Lawful Neutral: Defining toxicity in the MMO industry

    
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One of my earliest memories from World of Warcraft isn’t really a positive one. It was in back in the Wrath days. My guild had just recruited a new member, who jumped into Ventrilo (heh) to hear us chat. One of my guildies was a woman. When this new member heard her speak over Vent, he immediately sent her a message and said, “Are you really a girl who plays WoW?” She was. He blundered on and asked whether she had a boyfriend (she did) and then some far more inappropriate questions I won’t repeat here.

Being an officer in the guild, she immediately kicked this person. His response was to post in general chat in Dalaran and suggest that the server’s denizens all call my guildie a slut. General chat obliged. She got thousand of tells from people calling her all sorts of names. She couldn’t keep up with the reporting and was forced to log into an alt. Her mailbox was completely full of messages from other players she didn’t even know harassing her, and they kept coming. It was weeks before she stopped being harassed by strangers in WoW all at the command of one random toxic misogynist gamer.

That was my first experience with really toxic behavior in an MMORPG. It’s the kind of thing that stuck with me. But nowadays, it’s almost the cost of playing games online. Toxicity has become such an issue that games have died, websites have been shut down, and yes, lives ruined and lost. Just on MassivelyOP, we have hundreds of articles about toxic behavior. That’s a lot of ink.

But gamers often can’t agree on what toxicity is. What causes toxicity? How are companies combating toxicity, and is it working? And where can game companies do better? In this special miniseries in our Lawful Neutral column, we’re going to dig into gaming toxicity, our response to it, and what we can do better. Today, we are going to start with the basics: Is toxicity really that much of an issue and what spawns it in the first place?

Yes, toxicity is a big deal in our hobby

The stereotype of a tween screaming racist, bigoted, homophobic slurs into the mic in Call of Duty exists for a reason. We all have games that we avoid because of the known toxicity of the community. But in the last decade, toxicity and trolling behavior in gaming has reached beyond our hobby and received mainstream attention, as Washington Post and the New York Times covered back in 2019 and Wired covered in 2020. Some streaming celebrities in gaming are being harassed and swatted daily and have had to effectively go into hiding.

And the perception is that toxicity is actually getting worse. According to the Anti-Defamation League, 81% of adults aged 21-45 who played online games say they’ve experienced some form of harassment. About 64% of those who experienced harassment said it impacted their gameplay experience, and about 68% of online multiplayer gamers experienced severe abuse, including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment. These numbers are higher across the board over the same report from 2019.

So what constitutes toxicity?

If there’s one thing that we as gamers are stellar at, it’s disagreeing about things. This is no different when we try to define what we consider toxic behavior. In fact, even the people who study toxicity in online spaces can’t agree. Depending on whom you ask, the definition of toxicity varies across different theorists as everyone defines his or her own framework. I’m going to focus on single theorist’s approach. Dr. Rachel Kowert, psychologist and Research Director for Take This, takes a multi-step approach focusing on behavior, outcomes, and intent. I think her framework makes sense, accounts for the all important context, and sets us up to explain a lot of the behavior that we see in the MMO gaming space.

Starting with behavior, Dr. Kowert first defines “dark participation” as “all deviant verbal and behavioral actions that take place on the internet.” Dark participation includes things like trash talking, using exploits, loot stealing, griefing, doxxing, harassment, or even posting comments on an article explicitly intended to break the commenting code but doing so in such a way that the poster can claim innocence and indignation at being moderated, something we’ve literally seen on MOP just in the last week (ahem). Dark participation, by Dr. Kowert’s definition, isn’t inherently bad. Instead, she says that the dark participation can be considered toxic by context or the cultural acceptance of a behavior.

She defines toxicity itself as “any outcome of these behaviors that cause harm to another [person’s] health or well-being.” So we can make the statement here that all toxicity results from dark participation, but not all dark participation results in toxicity because toxicity adds in the additional requirement of harm. Notice that being toxic doesn’t require the intent to be toxic, only that the behavior causes harm to another individual. Harm is also broadly defined to include harm to one’s well-being, not just demonstrable harm.

The final piece is the intent, which is how Kowert defines trolling. “[T]rolling refers to the intent of the perpetrator. In internet slang, a ‘troll’ is someone who sows discord on the internet with the deliberate intent of eliciting an emotional response or otherwise disrupting on-topic discussions and actions among other players. Deliberate intent being the key phrase in this definition.” So behavior (dark participation) with the intent (trolling) to cause harm (toxicity) makes up this framework.

For example, imagine playing a game with friends that you know very well and you all trash talk to each other and laugh about it. It’s friendly and fun and build on the context of those relationships. In that case, you are engaging in dark participation in the game because you’re trash talking (the deviant behavior), but it’s not toxic in this instance because the context of the situation is that you and your friends are fine with this interaction. The outcome here wasn’t negative, so it wasn’t toxic.

Now imagine the exact same situation, but you are playing the same game with people whom you don’t know at all. You engage in the same trash talking you did with your friends because that’s how you’re used to interacting, but those random people don’t take it as friendly and fun because they don’t have the context to understand your intent. Those random players walk away from the game feeling hurt and insulted. In this case, you are still engaging in dark participation, and this time the outcome was negative, and so the behavior was toxic. But it wasn’t trolling because you weren’t intending to cause harm.

Finally, imagine that you are running a dungeon and you see someone who’s putting out low DPS. You start trash talking that player, berating and insulting them, hoping that they’ll leave so you can get a player with better DPS. In this case, you are trolling because you engaged in dark participation with the intent to cause harm.

There are two important takeaways here. The first is context is incredibly important: A behavior in one context might not toxic, but the exact same behavior expressed in the same way in a different situation could still be toxic. The second is that we can unintentionally contribute to a toxic environment. Trolling, or intentionally causing harm, is not the only way to create a toxic environment.

This went over great.

Why toxicity?

So what actually creates toxic environments? The answer is… lots of things. There’s a combination of personal and social influences that create toxicity. (There’s also technical influences, but I’ll be covering that in a different post).

Kowert points to Dr. John Suler and the Online Disinhibition Effect, where factors unique to online environments, like anonymity and feeling “invisible,” can cause people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t, which expresses itself as “benign disinhibition” (or as I like to think of it, oversharing on the internet) and “toxic disinhibition,” whereby people are more likely be toxic and mean to each other.

She also points to social cognitive theory, which is based on social learning. Kowert says that the toxic and trolling behavior is learned from communities that are already toxic. This makes sense with what we know in gaming. Some games have a reputation for toxicity that persists, like Rust. WoW is big enough to have subcultures, but many of those subcultures  have reputations for being toxic and the people who join them also tend to turn toxic.

Finally, Kowert references the Theory of Planned Behavior, which states that the intent to engage in toxic behavior varies based on specific context. This means that someone is more likely to engage in toxic behavior if the group is accepting of that behavior. So someone might be toxic in a toxic guild because it’s accepted behavior but be a decent and respectful human being in another guild because it’s not accepted behavior there.

Other researchers have argued that competitive games tend to create aggressive behavior, rather than violent games. (I do note that the study I’ve linked here loosely correlates aggression with toxicity, which is certainly debatable.) But even anecdotally, we’ve seen that PvP-focused games are more prone to have toxic communities overall than PvE, though of course there are always exceptions.

I think this last one will be a surprise to literally no one: Trolling behavior has a strong correlation with sadism and psychopathy. The more someone trolls, the more the likely he is to have sadist and psychopathic tendencies in the rest of his life as well. Many people troll because they legitimately enjoy harming others.

Our takeaways from the psychology behind toxicity are, again, not earth-shattering. Toxic environments are self-perpetuating. People are more likely to engage in toxic and trolling behavior in communities where that behavior is expected. And because of the Online Disinhibition Effect, gamers are more likely to engage in both benign disinhibition and toxic disinhibition.

In our next piece in this series, I’ll take a look at ways that some game companies are trying to combat toxicity – and some of the problems in those approaches.

Every other week, Andy McAdams braves the swarms of buzzwords and esoteric legalese of the genre to bring you Massively OP’s Lawful Neutral column, an in-depth analysis of the legal and business issues facing MMOs. Have a topic you want to see covered? Shoot him an email!
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Rndomuser

For people saying “but I did not had many instances of toxicity personally in a game I play” – here is another example taken from Reddit today, a chat log from FFXIV server that Asmongold plays on, which is again yet another example of some person trying to rile up multiple people against specific persons, and again an example that even if you block that specific person – you may still be harassed by many others incited by that person:

ffxiv community.PNG
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draugris

“Yes, toxicity is a big deal in our hobby”

Idk, is it? I play online games for 15 years now and never had that many problems with toxicity. Of course, I have met some really unpleasant people but at the end of the day we can choose who we want to be around. During my time in GW2 i was very focused on WvW. On my server, there was a very well-known raid leader in WvW which was a girl and she was one of the most respected players there and not because she was a female, she was really successful. The TS was disciplined during her lead. In the guilds I played during different games I never encountered any real toxicity also, not towards me or towards other players female or male. But i am a guild player, I do not pug that much and the negative experiences I had were mostly during pugging a dungeon or a raid.

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Bruno Brito

I mean, yes? The entire thread has numbers showing people affected by toxicity on one way or another. So it is a issue. Of course, there are pockets of people that face it on a lesser or greater scale.

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draugris

Tbh i have friends i play with for 10 years plus and they have similar experiences, so my take on that is, it is a lot about yourself if you have problems with toxicity. You can’t control other people but you can control your feelings and what you do about them.

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Bruno Brito

That’s honestly not a good take. The guildie you mentioned probably had issues she didn’t tell you, or anyone, because the way you just spoke forces victims to be silent. That’s not how you combat issues, that’s how you disguise them.

You don’t fight evil by pretending it doesn’t affect you. You fight it by punishing it and trying your best to educate people to not perpetuate said evil.

And no, you can’t control your feelings. The entire concept of feelings is that they’re uncontrolable. You DEAL with your feelings. You don’t control them.

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Bannex

Is it an issue? Sure, but most of the tools to deal with it should be in the hands of the gamer imo.

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Bruno Brito

How do you deal with swatting?

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Rndomuser

Idk, is it? I play online games for 15 years now and never had that many problems with toxicity.

It is, and your personal experience does not invalidate experience of many other people.

at the end of the day we can choose who we want to be around

If that means “leaving the server” – it’s not a good choice. Read the example from the article again. I’ll give you my own example, from FFXIV. Last week there was music performance band in FFXIV, Songbirds, trying to play a music at some public location on server. Some asshole player came near them and started to play annoying sounds using own music instrument, then saying in chat “gtfo Songbirds”, “you don’t have good music to play anyway” and other things clearly showing this person was trying to drive them away. And you can’t mute the music instrument of individual player without muting everyone else’s music instruments. After that the music band had to leave the server (because this person was constantly following them to disrupt them at all locations) and log into other server, which prevented many people, especially newbie players, from experiencing and enjoying their performance on original server they were playing on. This was just last week, and this is just a single example, I could list many more examples from just about every MMORPG I played. “Leaving the server” due to other people’s harassment is not a good choice and nobody should be forced to do that.

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draugris

“and your personal experience does not invalidate experience of many other people.”

and others people experiences does not invalidate mine. So this is a complete nonsense argument you are making here.

“Last week there was music performance band in FFXIV”

Yes i know such things from LotRO, so leaving the server because of one player, well i would have filed a report tbh. Especially in FF14 the GM´s have a short fuse for trolls, at least in my experience with that game.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Rndomuser wasn’t saying you should replace your anecdote with his. Rndomuser was, I presume, referring back to the article, which cites a large study that found an overwhelming majority of adult gamers had experienced harassment in gaming. If you’re in the small group that hasn’t, you’re blessed.

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Bruno Brito

And privileged.

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draugris

I think that if this would be such a great problem, I should have either experienced it more either myself or I should have noticed it with my friends in over 10 years. I don´t deny that there is toxicity and everybody has made his or her fair share of that, but I do not believe that it is that big of a deal in overall gaming. Gaming is mainstream and my experience is that most people just want to do that, game and that´s it.

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Bruno Brito

I think that if this would be such a great problem, I should have either experienced it more either myself or I should have noticed it with my friends in over 10 years.

Uh…what? So, if you’re not mugged, crime isn’t a problem? I’m 30, i was never a victim of crime, yet Brazil ranks around 60k deaths per year from firearms.

Like, dude…What?

I don´t deny that there is toxicity and everybody has made his or her fair share of that, but I do not believe that it is that big of a deal in overall gaming.

Some people believe vaccines are bad. They’re wrong. So are you. Beliefs don’t shield you from reality. And reality came on this thread calling himself Andy and having numbers and research done.

You talk about people being snowflakes, but honestly, we really should erradicate this dogshit culture where people think their goddamn beliefs are more important than cold hard facts.

Gaming is mainstream and my experience is that most people just want to do that, game and that´s it.

Hence why i said: Privileged.

Since we’re using anedoctal experiences:

I have a friend who was harassed out of twitter because she’s female. I have another friend who is traumatized of using voicecomms because of being harassed on shooters. I have seen discord mods do a complete 180 when discovering someone is a woman.

Honestly man, i recommend you pull your head out of your ass, because you’re clearly too far deep if you can’t see this shit.

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Bannex

Ah yes the precipice between freedom and the perception of safety…

Easy times make weak men. Weak men make hard times. Hard times are definitely coming.

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Bruno Brito

I have a question, what easy times? The way i see it, the people who had easy times made times harder for everyone ELSE. Not for them.

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Bannex

Tell your great grandfathers and mothers about internet toxicity and watch their reaction.

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Utakata

My Mother is repulsed. Your point?

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

I knew my great-grandmother. Her husband was German, and they had to change their name during the war. Their generation knew what comes of unbridled ignorant hate, and they fought it. Toxicity is about people and power and propaganda, not ephemeral technology.

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Bruno Brito

My great grandfathers are dead. My mom is constantly targeted by men showing her unwanted penises and credit card fraudsters. I really don’t get your point.

I don’t know where this concept that nowadays is easier than yesterday comes from. Besides ease of access and use, new times are as hard as yesterday were. The courtiers of Versailles ate their fill while the french people starved, which led to the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution happened because Russia was being led by a detached authoritarian empire that had absolutely no attachment to how the country developed. Most of the subjects were urban and modern, doctors, lawyers, the workforce, and they were all under a group of inbred aristocrats that never had a problem and felt hunger in their lives. The Church in the middle ages was pretty much the most powerful institution in the world, and it acquired that in the backs of the peasantry and the ignorant.

As for nowadays? Brazil has a 60% public school evasion. It had 67% of it’s prison population being black people in 2019. In 2018, 58 thousand had died of gun violence ( i live in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Recife ). Brazil’s minimum wage was frozen but everything else increased in price, Brazil’s minimum wage has an acquisitory power of averaging 150 dollars. Brazil’s trans people have a 35-years average lifespan, because they die either to violence or to disease. 90%+ are in some form of sexwork because that’s mostly of the jobs they’re accepted to do.

There were NEVER a moment of things being easy. You have a skewed view ( as i have ) because we can sit down here and discuss things with hyper-advanced technology, but reality is that while the methods can change, the concept itself is the same. We’ll never have Kotick’s lifestyle, and he, having a easy life, made life harder for the people he fired.

Honestly, man. I recommend you go live in our times and our world a bit, instead of talking about them. This is without trying to sound trollish.

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Bannex

Not going to touch anything you just said because none of it pertained to internet toxicity.

The deal with internet toxicity is that you willfully subject yourself to it. Turn your computer off and it magically goes away. Tough times on internet gaming aren’t tough times.

Are people going through tough times in our world? Absolutely, don’t strawman that shit. It was a statement directed primarily at how the “epidemic” of internet gaming toxicity is a modern day non-crisis relatively speaking (hence the great depression and the world wars).

Brazil is in huge trouble, no doubt. The United states and most of the 1st world was WAS enjoying a general quality of life that far surpassed anything in human history. So much so that we can debate the effects of digital name calling.

Now? the streets of Minneapolis and Chicago are starting to look a lot like parts of Brazil…

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Utakata

Hard times make for manly men. And the sheep run away scared…

EmberStar
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EmberStar

“Come to Montana! Where the men are men! The women are men! The sheep are scared! And any children are actually undercover FBI!”

Yes, it was stupid. I’m sorry. OnO

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Utakata

I was wondering if readers would get that. o.O

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kimowar101

I see Bannex’s point, Our Great grandparents were tougher then us and as Bree pointed out, some of them had it way tougher then typical trolling.
I dont think alot of us could handle what they faced in WWII or the great depression.

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Utakata

Back in the day arguments should never be used as excuses for things that afflict us today. Neither is “First World” problem arguments. So no, Bannex-san doesn’t really have a point here outside of the angry man yelling at cloud narrative.

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Bannex

Is that a rule you invented? Ignoring how and what problems were solved “back then” is a very silly approach that could prove to be incredibly dangerous.

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Utakata

Never mentioned anything about learning from our history. That’s a different thing. Nor was this conversation anything about that, until you brought it up now. Inventing rules as we go, indeed. /sigh

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Bruno Brito

Except that it’s a false equivalence argument.

Your great grandparents and your grandparents weren’t tougher than you. They just weren’t under a culture were accepting and offering help was accepted. There’s a reason why the entire Vet program in the US is a ungodly failure and why Veterans today struggle a lot with terrible psychological issues: Because their story affects them, and culture didn’t take care of them.

Hell, the goddamn gas chambers in the concentration camps were made because the Germans were acquiring PTSD from squad-shooting unarmed citizens on the back of their necks and watching their bodies slide down a pit. Even the de-humanized Nazis saw that as a problem, and we still keep perpetuating this crap in the west that older people were simply more resilient to psychological trauma?

This is pure insanity. Times were ALWAYS tough, and they will ALWAYS be tough for someone. We weren’t worse or better, we were different.

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Bannex

I mean it’s like a fact that times are significantly less tough now than during WW2. Its not even an argument. Oh and the Spanish flu was significantly more dangerous than covid. I mean come on are we really having this conversation?

Look I’ll admit I was the idiot that turned this into a nazi conversation and tbh I promised myself i wouldn’t fall into that anymore. This was my fault and I apologize.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

I was trying to convey that they experienced how small and local toxicities became large ones, and they wouldn’t have trivialized mass hate just because the technology for distributing it had changed.

creationguru
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creationguru

The term “Online Disinhibition Effect” is a really big set of words for what I like to call the Law of Face Punchy. In this law people will say almost anything when they have a digital wall and anonymity of the internet where as they will watch there tongue when talking with someone face to face as if you said many of the stuff people said online you would get punched in the face.

This is why a golden rule in the interwebs should be if its not something you would say to someone’s face in person you should not say it at all.

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Rndomuser

Just wanted to add something, your example from WoW with one person spreading false information about another person is sadly not unique, I’ve seen in in many other games, including the one very recently:

I’ve seen some suggestions from people to “add better block features”, unfortunately block features do not prevent people like these from harming you in such indirect way. Doesn’t matter if you even extend “block” feature to “block from being matched with this person in dungeons”. The one and only solution which can decrease such behavior (you can’t completely eliminate it) is if developer hire enough people to respond to user reports faster, including punishing people like these faster with permanent bans, and provide proper communication with community (such as mention specific punishment for specific person on official forums/Twitter/Discord) if the case of toxicity becomes very large and affects many people.

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

I’d say the biggest thing that contributes to trolling and toxicity is the behavior of the company representatives on their own forums.

We’ve been shown repeatedly, over the last 2 decades, that the only way to get the attention of the shot-callers is to light a big fire.

Take video game forums for example. You can post all of the calm, level headed feedback threads you want. Include a ton of math and screenshots all day long. You’ll get exactly zero response from the devs.

But, get a bunch of people to light the forums on fire with several dozen toxic threads on the same subject and guess what? Not only will the devs respond, but often they’ll actually address the issue.

The human brain is literally physically designed to solve problems. So, since game developers have taught us that the only way to get them to address a situation is to flame, troll, and hack the other game that they DO care about, then that is exactly what humans who are using their brains are going to do.

Don’t want your customers to be toxic? Then stop responding to the ones who are and START responding to those who do post intelligent respectful feedback and criticism.

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Bruno Brito

So…i think you should re-read the article, considering that Andy’s example doesn’t even concern feedback or devs:

A new guildie joins, discover one of the officers is a woman. He starts being extremely pushy and creepy about it, and she tells him to stop. He keeps going, even after she mentions having a partner. She kicks him. He moves an entire server chat against her because of how toxicity culture works.

This doesn’t involve feedback, it doesn’t involve devs, it doesn’t involve forums. It literally involves a culture based mainly on low-quality relationships that are easily manipulable and most gamers don’t even realize how easy they are to use as foils for more malicious idiots.

There is WAY more to toxicity and human behavior in general than just interactions between customer and company.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Um… okay? Are you somehow connecting this to the article about people hacking Apex Legends to draw attention to the DDOS hacker who can basically switch off the servers for Titanfall (both 1 and 2, I think) more or less at will?

Because it sounds like you’re connecting those two articles. Maybe I’m just badly misunderstanding your post?

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

You both badly misunderstood my post.

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Bruno Brito

No, we didn’t.

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styopa

There have been times when there were widely regarded standards of behavior.

Kids were raised to understand that they needed to conform to polite social mores, or they would be rejected by their peers and could only function at the lowest levels of society, and regarded (if not actually treated) as little more than animals.

Social approbation meant something. The social consensus said “this is how you must act, how you must dress, how you must speak” and people conformed, generally. Or at least they wanted to. Certainly there were always people who flouted them, but they were recognized as such, socially ostracized, blocked from advancement. Much of this code was based on archaic, inherited religious codes, some genuine, some vastly mistranslated, misunderstood, or divorced entirely from the context in which they (may) once have had a purpose.

At the same time, this society used these very rules to exclude people – almost arbitrarily. Women, minorities, “weirdos” of any kind faced tremendous barriers to participation and certainly weren’t treated as full-fledged humans or equals.

But then people came along who said that such arbitrary norms were inherently unfair. We all have the right to speak what we feel. We have the right to dress how we want, act how we want. And the norms were thrown out the window because who wants to conform to outmoded and outdated beliefs or behaviors?

And now, curiously, we seem to be circling back to a society where someone (who?) gets to define arbitrary standards of language, reasonable behavior, and conduct. Certain groups can use certain words forbidden to use by others. Certain groups of people are growing to be defined as protected, in that any insult thrown their way is assumed an attack on their very identity and forbidden. These are often the same groups that 40 years ago insisted that the idea of society defining codes of conduct was absolutely anathema.

With the ebb of actual religion, secular but faith-based dogmas have likewise risen, inventing whole new ‘sacred’ codes of conduct that just as surely signal in-group membership, and “other” status. Did you know that having a Cracker Barrel or Whole Foods business in your neighborhood could with high certainty predict for which presidential candidate your district would vote?

Funny, how we can’t seem to decide if we want strong rules for public conduct, or none.

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Bruno Brito

We still have standards of behavior. They just changed from group to group. The common accepted standard came from a specific subsect of people, and now it comes from another specific subsect of people. I find the second one more acceptable simply because the second subsect is widely more diverse and has more life experiences overall ( albeit still flawed. All cultural rulesets are. ).

And now, curiously, we seem to be circling back to a society where someone (who?) gets to define arbitrary standards of language, reasonable behavior, and conduct. Certain groups can use certain words forbidden to use by others. Certain groups of people are growing to be defined as protected, in that any insult thrown their way is assumed an attack on their very identity and forbidden. These are often the same groups that 40 years ago insisted that the idea of society defining codes of conduct was absolutely anathema.

Here’s a interesting thing: for each 10 transgender people, one at least has had kidney issues or urinary issues because of avoiding public bathrooms because of violence.

The problem with this argument is that it puts the people that are right now creating new social directives with people that created them before, and that’s not a correct assumption: We had millenia of christian-like education in the west that teached us to be ashamed of anything that went against the natural order, and there is absolutely no camp in which a social movement that fights for improving the lives of minorities will ever have the same strenght that kings, queens and the Church had.

Honestly, i find most of the argument against it to be pretty weak: I’ve seen indeed people lose their jobs for “cancel culture” ( which i’m not going to touch on ), i’ve seen banks getting vandalized and windows shattered. But i’m yet to see a social movement nuke an entire country, declare war, fill an entire prison system with a subsect of people that “coincidentally” comes from the same type, define rulesets that affect the most powerful of people or even being enough to make a dent on legislation.

Remember, Riot STILL has the employees that harassed others. We made absolutely no dent on them. I get the criticism, but we are NOT on the same level of power that those who came before us and settled trends for behavior were. A lot of it is basically pushing back, and revolutions in general tend to be simplistic and messy, and that’s pretty much what happens here.

As for your question? Complicated to say. The problem with these more “transcedental” concepts like Justice and Truth and Freedom is that all of them are not transcedental really, nor they are truly fair, and they are also enforced accordingly to how society conducts itself. Culture is not a monolith, and as time passes and the culture itself evolves, so does the concepts. What was acceptable yesterday is not acceptable today, and who enforces it matters. Who also has power to change the enforcement also matters. That’s why in most heated countries debating all of this, what you have is simply more progressive people on the ground fighting against humongous forces that are kept in place by conservatives ( in the general sense of the word ) that want to keep their power and the status quo because it doesn’t affect them how it affects the people on the ground.

I don’t really have an answer because any answer would come with severe shortcomings. I’m always on the side of freedom for both sides, personally speaking. I think people have the right to be as disgraceful and disgusting and hateful as they want to be ( as long as they don’t hurt anyone else ), and the people who are forced to deal with that crap have the entire right to pressure forces to cancel said person. And if companies want to cave in or not and deal with the aftermath, also their choice.

Life moves on. So shall i.

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styopa

Good post. Thanks for the reply.

Of course, the entire thing boils down to a version of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” and while I to one degree accept your evaluation about powerlessness, I’m not sure it’s entirely convincing.

“…i’m yet to see a social movement nuke an entire country, declare war, fill an entire prison system with a subsect of people that “coincidentally” comes from the same type, define rulesets that affect the most powerful of people or even being enough to make a dent on legislation…”
A couple of examples spring immediately to mind:
Communism, various countries, 20th century: 100 million dead (and still climbing).
The French Revolution: France, 1792

I’m leery of anyone – whether they’re a Catholic Priest, a “patriot”, Greta Thunberg, or ‘woke’ activist for (name your cause) – who insists that they hold some sort of indisputable moral authority. That’s my touchstone.

This is why I tend to veer toward an absence of rules as a better system, because I’m ultimately a humanists. Better that stupid ideas and behavior is displayed and rejected, than banned and granted a bizarre shadow-veracity in martyrdom.

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Bruno Brito

A couple of examples spring immediately to mind:
Communism, various countries, 20th century: 100 million dead (and still climbing).

I disagree with communism as a example for several reasons:

The first one is the fact that there was no applicability of communism as Marx theorized. Communism itself was a pipedream that we never managed to achieve. The nearest thing we COULD have gotten ( we didn’t ) was Socialism.

Socialism postulates a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, which is already a touchy subject, but one could make the argument that it means the “dictatorship of the masses”, or just aggressive way of saying Democracy.

Stalin never ascended democratically. Lenin actively loathed his power at the end of his life when he realized the extent that Stalin went to shield himself. Stalin was a common thug that became a leader, but he achieved said heights by manipulating the group, not playing into it. As he ascended, whatever concept of Socialism you could have was inexistent besides some fringe stuff. I can’t speak for China but i’ll assume it’s the same, specially nowadays. The USSR at the end of it’s cycle had a lot of capitalism injected into it. I always think of Stalin as any other dictator: He spoke a big game and delivered blood. That’s all.

If you want examples of the little man trying to fight back, i rather use the Pride origins, Luther ( not King, albeit he was a good example too. I mean the 99 thesis guy ), Rosa Parks and such. I mean groups of people that represent an entire slice of society that are brought down everyday, and even if they ascend, they’ll never achieve top heights because of culture.

I’m leery of anyone – whether they’re a Catholic Priest, a “patriot”, Greta Thunberg, or ‘woke’ activist for (name your cause) – who insists that they hold some sort of indisputable moral authority. That’s my touchstone.

Greta is a child. She’s overly adored ( i do agree a bit too much ) because she’s basically a poster…child ( heh ) for being recognizant of her times, culture and issues while older, more “wise” people aren’t. There are people in the US in positions of power that still debate the damages that unfettered late-stage capitalism caused, even though a oil company literally opened a portal to Hell itself in the mexican gulf. And, i kid you not, the main news i got from mainstream media was literally “The economy was not majorly affected”.

THE OCEAN WAS ON FUCKING FIRE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

But yeah.

This is why I tend to veer toward an absence of rules as a better system, because I’m ultimately a humanists. Better that stupid ideas and behavior is displayed and rejected, than banned and granted a bizarre shadow-veracity in martyrdom.

I agree that people should be careful of simplistic theories and concepts. I don’t buy the whole “paradox of intolerance” thing, because it’s WAY more complex than that, but there are things there that are illustrative of what happens if idiotic/malicious people run rampant ( Stalin, like i said ). On the other hand, locking people out of choosing their own path creates revolt inside them and that quickly goes outside. It’s the very reason you’re seeing a culture-confusion right now: Because assimilation has robbed minorities of ancestral heritage and identity and now they feel a huge need of finding out and demanding what they feel just.

And if you want my personal opinion: I don’t think Socialism/Communism can ever be implemented, and Marx concept of it is not less utopic just because he postulated it scientifically. What Marx did that was unparalled was his analysis of Late-Stage Capitalism ( where we are ), but for his solution? Eh, pretty mediocre. Humanity doesn’t work that way, never have, and after Capitalism literally made us extremely prone to put our singular freedoms above the wellbeing of the group, it won’t ever ( Besides extremely small pockets of people like Amish, and even then, that “Socialism” is less a democratic organization and more a culturally oppressive society that works, but by shaming the differences and excising it before it “festers” the entire group ).

Sigh. Humanity, nor it’s theories and philosophies were made to accomodate the huge number of people we now foster. That is what i think, it’ll be the main issue for researchers, philosophers and social-scientists to solve. The bigger the nations and groups, the bigger the mess.

But yeah, good debate. Can’t complain.

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Sorata

I think you guys mix and match so much topics, that it will never become coherent this way.

Sure it is now a changing time of morals and standards. But conecting “the minorities want to be addressed properly now” and “some overdo it certainly” with communism is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay of a stretch and neglects so many issus along the way.

Just for the one topic you guys address, that seems to be the first mentioned problem:
What I think is the inherit problem is the system of power. Sure in former times “it was all clear” how to act. But didn’t it change over time? No! There were changes as well. Different now is: It comes from minorities in a non beheading way. So the old owner of powers need to adjust. Sure there are some people in the group of the minorities who overdo it. But you can discuss it and it is far from being set in stone. Most of the time, it doesn’t even have real power over them. It is just complaining on the side that doesn’t want to adjust. Dismissing all of the process with emitting a feeling of “overburdening” is just a lazy way of the not accepting of lose of power.

Additionally styopa, you neglect the fact, that even if there are no “rules” regarding “what is free to say” from the how ever looking authorities, there will also be people, who can’t say what they want, because they are suppressed/would be suppressed of the majority or the groups who got enough power in this system.
Despite the fact, that this groups have more freedom of what to do, they even prevent, that others have the freedom of what to say. That is fair? Again: even if there is no state or government or company guidelines that enforces the “rules of speech” there will be enough other forces (of time, space, wealth, masses and so on) that will prohibit, that what ever kind of minorities/powerless can say the same as the majorities/powerful.
What we see now, are big parts of the society, that acknoledge that and support this minorities/powerless on their way to freedom of speech and rights. Sure you don’t like it, because “you can’t say everything” anymore. But you “shouldn’t” be able to do that in certain aspects anyway

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Bruno Brito

I think we were coherent and understand each other well, so don’t worry about that.

I agree with the rest of your assessment, i think most of the “over-do-it” comes from fringe groups like Radfems, where they basically have a posture extremely similar to conservatives.

That being said, i wasn’t the one to bring communism in the conversation. Styopa was. I only answered because i still think people have an completely “red-scare” purview on what communism is. Communism never existed. It probably never will. Besides specific pockets of people that were allowed to have pure democracy and self-ruling governments, which i don’t think it really exists in large scale, what we had, was a completely distorted concept of Socialism. I also don’t think the USSR is comparable to what the left of nowadays is trying to achieve. Stalin was full of hatred and prejudice. His workforce didn’t ascend to decent levels of non-exploration and self-identity. he was a dictator and he was a vicious one at that, considering he was petty to absurd extent and that was enough for him to send you to terrible places. Also, at the end of it’s lifecycle, the USSR had several structural changes acquired from Capitalism to keep itself from collapsing. China has the same, where it embraces a lot of Capitalism, while keeping the bigger structures in check because Late Stage Capitalism hates the free market and has the tendency of becoming huge monopolies that compete with the state itself. All that while the Chinese state robs you of your freedom while keeping you taken care of. The only thing Socialistic/Communistic about that is the excuse they give. Workers having no agency what-so-ever is not Communism. It will never be.

And yeah, again, i agree with the rest of your assessment. People are finding out the minutiae of what hurts them, and they have been hurt for what is millenia now. They absolutely have the right to demand respect and to peer-pressure privileged groups into adhering. Not being able to say words or losing jobs is in no way, shape or form, similar to the punishment they’ve been through just for being who they are.

And i think that’s how it’s ought to be. Peer-pressure, protesting and social change. I don’t think it should be legislated, because laws are enforced, and enforcing normally comes from really conservative and problematic people. I don’t need to tell you how detached cops are from reality.

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Thornhide

Companies should provide better block/ignore features. For example, block In ESO just stops text, this should be taken further and not allow grouping.

Threats of physical violence should be reported to authorities.

You don’t like a platform’s handling of “toxic” behavior, move on. In my house we canceled Twitter, fb, Nickelodeon, Reddit, public school, etc…easy.

Freedom of speech doesn’t apply to companies, their platform & rules. Choice is yours to use.

That said in the public space I support all speech, no restrictions.

My 2c~

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Rndomuser

So what actually creates toxic environments?

Game developers do. They can either tolerate toxicity, which in turn promotes people be more toxic in all situations (doesn’t matter if it is PvP or toxic guild drama or toxic PvE players telling others “your DPS suck according to my damage meter”) towards each other, like Blizzard does, or try to actively fight it with more strict rules and punishment, like Square Enix does, creating much less toxic environment.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Thank you for this wonderful article. I look forward to the next in the series.

Yup, I left WoW way back when because of the toxicity. I was in a good guild, but we were small and all over the country. I often played alone. I suppose this is where I developed my absolute loathing of WoW dungeons–from the behavior of people in them.

Is it possible to have an MMO without toxicity? Not entirely, because human beings are flawed, even when we try really hard not to be. And, something not mentioned here, lots of players partake in controlled substances, which also lowers inhibitions. Now, some people get sweet and more friendly when they are drunk or high, and some don’t.

People can learn to treat each other well, just as they can learn to treat each other badly. It is possible to have a community that treats its members with decency and kindness rather than bullying and meanness. And people don’t really have to know each other, nor be from the same background or even the same country. But it takes work, commitment and someone willing to take responsibility for drawing the borders and keeping everyone in them. And the tacit agreement of members of the community that that’s what they want because the other things they get out of such a community are of great value.

Yes, MOP and MOPers, I’m talking about you.

As we used to say in the altered state of the 1960s, what goes around comes around. Now, it was the free love days and we might have been referring to STDs, but I’m pretty sure it was the vibes we put out. Put out into the universe what you want to come back around to you because it will come back around.