The Daily Grind: How can individual MMO players combat toxicity?

MOP reader Tyler sent us a tip over the weekend that keeps bothering me. According to a post made on Facebook this weekend, a World of Warcraft player took his life over in-game bullying. I haven’t been able to verify whether it truly happened, but I can verify that the replies to the thread about it were just as toxic as the toxicity that allegedly led to the tragedy itself, with people victim-blaming, insulting those with mental disorders, inserting antique arguments about the efficacy of report-and-ignore, inquiring as to the victim’s loot drops, and suggesting that they themselves “need to step up [their] trolling game,” presumably because nothing’s funnier than suggesting your trolling is sub par since you haven’t managed to get anyone killed yet. If you’re a giant asshole, that is.

“I have never understood why the MMO community is so eager to bury its head in the sand about stuff like this,” Tyler lamented. “Even the people who do admit that in-game harassment, hate speech, and the like are actually a bad thing never seem to actually do anything about it. This is something we should be raising hell about. […] I stopped caring when I realized no one else cared.”

I know people care. There are even people in that toxic thread shouting down the monsters. But I do acknowledge that every article we do on toxicity spawns more toxicity against people trying to solve the problem, and some days it feels like we’re getting nowhere. Maybe we’re approaching the problem wrong: We often debate what studios should do. What about the rest of us? How can individual MMO players combat toxicity? What do you do yourself, beyond the bare minimum of report-and-ignore?

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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John Mynard

This cultural.

In all seriousness, this isn’t a rule or a policy or a law is going to fix.

It’s going to have to take a return to the golden rule we all learned(or should’ve) as children:

Treat others as you would wish to be treated.

It’s really that simple.

That or the entire internet is going to have to go onto a verified ID basis where everyone uses their legal names to post anything and everything, which I don’t think anyone wants.

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Vexia

This was yesterday’s daily grind, but the issue is important to me, and I want to help create online spaces that are healthy, rather than toxic, for users. These games are made by developers, but at the end of the day, they are made up of players. If we can only hurt one another, what’s even the point in playing?

To help combat toxicity, first and foremost is to consider the butterfly effect. If you being the target of someone else’s antisocial behaviors or words makes you angry, do you really need to lash out at them in turn? There are ways to stand your ground or state your disagreement without adding fuel to the already bombastic situation.

Secondly, using the aforementioned as a guiding principle, stand up for other people who are being harassed and bullied. For example, if someone in your dungeon party is ridiculing another player for poor performance, being new to the game, etc. just say something along the lines of, “Hey, that’s not cool. Why don’t you try giving advice without being a jerk?”

Finally, it almost goes without saying that you should avoid being a jerk, yourself, but try to stay patient when you feel like your patience is being tested. You may think, “I’m not a toxic person,” but toxic is a type of behavior, not a type of person. Even though I desire to enrich the community of my game in a positive manner, there are times when I still act before thinking, and my behaviors work against that goal.

justkasp
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justkasp

The issue is that mmo companies don’t want to invest on building intelligent systems that can filter out toxic behavior. From the simple.. having a report function and a log parser that can automatically verify the report in text chat for example and auto-ban. Such mechanisms are rather simple to implement nowadays, with high precision, but still the biggest companies deny to. This rings a bell to me, dealing with toxic behavior will harm their profits.

veldara
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veldara

As individual gamers I believe that we should be given as many tools as possible to handle toxcity on our own. I’ve played plenty of online games where the social options are lacking some of the basic functionality or just as egregious; have a very obtuse system of going about blocking/reporting. I’ve been part of online communities where not only can you block a person, you’re able to derender them, they won’t even be visible in your play anymore, and that is a very empowering thing. Someone else mentioned ESO, while I never played that game, I think their social systems are on the right track.

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Jeffery Witman

If I have the will power at the time, I try to be as kind as possible and let them know their behavior is harmful and they should think about what kind of person they want to be. It’s rare these days because I’ve never seen it work. Mostly I just end up letting other people know about the toxic people I come across so they can avoid them, too.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Once played a game with 24×7 moderated chat channels but that all went out the door due to cost.

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Jack Pipsam

Moderation doesn’t necessarily mean results either, for example, the moderator at the time could side with the bullies.

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Leiloni

Well at that point you have to wonder if the person was even being a bully at all. If the moderator thinks they didn’t break any of the game’s social behavior rules, then maybe they were fine and the person just took it the wrong way. I’ve certainly seen that happen.

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Bryan Correll

First and foremost, be a good MMO citizen yourself. Even small acts of “niceness” can go a long way in improving someone else’s game experience.
Past that… well, it’s not easy unless the game is going to meet you halfway. Reporting bad behavior should be a simple process. I should be able to right-click on a player’s name and have a ‘report’ option come up right there. The more steps it takes to report someone the less people are going to make reports.

cambruin
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cambruin

There’s nothing we can do due to the naming and shaming policy. I remember someone posting pictures of abuse in chat by a certain individual and while no action was taken against the offender, the person reporting him got a temp ban due to violating the CoC. This was LotRO… famous for it’s ‘warm’ community.

Also, hardly any MMO has any form of accountability. This is one of many reasons why I love ESO. Everything is account-wide. You join a guild, so do all your alts. You leave it? So do your alts. You act like a j***? Get tossed on ignore and all your alts with it.
My first day in ESO and I posted a dumb question. I know it was dumb, but I honestly couldn’t find out myself and alt-tabbing when using Sweetfx sometimes causes my games to crash, so instead of checking google I decided to check /zone. I got a few helpfull replies, a few less helpfull ones and one downright rude j*** who I tossed on ignore immediately. Imagine my surprise when not Dark Knight of Doom was listed on ignore, but the actual JohnDoe@gmail.com

And last but not least: some people actually worship these negative elements. I played LotRO for 10+ years on Laurelin, which is considered the best among the best (together with Landroval). It has a famous/notorious troll who’s name I shall not give. Everyone knows it, everyone knows what kin he’s part of, yet that kin takes no action whatsoever, instead, he’s one of their officers. I’m sorry, but that speaks volumes of the kin as far as I’m concerned and as such I left whichever group I was part of that had one of their members in it.
I always play tanks, so I could afford leaving, I’d find a new one within minutes.

It’s part of human nature I guess, the best way to deal with it is to just ignore them and toss those who take things too far on ignore.

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Chosenxeno .

The problem is Blizzard and other gaming companies still want their 15 bucks a month from miscreants. Hard evidence should lead to a permaban. Permabans won’t fix all of it but it sure as heck will fix a good chunk of it. Zero Tolerance from any form of harrassment or ignorance should be standard. We have to nstop offering up “thicker skin” logic and “you can ignore them”. That’s just another way of saying “Suffer in silence”. SCREW THAT! I WANT THE FUC*ERS BANNED AND OUT OF THE GAME! Why should I have to share a game space with open racists, bigots, homophobes, bigots ect? I’m here to have a good time. Anyone impeding that should be removed. Gaming Companies have to man up and start making the tough choices. It’s annoying seeing scum return to harass again after their slap on the wrist. ZERO TOLERANCE! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR HE/SHE JUST HAD A BAD DAY! HAVE IT OFFLINE! I’M TRYING TO KILL THIS DRAGON!

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Jack Kerras

Zero tolerance policies are universally stupid.

Firstly, this has naught to do with money. Blizzard would gladly get rid of one jerk-off at the cost of $15/mo. than have a dozen, hundred, thousand other people cancel their plan early because someone was shitty to them, full stop. Problem players are so named because they legitimately damage Blizzard’s bottom line, and banning them saves fucking money, so you can get the ‘they want the sub money’ idea right out of your head: it’s wrong.

Also, when it comes to humans, people on the Internet can absolutely be just unbelievably enormous assholes; that is sort of a known quantity, since people who have basically total anonymity fundamentally don’t care what moralistic claptrap other people invent to bludgeon them with. Opinions are like assholes, and all that.

Zero tolerance policies are a great way to ban a shit-ton of folks who would otherwise add to a community for months or years to come when a slap on the wrist would straighten them right out.

Further, and this is the really important part here: it’s not anyone’s responsibility to keep you comfortable but you. You have no right, personally, to control over others’ behavior; you have agency which you use to play any game in a way you enjoy, and so do they. If their behavior upsets you, you report it and move the fuck on.

Insisting that only permabans help, or that zero-tolerance policies do anything but damage a playerbase’s trust in developers, is plainly incorrect. That’s why no one does it.

It’s clearly an overreaction to want anyone you dislike exiled, even when you feel that you dislike the correct groups of people. You have tools to correct issues with problem players, which is to report them, ignore them, and continue to play your game. If you’re continually suffering in silence after you’ve reported and squelched a problem player, that is a ‘you’ problem which you are now calling a ‘them’ problem.

I understand having an emotional response to negative experience, and I do believe that problem players should be removed, but varied and engaged communities of people contain a wide spread of humanity, some of whom are just going to fucking offend others, even if neither relevant group is specifically doing something wrong.

There is a bizarre culture of offense-as-a-positive growing just now, and the answer is to take some personal responsibility, be the change you want to see, and report/squelch people who are just dickbags for no good reason.

Feeling entitled to others’ banishment because they offended your sensibilities is a powerfully negative trait; it is important to remember that your sensibilities are only meaningful to you, no matter how objective you feel you are. Ruminating about this sort of thing at length or requiring a proverbial string of ears to answer transgression is just letting their stupid bullshit control you.

Seeking vengeance for trolling or griefing is unhealthy, even if it feels really good. Besides, who wants to take the time to dig two fucking graves?

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Roger Edwards

1.) Log acts of trolling and toxic behaviour. EG save a log file of global etc. Take screen captures of offending forum or reddit comments. Note user IDs and handles.

2.) Send concise reports to appropriate authorities. Note the time and date when you do this. You may also want add persistant offenders to your friends list. This way you can track them and verify if they get “removed”.

3.) Hold the CMs, developers and publishers to account. Politely and firmly enquire as to what action is being taken. Make it clear you are not going to be satisfied unless the matter in hand is addressed.

4.) If you blog, podcast, vidcast or stream, regulalrly raise this subject, site examples and publicly declare you are waiting for action. Do not conduct personal witch hunts but do lobby robustly. Always conduct yourself appropriately so you can occupy the moral high ground.

5.) Co-ordinate all the above with others. We are all stronger when we act collectively.

Tread boldly

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Chosenxeno .

I notice you didn’t get a thumb because so many people are so bust harping about “ignore” and “thicker skin”. I 100 percent agree with number 3. If the developers would make it clear that nonsense will not be tolerated the problem would be lessened. Thicker skin will not help me with some idiot coming off his 5th ban. He or she should be gone.

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Jack Kerras

#3 is rarely answered as a matter of policy.

Inquiries as to what action has been taken which are answered with actual data are dangerous and unhelpful, and essentially no MMO developer should come straight out and say that someone was banned to the party making a complaint.