The Daily Grind: What makes an MMO community toxic?

I sincerely do not envy the task of MMO studios and community managers when it comes to wrangling their crowd of diverse, fickle, and often very loud-spoken players. Trying to communicate and guide passionate fans is a neverending task, with the accomplishments of one day being instantly erased at a perceived slight the next.

(As an aside, I love it when a dev refers to the community as “passionate,” because it’s almost always code for “more hot-tempered and irrational than a badger in a paint shaker.”)

Lately I’ve been thinking about how some studios seem to do a better job encouraging their playerbase to be civil and friendly (comparatively), while others seem to reign over a prison riot full of flaming posts, incomprehensible swears, and sheer contempt for fellow gamers.

We all can think of a game that seems to fall into the latter category, so my question is, what makes an MMO community toxic? Are there certain types of games that seem to attract malcontents? Is it a failure on the part of the CM team? What do you think?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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129 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What makes an MMO community toxic?"

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Rolan Storm

‘…it comes to wrangling their crowd of diverse, fickle, and often very loud-spoken players.’
Yeeeah… You are so polite. But I can call them how I know them: crazy. :D

As for what makes them toxic I’d say three things: game’s mechanic, GM reaction and devs’ forum moderation. If the game is competetive, GMs do not answer harassment petitions and moderators do not ban crazies – all hell breaks loose.

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Jeffery Witman

It flows downhill, as the saying goes. If the game itself is based on a toxic premise, and/or the devs/producers act with toxicity, the players will pick up on it and amplify it a thousand fold. It’s hard to describe that toxicity as anything other than a lack of respect for other people.

ernost
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ernost

>A focus on PVP.
>Little to no moderation by those in charge. Being an asshole is either ignored or encouraged rather than punished.
>A badly coded game full of hacks and exploits which are either ignored or dealt with too slowly, with exploiters not being properly punished.

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Zoe

Teenage boys ^_^

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rafael12104

Toxicity? Heh. This topic comes up about every 6 months, as it should btw.

Ok. Sure. Based on my experience in some very toxic atmos here is my nickles worth.

1. Dev’s who let it be. Some devs very short sightedly let things go early on and later the community pays for it. Griefing is ok. Ganking is ok. Ripping other players off is ok. “It’s all part of this open world”, they will say. It is game play. It is player choice. And so starts the slippery slope. Couple that with other problems like hacks, no chat moderation, and exploits and you have an open world rife with poisonous players. Ask Trion.

2. Player’s mob mentality or stupidity more like is next. In the world as described above, suddenly average players, players that don’t normally partake in shenanigans, succumb and become poisonous. Suddenly cheating is ok, so is griefing etc. etc. Instead of standing up against the maladies they jump right in because everybody is doing it.

3. Last and not least, Hacks and Trolls glide into the chumbed and bloody waters. There are players looking for toxic. There are some who will troll and hack for fun hoping to get attention; to make a name for themselves. And the try to one up each other.

There you go. MMO toxicity at is finest. And sadly, this happens more than you think. There are glaring examples out there. And you can mark the fall. And when devs finally realize they have a problem? It’s too late the damage is done.

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imayb1

I feel that a lot of toxicity forms of frustration. When there is frustration in competitive play like PvP, we see it. In team events when players are frustrated by others not playing or progressing the way they want, we see emotions boil and toxicity spew. When players feel they are ignored or slighted, we see toxicity aimed at the company or its representitives. Of course, no one can keep players from feeling frustrated, but I believe communication can go a long way toward helping.

In my experience, I’ve seen two particular things greatly increase game toxicity. One was going F2P. It seemed as if a whole new crowd of noxiousness suddenly entered the game and took chat and behavior straight into the sewer. Admittedly, cutbacks at the same time decreased moderation, so it’s not too surprising.

Two was the way the company obfuscated reporting. In-game reporting used to be a couple of clicks to bring up the menu and state a grievance. Well, the company claimed the system was being used too much, so if you really wanted to report someone, you had to go to the website, climb through a bunch of menus, forcibly click past the FAQ stuff, assure the system you still wanted to make a report, then fill out the info. It took time. It was almost self-punishing to give up your game time, even if you thought you were doing a service to the other players and the company to report really reprehensible behavior– and let’s face it, it had to be really awful to go to the bother.

As several others pointed out, some elements may attract more trouble, but a company can sink itself by design too.

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Teala Te'Jir

One word – *anonymity*. Some people are just out to see how much grief they can bring to others because they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity that the web provides.

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Tia Nadiezja

I will never, never understand how blatant racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia continues to be allowed in the major social and newbie zones of major MMOs. SWTOR might be the worst I’ve played for this; I have to turn off global chat every time I make a new character for it. STO has this issue too, to a slightly smaller degree, but there isn’t an MMO I’ve played yet that’s been immune.

This isn’t subtle stuff. It’s barely codeworded and dogwhistled. It’s open and it’s blatant and it’s loud and it’s there and it’s not dealt with until a ton of people report it, if then.

With no budget whatsoever, I can keep an IRC channel free of this stuff. How hard would it be to have someone just… watch these chats? And immediately ban (or at least mute for weeks) anyone engaging in it? I know it’s F2P and they can just make another account, but it takes longer to make an account than to click a Ban/Mute button, and if you’re paying somebody to watch these channels the bigot will run out of patience far faster than the person getting paid will.

And, honestly, we can talk about the deeper bits of toxicity in the communities, but when the first thing someone sees when they join a bloody Star Trek game and finish the tutorial is a wall of Nazi propaganda, how can they ever expect any behavior that ISN’T toxic in the game?

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Robert Mann

What makes a community toxic is the community, simply put. There’s always some element of the community that acts more or less like cancer, destroying that which is should be building, but how much so and how big their impact is varies.

The factors:
-Chat. Chat is nice sometimes, but the primary use of global channels seems to be trolling or making stupid jokes that anyone out of their low teens would consider lacking in maturity. The next largest uses are epeen and spam. I’m not a fan of global chat, although I do enjoy helping newer players (there’s better ways!)
-Griefing. How easy it is to interfere with other players has a huge impact here. The higher the cost, effort, and time required to do this, the better a game will tend to fare. PvP is merely one means to this end, everything must be designed to account for actions people will take to try to disrupt others (also meaning we lose some cool stuff if we don’t want to be treated poorly by random jerks.)
-Support systems. In game things like ignore lists, ‘bad person, wrist slap!’ servers, and other tech to keep the worst offenders away from people act as a positive to this… not because those people are not there, but because it minimizes their impact.
-GM action. This is sadly lacking in most games, but bans and other measures enforcing relatively civil behavior from GMs was something incredible important at one point. It was a massive positive, so long as the TOS/EULA was reasonable.
-Cost to enter. Whether it is per character, or per account, or a subscription, a cost to enter mitigates a little of the worst scum. Depending on the style of the game, how valuable the cost is if character/account based, and how willing a company is to ban this can become highly problematic to those abusing others.
-Forums, and forum moderation. Forums are normally a little on the dirty side, with more people who ‘know exactly what is needed, and those disagreeing QQ!’ than anything else… but that’s nothing that some good moderation cannot fix (although those people will just leave the forums for another place they can attack others, removing them from officially supported places is a plus.)
-Esports and trash-talk. Big negatives, esports usually because it automatically produces a huge amount of trash-talk. It’s toxic everywhere, and to be honest it just makes those engaging in it seem very uncool.
-Monitored events. Social events where there are people monitoring for behavior that is not fitting are a plus. They bring communities closer together. This can be done via the community itself, or via official services. The only difference is that the community cannot really punish somebody easily (thus making these events far tougher to keep from being disrupted than with official support.)

Add everything up, the more a game shifts to + and the less it allows – the better the community will be.

Brett
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Brett

There’s probably not a single answer, but in my opinion the biggest factor in what makes a community toxic would be how the game and established player culture treats outsiders. That includes newbies, players with different real-world identities, players with different motivations, players with lower skill levels, players of other factions/guilds, etc. If you can make your game mechanics encourage welcoming and supporting new players, discourage unnecessary real-world arguments/prejudice, support and value a variety of different playstyles and break down the advantage of insular cliques, I think there’s a good chance the toxicity will be low.

Are there some games more prone to toxicity? Yep, by their nature, highly competitive PvP games on average tend to encourage hostility to outsiders of multiple kinds, so I think they tend towards attracting those who are prone to less social behaviour.

I’d guess a community that has lost its way is rarely the fault of the CM team, because realistically the best they can do is nudge direction and mitigate the most egregious failures. Surely their few voices of sanity amongst a cacophony of angst is unlikely to turn the tide once it’s underway. I’d guess the best they can do usually is not make the situation worse.

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Iridescence

Anonymity and immaturity leads to this kind of behavior so pretty much any game can have some people who fit that mold. I feel pretty safe in saying FFA PVP games and games which encourage other forms of cutthroat competition where other players can really ruin your enjoyment (such as MOBAs) are worst. and games where you can either get a helping hand from others or just do your own thing are less toxic.

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Pedge Jameson

I’ll tell you one problem, especially in f2p where micro transactions are crucial,
“ban too many toxics=lose too many monies”.

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Schmidt.Capela

P2P is exactly the same in this regard; each banned toxic player is one less ongoing subscription.

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Pedge Jameson

Yeah, WoW trolls now seem to get a time out instead of more serious repercussions, even WoW gold buyers now get an email with a page apparently telling them wow gold buying hurts the game, when it used to be a straight up ban.

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steve

It’s seldom one thing, and our expectations and tolerances differ.

We don’t have much in the way of rule-of-law in MMOs. There’s little persistence in our pseudonymity. The game mechanics are based upon killing without consequence, pillage and looting and a false idea that sport exists without sportsmanship. Our ability to form social groups are limited to what amounts to gang identity and we have more than our share of young, undeveloped minds acting in an unsupervised playground.

I also chalk much of it up to the human condition. I’ll take the the most offensive gaming forum over almost any political forum these days, and I don’t have to go far to show you places in the real world that make the worst MMO behavior look civil.

Nowadays I tend to play on private servers where I can trust the local authority to step in when things get out of hand. I try to act with others as I would want them to act with me. It also helps that my identity isn’t threatened by the words of others.

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Armsman

Name one MMO whose official forum boards AREN’T toxic to some degree. What causes it? The small segment of Immature players who either feel slighted by; or are upset the game doesn’t cater to their whims and suggestions. Then there are those who just like to Troll.

Players seem to forget that nothings perfect, or don’t understand that – for the game to continue; it has to provide the company with a profit/ROI – and that not everything is a ‘blatant cash grab’ becauuse (heaven forbid) they want to charge money for something in game.

And yes, sometimes the Developers/Companies DO make a bad call that causes an uproar; but it seems some players forget these guys are only human and do make mistakes, etc.

In the end though, like most everything else, it’s people that cause toxic MMO communities. ;)

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starbuck1771

However there are also times the Developers make idiotic decisions like nerfing popular classes or dumbing down the game in general. SWG NGE ring any bells?

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

What makes an MMO community toxic? People who have too seldom had non-toxic behavior modeled for them or who deliberately subvert their normal real-life behavior in games. As Riot has argued, most toxic behavior comes from non-toxic people who have grown up in a toxic environment and haven’t thought through what they copy. Toxic gaming culture begets itself; a critical mass of people getting away with toxic behavior becomes a toxic community.
Are there certain types of games that seem to attract malcontents? Yes. Certain types of gameplay, specifically (highly competitive or highly grief-prone, but especially both), as well as certain types of studios (rude devs, lax enforcement, gross coded advertising/marketing to or against specific demographics and playstyles).
Is it a failure on the part of the CM team? I’m hesitant to say yes. I think the vast majority of CM teams try very, very hard to thwart a toxic in-game environment, even if it’s only so that they don’t have to put up with a horrible work environment. The real question is whether they’re given the financial support and manpower to actually do more than bail out the boat with a thimble. They rarely are. I can think of a tiny handful of examples where the devs/CMs are as toxic as their own players, but that’s two or three out of hundreds.

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Witches

Some people lose their personality when they are part of large groups, the examples are well known and abundant, at the same time large groups of people are usually violent, or have some other type of bad behaviour, maybe humans are like locusts.

At any rate reduce the numbers and you will see a reduction of toxic behaviour, however the tendency is for things to get worse, since streaming can provide a solo player with the same environment he would have in a crowd.

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Rottenrotny

Simply put, trolls.

Anonymity tends to bring out sadistic intent in some players.
This can be demonstrated by shit posting in trade chat or by demeaning other players who didn’t play their character the way the troll thought they should.

Some people will point to gankers as griefers but I actually think this adds to the fun and charm of a PVP MMO. These ganking situations can at times lead to alliances between players to gang up on the griefer thereby creating meaningful social interaction. This is missing in a lot of PVE MMOs as everyone is doing their own thing and there’s hardly any reason to interact with other players.

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vinicitur

I think the biggest issue with toxic communities are the Developers themselves.

First, there is the issue of over hyping a game and then coming to the community with 1001 excuses as to how all of a sudden the customers of said games (gamers) should temper their expectations because it more complex than initially thought. Which inevitably creates tension between the people who criticize the company and the white knights who will always defend the devs to the death.

Second, is inconsistency in upholding the rules of a game. If a company lets people get away with bad behavior, it will get worse over time. Companies need to man up to this and stop looking at the short term losses and put priority in the long term health of it’s user base.

And lastly, Free to play games. (Yeah, I’m going there) To some it might be financially sound to use that model but how the hell are you supposed to police a game and get rid of the bad seeds when all a player has to do is create another email address to have a new account and start all over again. That’s not counting the constant pop ups we get in some games to spend on the cash shop which are annoying as hell.

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starbuck1771

Yes I agree with some of that not the F2P statement however. Most players get toxic when the Devs make changes to classes and systems that players love/like. You need to look no farther then the widely loved Star Wars Galaxies as evidence of that.

There will always be toxicity because that is the nature of the internet however most toxicity in game community’s are brought on by the choices the development team makes. The Devs need to communicate with the community more personally instead of through moderators. Focus groups don’t really work either as a select few do not actually represent the community as a whole. So by the time you add all of this together you have a highly toxic situation.

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ichi sakari

to paraphrase Frank Burns “I wouldn’t mind playing most MMOs if I didn’t have to be around sick people.”

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Rees Racer

Simple list:
1. Ethnic slurs (includes nationality)
2. Sexual discrimination
3. Ad hominem attacks

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starbuck1771

So in other words LIFE?

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Utakata

…and apologetics.

Crow
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Crow

The honest answer to this is when any game gets big enough to attract a mainstream audience. Not because being mainstream means, inherently, everyone sucks in the mainstream– but because when you’re marketing to a broad cross-section of the populous you simply get a different kind of playerbase than when you actively tell people that the game “isn’t for them”.

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Roger Edwards

Shitty behaviour usually stems from anonymity and the lack of any real consequences. If you police a community robustly and deal with transgressors promptly and in accordance with the rules, you can get on top of these sorts of problems.

However, to do this well you need staff and other resources. All of which cost money and impact upon profit.

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kidwithknife

I was about to post something along these lines, but you put it at least as well as I would have so I’ll just say “this”.

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Veldan

PvP does not make an MMO toxic anymore than PvE does. What does make it toxic is wrongly implemented PvP, such as zero-consequence open world killing (gankbox).

Then again, wrongly implemented PvE also creates toxicity. Take LFG tools. The amount of arguments, kicks, rage quits etc that I have seen in LFG groups far, far exceeds the amount I’ve seen in chat formed groups.

In the end, it’s game design. The major part of how toxic a community is going to be is in the hands of the devs. Create reasons to be kind and cooperative, while creating deterrents against asshole behaviour, and you can eliminate most of the problem.

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Melissa McDonald

I would have said camping (either mobs or resources) would be the trollish thing that happens in PvE games.

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starbuck1771

That and Gold Farming/Selling. Nothing pisses me off more then chat filled with Gold Sales spam which happens a ton in games like SWTOR.

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Robert Mann

And mounts blocking places (especially PvE games with character impact) or NPCs, and basic chat, and… *I could seriously list about two to three dozen things people do in PvE games that fall under the bad behavior part.*

It’s impossible to completely prevent, although game design and promoting cooperation above the selfish part of our nature would be refreshing to see in MMOs.

django857
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django857

PVP, group content and Raids make my list. Games without them seem less so. But you would have to look hard to find game without them today. MMO’s will always have toxic communities.

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Shiro Madoushi

Well ArcheAge’s community is as toxic as they come. I think it’s due to the attitude Trion takes toward the players. There’s definitely a sentiment that Trion does not care at all about the fate of the game or the needs of the players/customers. This brings out the worst in people. Frustration drives away the better parts of the community and replaces it with bitterness, cynacism, and anger.

This bleeds into the game as well. I witnessed members of the elite “ruling” guild on my server declare that any person caught grouping with a certain player would get the same treatment as that player. That entails being harassed, killed, camped, and excluded until you quit the game or pay for a server transfer and name change. This player has no recourse because this type of harassment is allowed by Trion. That player’s crime against the guild in question? Speaking up against their bullying.

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starbuck1771

Well Shiro you can’t really lay that at Trion’s feet they only publish the game. Trion relays the information to the Developers in Korea XLGames. They make the final decision and could care less about our opinions as they don’t have to deal with the community.

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McGuffn

The game itself determines the community. Guild Wars 1 and 2 used to have a great community. Then 2 included the Legendary Journey in HoT. In order to progress, events had to fail. And that meant some players would deliberately troll making sure the event succeeded. This didn’t happen once, or twice. You’d see the same characters at the same events again and again, ignoring everyone there telling them to please let the event fail.

Raids pushed up the toxicity as well. So basically the more you make your game hardcore and competitive you’re making your community more toxic and hostile. (Hi, League of Legends!) Oh, and you probably should let someone else sell 80 dollar monocles first to soak up all the rage, then you can swoop in an 80 dollar monocle lens, and charge another 80 bucks for the frame.

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imayb1

I absolutely agree with you. It’s never good for the community when players are incentivized to work at cross purposes (as when some players need an event to fail). Raids in GW2 certainly introduced a new level of competitive elitism that wasn’t there before.

gelfred
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gelfred

Yeah, sadly it seems to be heavily affecting their future design also. Balance and classes based around having to be ‘viable’ (usually to far over-needed heights) for the competitive content.

Designing for this can lead to a greater amount of the community interaction and discussion being based around competitive and min/maxing practices, which is innately more exclusionary to newer players.

The tolerance of people being arseholes is more of a problem in more modern MMOs like GW2 where verbal interaction with other players is quite minimal for the purposes of completing content, which leads to a large amount of chat in world events or cities being the few people who are angry, or want to cause trouble, because the content is not proceeding to their standards.

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Darthbawl

Any game where you get slapped with the “git gud” line after asking a question.

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starbuck1771

So every game since the first game ever created thousands of years ago. :P

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Robert Mann

True, although that’s on the people playing rather than the game itself (which is part and only part of the equation.)

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Dread Quixadhal

If you really want to have a toxic playerbase, it’s pretty easy to accomplish. First, have the developers live in a black void, where they occasionally issue pronouncements on the forums, but NEVER actually address questions, and NEVER actually interact with players unless it’s to ban them.

This establishes a proper mindset for the players, who will quickly realize that they mean nothing to the company or anyone in it, beyond their credit card authorization.

Next, make up arbitrary rules that you can put in a stupidly long “Code of Conduct” EULA, which the players are told they have already agreed to by virtue of paying for the game. Since nobody will ever actually read it, you can put whatever you want in there, and selectively enforce those rules against people you don’t like, or just people at random.

That way, players learn that if they turn on each other, they can probably avoid any punitive actions. Any devs who notice their bad behavior may find the amusement makes the offender worth keeping around, and if a ban is required to keep the peasants from full rebellion, they can ban the most annoying whiners to keep the drama flowing.

capt_north
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capt_north

The only universal factor I’ve seen is the degree of vigor with which the TOS is enforced (assuming the TOS has anti-harassment language). Games that respond to griefing (in the game or on the boards) swiftly and decisively have less toxicity. Those that allow toxicity to fester and spread eventually drive away everybody except the trolls… and then the trolls, who have nobody left to troll except other trolls.

As far as other factors go… I can think of a game with NO PvP that was shut down by toxic players, and games that are ALL PvP that have warm, supportive communities. PvP discussions can get really nasty really fast… but they can also be focused, civil and relaxed. Again, it comes back to having mods that are on top of the discussion and who have no qualms about zapping people (on all sides of the topic) who get abusive.

ernost
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ernost

I can think of a game with NO PvP that was shut down by toxic players, and games that are ALL PvP that have warm, supportive communities.

I call bullshit.

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Hirku

Poor performance on the part of the developers deserves at least some share of the blame: bad communication, bugs that go ignored for months or years, obnoxious monetization and other design blunders. I’m not saying these things justify a toxic reaction, but they create a frustrating environment that makes such a reaction more likely. Nobody gets out of this squeaky clean.

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Alex Malone

There will always be an unavoidable amount of toxic members in a community but they don’t define the overall vibe of a community.

I believe that the game itself sets the tone, both in the type of players it is designed to attract and the type of community that the game’s features try to promote.

Those that promote a strong community, via features like lots of group content / inter-class dependancy, social stuff likes lots of emotes, cosmetic wardrobes etc, tend to end up with a strong, friendly community. Those games that are build around pitting players against one another, typically through massive power gaps, dps meters and the like, result in very negative / toxic communities.

This general ethos is then further enhanced by the CM team. I’ve generally found that those games that have designed features for the community right from the start tend to value community managers more highly and thus give them the space and resources to stay on top of the community. For those games whose community are a secondary feature, the community management team also tends to be a secondary thought and they don’t have the resources they need.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

It’s a hard thing to pin down, I think enablement is one of the largest things, whether that is from peers or the studio itself. Take something like Star Citizen, which often gets called out as having a very toxic community. A lot of that is down to people defending their choice to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a dream but at the same time a lot of it is enabled by the CEO, he bangs on with a stereotypical “pc master race” mentality, he bangs on about “Best Damn Space Game Ever” when he doesn’t even have a game yet. He’s validating this sort of tribalism from the get go… so no wonder members of the community feel enabled by it, supported even.

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TomTurtle

A mix of things like poor moderation by players and studio alike and game design, particularly when players are pitted directly against each other.

I dislike when a studio does things like putting no effort in moderating its forums, having poor player reporting options and even worse when they don’t reasonably act upon said reports.

Game design-wise, when you create scenarios where player conflicts arise, toxicity is likely to happen. It’s most noticeable in PvP, especially when you rely on a group to succeed. It can also happen in PvE for things like players being given tools to grief normal gameplay or even when you have highly challenging content, that like in PvP, relies on a group to succeed.

As an aside, the great job done by Bree and whoever else gets involved in the comments from the staff are a big reason why I participate in the discussions here. You don’t let the comments devolve into a cesspool, and I am so thankful for that.

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Robert Mann

Aye, they do a great job here… and the community helps enforce it, so props to the entire community on that!

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Brown Jenkin

A ton of this I actually think boils down to the environment that is fostered or not. It is easy to say this is just an issue of humans being humans, but I disagree, pretty strongly in fact. There are awful people on the forums/reddits of all MMOs, some MMOs however don’t let those awful people just go berserk and those communities tend to be much more pleasant places. GW2 tends to be one of the best examples of this imo, there are definitely awful people who play, but GW2 is a game of communities within communities within communities, and ostracism by a community when someone is a turd does seem to matter. Similarly its reddit (one of the best MMO forums I’ve ever been involved in) is pretty heavily moderated which I ultimately think is a good thing. Some folks will rage about their lack of “free speech” (please go outside) but there’s no reason we should allow a few shitbirds to ruin something for everyone else.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I love the free speech argument. ‘It’s my Constitutional right!’

No.

The GOVERNMENT will not restrict your right to express yourself.

Reddit, Arenanet, MassivelyOP, the guy at the supermarket where you want to stand on a chair and read lesbian Shakespeare out loud to customers, are NOT the government.

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Legend Of Vinny T

Obligatory.

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Crow
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Crow

This particular comic is accurate, but it misses the point because what is being discussed is not at all the First Amendment but the Liberal concept of “Freedom of Speech” which is a non-legal, conceptual philosophic ideal and not a bit of law.

The irony being that the XKCD comic here is being used to actually prop up a Strawman argument. That makes me chuckle.

No one is actually confused by “Freedom of Speech” versus the First Amendment. What is being discussed is the ideal that speech is countered by speech and that by moving away from the idea that a better argument proves the point, we’re into a place where we intentionally misunderstand a statement to make an endstop argument that doesn’t comport to the structures of logical argument construction.

In Liberal philosophy, the ideal of “Free Speech” is soooo close to the First Amendment, but…

Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.

That emphasis is my own and is what exists in the philosophic concept which is the basis of the legally-written First Amendment.

I, someone about as far left as can be, understand that it is about the philosophical distinction concerning social sanction.

For example, “social sanction” in example is something like a Civil Rights leader feeling like if they even say what they desire to speak about they’ll get harmed, economically and socially. When individuals engage in speech regardless of the effects, they’re very much relying on the concept of Freedom of Speech/Expression that have nothing to do with the government and everything to do with base respect.

“Freedom of Speech” is about base respect. Not actual RESPECT but about respecting someone enough that you listen before you attack. “Freedom of Speech” is at best when the counter-argument is “He’s black, so he’s a criminal” can be countered by pointing out there exists no actual data to support said conclusion. THAT is freedom of speech.

Now, the internet and making every two-bit into a legal scholar is the real issue. Including people who post that comic when they know full-well, under it all, that this is about silencing views we don’t like.

I want those views to shut up, too, but we don’t do that by strawman arguments nor by pure dismissal. You do so by providing an argument that is more compelling and more rational than what you were given.

Maybe the real issue is that serious discourses have lost 50 IQ points overall by opening themselves up to people who should never even be concerned about stuff like this in the first place. When the world is your community, you get the world’s base stats on the depth of discourse.

As the Internet moves closer and closer to being a closed-off system for the benefit of the ruling class, shouldn’t we realize that the salvation comes from actually telling a huge swath of the population that they maybe shouldn’t be adding their own spins to things when they have no idea what is even going on in the first place?

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Utakata

That’s quite the long “Yeah, but” there. o.O

Crow
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Crow

That’s quite the long “Yeah, but” there. o.O

Do you have something to share, or do you just want to chime in on the subject?

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Robert Mann

Nobody and no law can prevent societal sanction. Doing so, in fact, would be violating the rights and freedoms of the people who would rather just avoid dealing with somebody saying some things that are completely wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I see a TON of people who abuse ‘free speech’ much like you are saying. In fact, I go so far as to note that we have laws which impinge upon truly free speech (without actual harm directly associated with it) rather than relying on societal sanction.

The most even point is this: Nothing anyone says that does not incite crime or cause direct harm should be required to be censored (outside situations with those under a certain age.) People can leave, or as noted in the comic the speaker can be shown the door. Everything is solved most simply by a combination of acting like adults, and societal sanction (like, for example, if the owner of a store near you uses ethnic slurs societal sanction would be an appropriate punishment. The demand doesn’t vanish, a competing store can open or grow and hire those displaced. All that really needs happen is people to say “Nope, not going to support or buy from you after that.”)

Now, GOVERNMENT sanction, yes… that’s intended to be prevented.

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MesaSage

People find this funny as long as they are confident the opinions being silenced are the ones they don’t agree with.

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Brown Jenkin

Humorously I do political/governmenty/IRey stuff professionally and it never ceases to amaze me how deep and yet fiercely flawed Americans understanding of our constitutional rights goes. Our typical understanding of freedom of speech is by far the oddest of the lot (though there are many other great examples), and it tends to be really really weird to folks from other places. The perception some have that they should be able to say whatever the fuck they want, to whomever the fuck they want while facing zero repercussions whatsoever is mindblowing imo.

Crow
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Crow

You should understand that is this about the Liberal ideal of “Freedom of Speech” and not the First Amendment.

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CloakingDonkey .

I guess it depends more on what those “repercussions” are supposed to be and who is supposed to enforce them. Because if you have to involve the government in your “repercussions” then the constitutional right might very well apply again. ;)

Crow
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Crow

The actual definition is:

Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.

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Brown Jenkin

Haha true, but that’d be one hell of a forum argument wouldn’t it?

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CloakingDonkey .

Oh sure I was more playing off of the “guy at the supermarket” bit :D private businesses and websites are of course a different matter. They can censor as heavily as they wish, they just have to worry about competition stealing all their customers with less draconian rules (see twitter, youtube ;) )

Crow
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Crow

The issue with this is that this, in a legal context, means they can refuse service to people for being minorities and it is covered.

Not as simple.

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Robert Mann

Which is where we as a society should simply note that, and hit them where it hurts… their profits. Stopping them from saying it doesn’t stop them from thinking it, and merely ensures that we continue to enrich them in our ignorance of their stance.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

We could get into the failure of the school system at large to educate, including rigorous teaching of the constitution and ones rights as well as simple things such as how to apply logic and reason to most if not all of life’s situations, thereby increasing the odds of producing rational well-rounded individuals but…..that wouldn’t really fit the comments of this particular thread.

miol
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miol

I don’t remember what MOP article it was, but it mentioned something about how devs communicate their new game as the next big thing, hyping it so much like it’s the Second Coming! Therefore creating fan(atic)s, who would defend anything about it, but also disappointing others later so deeply, they would start to hate it with a passion! e.g.: GW2 manifesto, No Man’s Sky!

After a long search, I could only come up with this one as the closest, but I swear there is an opinion piece going deeper into that hype topic, but maybe it was just a podcast… :/
http://massivelyop.com/2016/09/12/the-daily-grind-is-gaming-being-ruined-by-hype/

But while searching I found these, who also answer today’s question on different aspects:
http://massivelyop.com/2016/10/20/massively-overthinking-real-solutions-to-the-mmo-toxicity-problem/
http://massivelyop.com/2017/03/16/massively-overthinking-when-social-play-in-mmos-is-predatory-by-design/

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Nordavind

People.

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Melissa McDonald

Manatsu nailed it. There are simply a population of folks online who thrive on discord and strife and controversy. Reminds me of the old Eddie Murphy movie “The Golden Child” (underrated movie) when he asks who would want the earth to go to hell? The answer, “Those who want evil rather than good.”
It’s just that simple.

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deekay_plus

fanboys who misrepresent the game to others wether they are other players or outsiders and are overly defensive of criticsm of the game that is reasonable.

also being overly hostile to feedback on the game’s forums.

as well as dictating to other players how to play the game in ways that are not necessarily outlined in the actual game mechanics (ie tell people on a pvp server they can’t wpvp or on an rp server how they are allowed to rp). usually accompanied by harasment in game and out for not adhering to their wishes

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CloakingDonkey .

Yep as soon as the game or its devs become idolized it all goes down the drain. It’s pretty much the same thing that happens with religions. :D The outsider, the critic, the dissenter all become the enemy.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

but don’t worry the next patch will change everything for the better! i’ll accept your apology when it cures cancer and ends war on earth!

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CloakingDonkey .

You’ll be sorry when this game comes out in 2026 and is LITERALLY GAMUS SUPREMUS :P

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i got into a twitter argument with some random sc fanboy the other night and he literalyl pulled the miracle patch cliche on me and told me he would accept my apology when it came out.

i told him that’s assuming unlike every other patch/deployment for the game over the past 5 years it actually resembles their con demos of it.

nevermind how we both know miracle patches go in the gaming world. XD

styopa
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styopa

“more hot-tempered and irrational than a badger in a paint shaker.”
I believe a badger in a paint shaker would have every right to be irrational. And probably hot tempered.
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Oh, and to answer the original question: humans. And anonymity. But mostly humans.
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camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

That’ a HONEY Badger and they probably would be indifferent to being in a paint shaker since Honey badger don’t care.

styopa
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styopa

Justin didn’t specify the badger type.

In any case, a honey badger would kick the paint-shaker’s ass…but it doesn’t matter because they’re ALWAYS hot-tempered anyway.

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MesaSage

In my experience, “toxicity” mainly originates from the most ardent supporters. The studios seem to have a hard time toning these players down because, well, they’re supporters. It makes all valid criticism subject to instant attack.

You want a non-toxic community? Have your CS get on the forum and demonstrate engagement with those who voice legit concerns.

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Utakata

The will of players who revel in such toxicity and the game environment that fosters it.

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Schmidt.Capela

I would invert the order. I consider an environment that fosters toxicity and empowers it to be the main factor in whether a community is felt as toxic or not, more important even than the number of toxic players; if the toxic players can’t act based on their toxicity, the other players won’t feel such toxicity as much and the community will be perceived as far less toxic than the raw number of toxic players would warrant.

Another thing is that how much a player is bothered by perceived toxicity also plays a large role.

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Utakata

In the end though, it’s still the players’ decision to choose to troll, harass and/or grief even in such environments. The “Lord of the Flies” argument can only stretch so far…the onus is still on the adults making willfully bad decisions, who are free to opt out of if anytime to take the high road. Just saying.

Crow
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Crow

The most depressing part of this conversation is that the only way to really get away from this toxicity is for MMORPGs to go back to being niche, sought-out games that self-select a RP/Fun/Non-Hardcore kind of audience.

The reality is that mainstream culture is toxic simply because of the immense number of people involved. It is a product of base statistics when you have millions of people the number who are “bad players” increases greatly. When you have social contexts where a small number of “bad players” can normalize the toxic environment it creates a domino effect as people say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

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Schmidt.Capela

the only way to really get away from this toxicity is for MMORPGs to go back to being niche, sought-out games that self-select a RP/Fun/Non-Hardcore kind of audience.

If your intent is to have a game where the rules allow players to be as nasty to each other as they want, yeah, it seems so. Without the rules helping prevent toxicity, it falls on the players to do so — and for that to be possible you need some way to either select which players are allowed into the game or to quickly kick out players that prove toxic.

(Well, that or the CS/GM people working overtime to thoroughly police the community, but this gets really expensive too fast.)

It’s why I’m quite enthusiastic about pen and paper RPG — where players are few, hand-picked, but given full ability to interact with one another in whichever way they want — but I’m unwilling to play MMORPGs where strangers can force me to acknowledge their actions. I have never trusted, and will never trust, random strangers to be reasonable, so I will play with them only as long as the rules enable me to ignore potential toxic behavior on their part.

The reality is that mainstream culture is toxic simply because of the immense number of people involved.

I’m not sure I can agree with this. There is a certain kind of toxic player that craves for an audience for their misdeeds, sure, but I’m not certain the increase in this kind of player when a game is larger and more famous is significant.

When you have social contexts where a small number of “bad players” can normalize the toxic environment it creates a domino effect as people say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

I believe it’s more that non-toxic players usually make up most of the player base of most MMOs, but they are quite sensitive to perceived toxicity in the game. So, as perceived toxicity goes up, more and more of the non-toxic players leave, which means a larger proportion of toxic players among the ones remaining, driving away even more non-toxic players in a death spiral.

Crow
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Crow

It’s why I’m quite enthusiastic about pen and paper RPG — where players are few, hand-picked, but given full ability to interact with one another in whichever way they want — but I’m unwilling to play MMORPGs where strangers can force me to acknowledge their actions. I have never trusted, and will never trust, random strangers to be reasonable, so I will play with them only as long as the rules enable me to ignore potential toxic behavior on their part.

Sitting in front of a GM, with the rest of your group at the table… That’s the best.

but I’m unwilling to play MMORPGs where strangers can force me to acknowledge their actions.

And we’re back to where I try to convince you, with compassion, that you should stop playing MMORPGs.

There is a certain kind of toxic player that craves for an audience for their misdeeds, sure, but I’m not certain the increase in this kind of player when a game is larger and more famous is significant.

The issue is that this is a domino effect. Players get toxic when the environment is toxic. When toxicity is normalized even the most passive of players gets involved eventually… likely by complaining about toxicity.

I believe it’s more that non-toxic players usually make up most of the player base of most MMOs, but they are quite sensitive to perceived toxicity in the game. So, as perceived toxicity goes up, more and more of the non-toxic players leave, which means a larger proportion of toxic players among the ones remaining, driving away even more non-toxic players in a death spiral.

Everyone is complicit. This isn’t the “corruption” of “good players” it is the result of when “might makes right” is actually the law of the game.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

That, or get better humans.

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steve

The ideology that we can engineer a better human has led to some of the most toxic environments humans can engineer.

Crow
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Crow

I’m unpopular around here sometimes because I really feel like WoW going mainstream killed the MMORPG genre in a way that no bad game ever could have even dreamed of killing the genre.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I can see that to a certain extent.

Crow
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Crow

It has to do with boring numbers, too.

RP-focused games have the best communities, I think by data, and they also have some of the lowest return rates on their dev activities. So a non-toxic game has to work three times as hard to remain that way while playing an eggshell game with their base so they don’t make things too restrictive.

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Melissa McDonald

wish I could +10 this

Estranged
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Estranged

I’m happy the PvP and FTP stereotypes were already thrown out there early.

Generalizations and the coming confirmation bias make us feel justified and secure.

So, how do you explain the “toxic” general chat on a WoW PvE server?

How do you explain The Secret World having a spectacular community – with three factions and PvP battlegrounds?

Large vs small community stereotype?

Also, let’s be frank – no amount of policing is going to manage the most vile amongst us – just have to ignore them and not feed the troll.

We also have to consider what is toxic to one person may be normal to the next.

A good way to filter out annoying people is to have system wide chat ignore and grouping features. No more trolling with one character and moving to another.

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Schmidt.Capela

How do you explain The Secret World having a spectacular community – with three factions and PvP battlegrounds?

In TSW players from different factions are able to talk and play together with players from the other factions; much of the faction rivalry that breeds animosity is, thus, avoided.

As for PvP, you said it yourself: battlegrounds. PvP is fully optional and restricted to just a few maps set aside for it; it’s impossible to force anyone else to engage in, or even see, PvP.

Or, in other words, TSW removes from factions and PvP the things that usually cause toxicity.

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Utakata

Community toxicity is a very real thing though.

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CloakingDonkey .

Yeah it’s also highly subjective and a vague buzzword ;)

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Utakata

Yeah, I pretty sure that’s more to do with goal post moving by its defenders, than the subjectivity and vagueness of this…err “buzzword”.

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CloakingDonkey .

define toxic then.

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Utakata

Really…you don’t know what that means? o.O

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CloakingDonkey .

So which is it? “denoting or relating to debt which has a high risk of default”? or “poisonous – very bad, unpleasant, or harmful“?

no… not vague and subjective at all…

bandicam 2017-05-17 18-48-33-554.jpg
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Utakata

I get what you are trying to say: The parrot is not dead, it’s just resting. You want to take a figure of speech and turn into something literal, when it is well understood “toxic community” means one that is poisonous thus harmful to players in general, in the metaphor. There is nothing ambiguous in that use of the term. Most reasonable folks know what it means. And it doesn’t need some clueless internet dudebro to muddy the explanation for the disingenuous /upvote.

That said, here’s a demonstration to get that “toxic community” term to hit home. Feel free to behave in a trollish, greifing and harassing manner (hence, toxically in the figurative) at your place on employment, in a bank line-up, in the middle of church service, in front of law enforcement officers, at your drill sergeant and/or around of a pack of Hells Angels. I am pretty sure in varying degrees there would be nothing subjective or vague about responses that such behavior that is not acceptable. Likely to much of your peril and where you can’t hide behind the safety of the internet. Hence toxic.

…and what Ms. Bree posted above. /shug

Crow
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Crow

It is simple to call others “toxic.”

Actually making a case for why you’re not as bad is infinitely worse.

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ogged451

How do you explain The Secret World having a spectacular community – with three factions and PvP battlegrounds?

Until you meet people like Bombalurina and Innthe and start thinking “it’s the same crap here as in X” 🤣

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

PVE has plenty of drama too. The old persons guild I was in in Wow long long ago broke up because some of the type A personalities felt the raids weren’t progressing as fast as they’d like, “too many people who were having a hard time not standing in poo). So they split, took a bunch of people from the guild too. Caused bad feelings but it wasn’t really a toxic community.

Can you general broadcast chat on the f2p mode of WoW or is it restricted? It’s been a long time so I don’t recall.

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TheDonDude

Competition.

No that doesn’t mean competition is bad or that we should live in some sort of Harrison Bergeron-like society. Competition is great. But ultimately when the going gets tough (whether it’s PvP or PvE), that’s when some folks wind up gettin’ ornery.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Props for the Harrison Bergeron mention.

Dantos
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Dantos

1) Competition
2) Anonymity (you can also have ‘reputation’ here)
3) Large player base (feeds into 2, since its easier to get lost in a crowd)
4) lack of consequences griefing/ganking (if people can freely kill all the noobs they want and not be hindered by guards/rep loss, then there is a population that absolutely make it their mission to drive people from the game)
5) lack of player inter-dependance (gotta be a nice guy or those crafters wont be willing to do stuff for me)
6) Guilds to some extent, since you can isolate yourself from the wider community and the consequences, unless they are also visited upon the guild as well.

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agemyth 😩

Large player populations. Usually, smaller communities where you can remember the names and actions of players from day to day self-moderate themselves in that jerks stand out as the obvious minority.

Of course smaller populations have their own list of problems too.

F2P is also usually bad for communities.

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ogged451

WHAT MAKES AN MMO COMMUNITY TOXIC?

F2P.
PvP.
Sapience.
Funcom.
Caps.
And that Mankrik guy.

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agemyth 😩

Well, if Mankrik’s wife weren’t so darn hard to find (and dead) life in the Barrens would have been much friendlier. /s

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Sally Bowls

The CM reference at the end distracted me. I.e., I go with the idea that 10% of the players read forums and 1% post, so the forums and fansites are high volume but not that relevant. I.e., I think of the community as happening outside of the forums where CMs have a modicum of control. Although perhaps it is the “broken windows” policing idea – hard moderation in the forum would set a tone and expectation.

I see a significant factor being game design and the resulting self-selection. Is it coincidence if the people who play the latest full-loot, scamming-OK, HTFU “sandbox” are a bit more toxic than LotRO or Ever, Jane players?

P.S. re “sheer contempt for fellow gamers” – as someone who is … extremely comfortable in pointing out the mistakes in and by others, it seems to me that if almost every time you get a collection of gamers, you get the toxic mess referenced in the headline, then sheer contempt for said gamers does not strike me as inaccurate or unjust.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Ever, Jane. The toxic community.

Lady Buffington Smythe-Buffington: I sent out invitation to the Spring Egg Fete but Lord xXKillzULotzLOLXx has yet to respond.

Miles, the butler: Perhaps the post has been delayed?

Lady Buffington Smythe-Buffington: Perhaps. But Sally went into town yesterday and ran into one of the lord’s kitchen staff who said the letter HAD arrived while she was serving tea to his lordship. She said he said ‘He’d attend the fete only on specific conditions.’

Miles, the butler: Whatever could THAT mean?

Lady Buffington Smythe-Buffington: I suspect it has something to do with the slight Lady Marshmellow Fancypants gave his horse in the last darby. Lord xXKillzULotzLOLXx would surely know she would be invited to the Egg Fete.

Miles, the butler: Of course. More tea, your ladyship?

Lady Buffington Smythe-Buffington: (Frowning) No. I’ve gone off my appetite now. I think I will practice my canasta game to take my mind off this.

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Armsbend

Mechanics that allow you to grief other players, chat that is no holds barred (forum and in-game) and a pvp environment.

That said, I am attracted to somewhat toxic environments. I’ve got a mouth on me but I also kind of enjoy being thrown into the fire myself. I say somewhat because what I do not enjoy is a chance for people to go on about their negative political stances or go down the road of depraved racism and sexism – which is what unfettered chats always devolve into.

As long as it is just a video game – I don’t really care. There are plenty of safe spaces and danger towns for everyone. I am glad both are there.

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agemyth 😩

I love creative griefing that can be benign or entertaining on both sides of the activity. Most people probably don’t associate griefing with anything fun on the receiving end, but by my definition at least there is the possibility.

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CloakingDonkey .

I can’t say that holds up across the board… Warhammer Online facilitates all three and Return of Reckoning may be one of the best MMO experiences I’ve had in recent years

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Armsbend

I’m not saying the 3 are bad nor do all three make it toxic all the time. But I think if you take out one of those three it can’t really be a toxic game as much.

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agemyth 😩

Private servers and smaller games like that might be the difference there. That is, until your private server gets huge like Nostalrius was or something.

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CloakingDonkey .

blind fanboyism and mass market appeal.

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Indigo Salma

Stupid people that think winning is always important instead of having fun.

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