Yes, you can fight gaming toxicity by being nice to other players
In a Developer Update last week, Jeff Kaplan called for the Overwatch player base to be nice to each other. I’m oversimplifying — the update discussed reporting features and their rollout on consoles among other things — but the message was clear enough. Overwatch can’t iterate on new content as fast as they would like because they have to be working on systems to deal with player toxicity, and if players could take a moment to examine their behavior, the team could work on stuff that’s more fun for everyone than a report feature.
But can we really end toxicity just by being nice?
Reddit user DigitallyBorn has been giving it a try and when he’s nice to other players, he’s found that they’re nice, too. He’s not only affirming Jeff’s basic message, but discovering the conventional wisdom that says being a sarcastic, loud, bitter person helps you enjoy gaming might not be accurate. And while I’m not a big Overwatch player, online play with other people is the same across many games and I’ve done it a lot — more than enough to know that all that happens when you’re a jerk to other players is that they either avoid you or are jerks themselves right back.
One of the things I’ve often done is queue up to run dungeons in World of Warcraft at the wee end of the day, often as a tank, and for whatever reason I’m generally more optimistic and hopeful at 4 AM than I am normally. Perhaps it’s exhaustion getting to me. Those runs tend to go better than the ones where I queue up, say nothing and just run alongside four strangers as we try and complete the dungeon without addressing one another. And it’s absolutely true that once players start to get abusive, they often don’t seem to know what to do when you’re nice to them. Sometimes they get worse, of course — I’ve been called some choice names over the years — but sometimes just saying something like “Come on, man, we’re all doing our best” can calm tempers and get players actually playing again.
If you know me, you know it doesn’t come naturally to me, but it really does help. Give it a try the next time you’re playing anything, be it Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch or WoW. Player toxicity can ruin the fun of a game and force development teams to focus on mechanisms to fight it, which keeps them from creating fun features. While anti-toxicity mechanisms are in my opinion always going to be necessary, we can make them less so by our actions — and bring more fun to the game in the process.
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