previous friend, who I will refer to as K. The biggest issue was right after we got “married”–as in “in-game”–when my Hewlett Packard computer from the era of 2003 kicked the bucket. He did not understand that it was not easy for me to get a new one, nor repair it at the time.
When I found a temporary PC to play Ragnarok Online again until I built my new one, my “relationship” with K went downhill. It was so toxic, I vented my frustration by underlining the dangers of gaming addiction in a separate post, also in an attempt at writing “Cornerstone Posts” to improve my writing as it’s been a good stress reliever for all these years. There were hurt feelings, as well as losing another friend who, at the time, I was to play FFXI with right after he left the country, but time zone became an issue. The last straw with the friend was when he left a comment saying that he wished me the best, in a tone that I thought was positive, but thinking about it now was possibly intentional as I was ghosted.
Scenario 2: Continuing the trend, having played Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft, I’d always complain about one’s toxic behavior when in a group, or when playing solo. In FFXI, one event in particular involved a player by the name of M, who offered me a Linkpearl after a failed attempt of a national ranking mission (the memorable Rank 2-3 missions between Bastok, Windurst, and San d’Oria). A few days later, it seemed that he refused to understand the concept of Linkshells, as you can carry and equip as many as you want for whatever purpose such as a guild, crafting, or End Game content. On that day, I was found with a broken linkpearl as I was kicked by M, including the other player, referring to the latter as a “spy”, and told me that I should “have my linkpearl equipped at all times,” after having switched back and forth between Pearls seeking for help in a EXP group on Qufim Island.
The result of M’s action led me to blacklisting the player. After explaining this toxic gaming moment to another player at the time, he said that it was a bad idea, and that he could one day come around and realize the error of his ways. But considering that M is hiding behind a computer–or maybe a TV screen if he was a Playstation 2 user–I found it very unlikely that he would. After this event, it inspired me to start writing posts as such when I started my FFXI progress blog, Nakashima of Remora, calling out the player by their full In-Game name.
Scenario 3: This one event was right before CEN.TAKU.ME got off the ground, after the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I played Metal Gear Online (aka “Metal Gear Online 2”, since the original MGO was included with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, but was shut down before I got the chance to play it). During the couple of months of playing it and getting to a decent level in the game, another player demonstrated their toxic gaming skills that ruined my experience.
For a week, I noticed a player… for intents and purposes, I will call him out as his name appeared In-Game: “Zac”. At first, I thought he was a good player in terms of skill, and even sportsmanship, though we never communicated with each other. But one day during that one particular week, he was on the opposing team, and the leader of the other team demanded everyone to vote off the players with bad latency, or “lag”. Unfortunately, I was one of them. “Zac” targeted me in particular, possibly because he saw that I was a threat to him because of how well I played the game. He eventually got his wish and I was removed from the room.
Immediately after being kicked, I reported the incident to Konami’s Game Masters, only to be told there was nothing that could be done, and the only solution was to find an improved connection to play; my only option was a WiFi as access to Ethernet was not easy due to the PS3 being in the other room. So I did what I did when I encountered M in Final Fantasy XI, and that was to block him, so I would not encounter him again. You might think it was a waste of time reporting him, but what if he was that sore that I appeared better than him, and he would kick me while I was down by reporting me, accusing me of cheating, and assumed I was using a lag switch? I honestly did not know such a device existed, considering this was a console-only game… But I guess anyone will find a short cut to get ahead in this digital life.
I really wanted to talk about it on CEN.TAKU.ME, but at the same time I wanted to move on from the days of complaining about every single toxic person I encountered online, since it became the norm for me. Although I still found myself writing about such issues, as long as it was “professional”, and if it was relevant to the reader community. Until now, no one knew that this incident in MGO happened to me.
Approaching Toxic Players in 2019
In the several years, including a decade since these experiences, a lot of progress has been made in ensuring that huge gaming communities, such as League of Legends and Overwatch, are safe for all players. In Overwatch, for example, Polygon reported that Blizzard would be keeping an eye on videos on YouTube and Twitch when it comes to toxic players and poor sportsmanship. It’s worked on top pro-streamers, such as XQC, who was booted–and temporarily banned–from a game in real-time, during a livestream for insulting players as he reported them to Blizzard GMs, in this video by YouTuber, ohnickel. (Warning: contains offensive language.)
However, what if the toxic player retaliates against the innocent content creator, who has an excellent sportsmanship streak… Not using foul language, of course–and getting permanently banned? Unfortunately, when it comes to toxic gaming communities, one will find out a way get petty revenge on someone for simply saying no, or doing something that is not against the Terms of Service. After reading the article on XQC’s suspension, it reminded me of the days of calling out players by their In-Game name in writing, to the effect that anyone who was a reader of my earlier blogs would take notice and avoid that problem player if there was such an encounter.
In the past year, Blizzard implemented a ranking system to rank players based on their sportsmanship during matches. Several months after its introduction, Kotaku reported that toxicity was down by 40%, which is a huge number. However, it’s met with further speculation on whether players have actual matured in the time since the feature was added, or whether the courtesy of some of these players are just for show, so they do not get caught in the future for their past toxic gaming behavior.
Recalling the above events, these were when I was a teenager, and it seems that in our teen years–and depending on the game being played–we intend to over-analyze events and take it upon ourselves to call someone out on the fault of the situation and make them miserable, for better or worse. Although, as adults, it’s unfortunate that these events are a common occurrence because the offending player has the advantage by hiding behind a computer and does not worry about getting physically harmed or identified for whatever they did.
Analyzation Ideas for Future Toxic Players
Before expressing feelings, the situation should be reflected upon to see if it was a misunderstanding or intentional. To put it in better terms: sleep on it. If the conflict is not resolved by either letting it go or by talking it out after a day or two, then consider the following: the offender did not realize what they did was wrong, and that it’s difficult to express their feelings online–especially their “tone of text” as I’d like to call it. If they refuse to see the error of their ways, then you can’t help but think it was out of malice, which was probably the unfortunate case.
If the problem is bothersome to the point where it affects your daily activities, the only way to get around it is to vent the frustrations. It is best to NOT make a scene anywhere, offline, and especially online–included with the fears of possible legal repercussions. However, being as vague as you can be with the situation is healthier than keeping it bottled up inside.
Although, since this is a player not based on an actual person, but with an actual person behind the avatar of their persona, this can make it easier to accomplish. But there is also the possibility of being called out for starting a witch hunt. If you express yourself through writing, such as in a blog post, or on Social Media, or even in a video, it would be wise to avoid calling out the person directly, such as their actual name.
In the earlier scenarios, I used the first letter of the player’s character name, which could be used to explain the situation without redacting the names every time (and as an excuse that I could possibly butcher their name since this was back in 2005, for giggles). Alternatively, you could portray the player as Player A, Player B, and so on. This is useful if you advertise the server you play on, such as myself with my Final Fantasy XIV playthroughs.
Talking Out Toxic Gaming Behaviors or Moving On
If there is an offending player later, or–better yet–right when it happens, there should be a discussion, as irritating as it may sound. Explain to the player that whatever they did was upsetting to you or other players, and, depending on the events from analyzing the situation, an apology is in order. If anyone is like me, it is possible that most of us are afraid to face our fears head-on as we think about the “Expectation vs. Reality” of the conflict resolution.
The “Reality” might be viewed as sheer chaos inflicted all around for time to come in the resolution, but the “Expectation” outcome SHOULD and ALWAYS be viewed as shaking hands and celebrating over drinks or food! By talking it out, one would not need to vent about it, and it makes the gameplay experience much better, as well as setting an example to current and future players.
Whether the situation was good or bad, there is the process of moving on. Going back to my previous scenarios, the first one was resolved with a positive outcome as we realized that my “ex-husband” K and I were both in the wrong. The second one ended on a negative outcome: after I found out that M broke my Linkpearl, I put him on my blacklist. Why? Because I was talked down on of how I should use Linkshells when there was no known official etiquette of using them, and that he hastily removed me without giving me a chance. It bothered me continuously for days, weeks, months… and even years later.
If an offending player refuses to acknowledge that they were in the wrong and says that “it was all in the past, get over it,” or “it’s over now, it’s time to move on,” regardless of the tone used, it does not excuse that it happened at all. If that’s the case, it’s probably a good idea to put that player on a blacklist, for life.
I hope this was helpful for anyone who has, or is faced with bad sportsmanship or in toxic gaming communities such as the ones explained in this post. I wrote this as I realized that most of the archived posts from CEN.TAKU.ME were somewhat negative leading up to the change in writing style from my previous MMO progress blogs. I thought it was a little excessive until I thought about the Pros and Cons, but writing about this has actually relieved me from my past troubles, and I hope this will be a self-reminder for future situations with problem players… and even other people on the internet. I believe that if something bothers you, you have the right to express yourself–as long as you think about the consequences.
Thank you for reading! If you liked this, please comment and give us your thoughts!