Leaderboard: What’s the ideal way for an MMO studio to handle toxicity?

MOP reader BulletTeeth pointed us to a piece on The Verge this week about an incident in online shooter Battalion 1944. A highly placed e-sports team member, SUSPC7, apparently went off on Discord about the studio’s slow rollout of skins meant as prizes, trollishly threatening to shoot up the studio. It got back to the devs, who decided to “teach [him] a lesson about comedy” by proposing to reskin his weapon, not with his earned prize but with a hand-drawn penis icon. Yeah, they pranked him.

“I thought you were kind of being a dick,” the studio rep tweeted, going on to tell the player he wanted him to become an “ambassador” for the game.

As The Verge writes, it’s an unusual tactic for a game studio to take against a toxic player in this day and age. While it might be nice to think that studio have the time and money and resources to hand-hold every lost boy and talk him down to being an ally, it’s not particularly realistic, and it creates a perverse incentive system whereby toxic players mop up studio attention that ought to go to non-toxic players.

I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we think studios ought to do when disciplining players. Does this sort of reverse-prank actually work, or would it be better for companies to just boot the problem children and move on?

Leaderboard: What's the ideal way for an MMO studio to handle toxicity?

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33 Comments on "Leaderboard: What’s the ideal way for an MMO studio to handle toxicity?"

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ernost
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ernost

In my experience, these fuckers are doing this for attention and/or bragging rights. The studio just gave him both, along with his own ‘exclusive weapon skin’. Bad move IMO. These sort of people should just be purged from the game (and society in general IMO, but that is ant entirely different discussion).

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Peregrine Falcon

The problem with quietly banning offenders, like MMOs all did in the past, is that it gives the impression that nothing is being done.

I often play Rainbow Six: Siege. Every time I do I see messages like: “xXxBonerrifficxXx has been banned by Battle Eye.” It lets everyone know that they have anti-cheat methods and that they are working. And every time I see one of those messages it makes me LESS likely to even try to cheat.

Offenders were locked in stocks in the public square in medieval times with a sign outlining their offense for everyone to see. Why? Because it WORKS.

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Robert Mann

Studios should ban with current setups. However, that’s only a short term fix usually followed by new accounts and more bad behavior. Without some sort of personal ID linked to things, we will never have any responsibility involved. Without responsibility, consequences are minimal. Without consequences that matter some people will not only not behave appropriately, but will go out of their way to harm others.

This is the same old thing so many of us have noted. It’s a matter of a combination of factors, which in our society outside games is solved by the factor of force used in return, whether that be a swift punch, law enforcement, one’s family and friends being informed, or just general social disdain. There are problems with some of that outside the game setup as well, from the punches to the ‘hey, they don’t care and are kinda cool’ attitude many take toward such behavior (which I believe also fuels the online problem.)

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Vexia

I voted “ban & move on” for the actual behavior itself because I feel like nothing constructive really comes out of making a large spectacle. If anything, it’s signaling to other trolls, harassers, griefers, and other wielders of abusive behavior that they have a VIP hotline to the devs’ attention.

Instead, I really think that attention should be spent on promoting a healthy and amenable community atmosphere. That could involve special highlights to streamers, guilds, and other groups that focus on making the game a nicer place (but yank that support away quickly if the person in question is found to actually be abusing their platform somehow).

What if a game studio hired on a psychologist to do video segments detailing how to handle toxic behaviors online? They could start with the basics of how to use the reporting features within the game, but also break down strategies for conflict management, positive community building, etc. as they apply in an online context. AFAIK, nothing like that currently exists, but it would be an infinitely valuable resource for multiplayer games.

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Utakata

…to add with the 2nd last bit, for me would be making it easier for players to report others who’ve going the rails so to speak. The the GM’s can then determine if the complaints are indeed in violation with their EULA. So it would be No’s 3, 7 and my something else.

I don’t think it really needs to get anymore invasive than that though. If it’s on the game’s dime, they do the time so to speak.

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Fervor Bliss

Have a clear policy upfront. A warning maybe 2. Then total ban across all games you make.

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rafael12104

So first, leave the amateur psychology at the door, please.

Next clear and succinct communication on what warrants a ban. Warnings too.

Next, acknowledge and provide information on bans. No need to dig into the weeds with detail or provide names. Go back to the previous communication on what warrants a ban and the warnings generally remind the community that enforcement is in full.

And finally, although this may be actually first. Create a game that does not foster griefing or toxicity, to begin with. Provide good tools for reporting. And, be dispassionate. Don’t be swayed by excuses or the melodrama.

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Utakata

“So first, leave the amateur psychology at the door, please.”

…wait, that breaks Jungian vibe of the debate! o.O

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ghostlight

Well-said man. Your comments struck a chord with me on two counts: First of all, yeah, everyone seems to be an amateur psychologist (in addition to being an amateur lawyer) these days.

For another, as much as I like GW2, I don’t think the game systems do a particularly good job at fostering cooperation or socializing. In fact Tech Gaming Geeks brought this up rather humorously in their video review a few years ago. They show a player trying to talk with another player after a boss fight (with the two of them in front of the old story cutscene background lol), but the other player disappears faster than a summer cloud. After seeing that I thought, yeah, that’s GW2 all right.

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Sushi Maru

Best way? Probably stop using the word Toxicity for starters.

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Utakata

Make the word non-existent so the issue doesn’t exist anymore, lol…

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NeoWolf

I think it depends on the What and the Where.. there are degrees of toxicity so the punishments severity needs to fit the crime.
So I would see it done fairly and in stages i.e First Warning, Second Warning with some consequences.. Final time = Smiting :)

I am a big fan of perma bans and naming and shaming for the total douche bags. If they cannot or will not control themselves get rid as they are going to be costing you a WHOLE lot more than their single sub brings in.

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BalsBigBrother

Ban them, burn their computers and then nuke their house from orbit just to be sure.

Um …. or just ban then and move on either or is good with me.

That said the problem of toxicity is bigger than gaming and anything any individual game studio does will only be a band aid at best.