Over the holidays, I bumped into some great video material from author and YouTuber Caleb Ross that seems useful for online gamers in particular. After all, if you want to fight toxicity, within or without you, you need to understand why people act awful online in the first place.
“Why do some players turn into angry trolls the moment other players are introduced?” the first video asks. “Let’s turn to player psychology to find out why Online Me is such a piece of shit!” Yes, that was a joke. The answer is basically “deindividuation” – that’s when your identity fades a bit in a group, leading to reductions in “social accountability” and “self-monitoring.” In other words, we feel more anonymous within the group, and we know there aren’t going to be consequences for being a turd. Compounding the problem is the fact that the people in the group are transient, so you rarely have to deal with the same people twice.
This, he says, was the rationale for things like Blizzard’s (rejected) RealID in World of Warcraft and Riot’s League of Legends player behavior team, since it turns out that the effects of “deindividuation” can be muted by proper social programming in the other direction, but of course studios have to actually do that with intentionality.
The second video, titled “Why do videogame fanboys/girls want to fight you,” focuses on fanpersonism that veers toward toxicity. Ross uses Fallout 76 and himself as an example, pointing out that his brain worked hard to convince himself that Fallout 76 was fine when it most obviously was not. It’s the unfortunate effect of choice-supportive bias: We’re biased in favor of stuff we choose/buy in an attempt to dodge buyer’s remorse, and that ties into our identity, which translates into everything from console wars to openly sexist groups within the fandom.
They’re fun watches if you want to understand the psychology behind why you support the games you support and why some gamers are ruining it for the rest of us.