Recently, Blizzard has implemented a change to the in-game chat in Overwatch’s public test realm. Players could no longer type GG EZ in the in-game chat and instead would show alternative text.
This was to prevent players from discouraging teams that had less successful matches with words of criticism. Players felt mixed on whether the patch was necessary or not and it sparked debate in the gaming community in general about whether or not the community is a toxic environment to be in.
Playing online games and meeting strangers across the world is a revolutionary undertaking that connects people who would not have met otherwise. However, just like anywhere on the Internet, people usually do not interact face to face and the screen acts as a barrier to dehumanize others initially. Players give themselves screen names to make it more difficult to humanize other players. This makes berating faceless entities come naturally. Players also typically opt out of sharing their real name with other players initially.
The anonymity that comes with conversing online makes people feel safe to say anything under the sun since there would be no repercussions of their words due to the hidden identities. Almost every player out there has experience in yelling at a stranger online and found it surprisingly easy. Players get invested in play and emotions run high, so swearing relentlessly at strangers is part of the package. Online games that has team-based combat as its core gameplay tends to be the biggest offenders when it comes to toxic behavior.
Team-based games are not the only ones at fault, but since victories in these games are so reliant on the performance of others, players tend to be much more toxic to fellow teammates when games are not going in their favor. The emotions of gameplay coupled with the fact that players view random teammates as faceless entities rather than human beings makes telling teammates to “get cancer and die” becomes a common occurrence.
Many gamers find socializing difficult and find playing games online is an alternative way to make friends in a comfortable way. So when gamers looking for friends see hateful messages thrown their way, it can make them feel even lonelier than they did before.
On the Other Hand:
Players do make real connections with other players online and foster friendships that last a lifetime. The bond that gamers share together is one that is unlike any other. The Rocket League community banded together when one of their own suffered a heart attack. The community rushed to the side of Stephen “Shalthis” Perry, and his family received over $10,000 in donations from the Rocket League community in less than a day.
Despite many of the players never meeting Stephen Perry before, they felt connected to him as the voice of Rocket League and were eager to help. Not only that, there are gamer-oriented charities, such as Extra Life and the Able Gamers Charity that constantly bring the community together to make a difference. The Summer Games Done Quick raised over a million dollars for Doctors Without Borders this year alone.
These gaming charities are examples of the ways that the community comes together to not only assist fellow gamers but also those not directly in the community itself. The gaming community is difficult to observe since on the surface, it seems like a toxic cesspool of violence and swearing, but closer examination reveals friendships and a generous group of people with a strong sense of community.
Being online can be potentially harmful for anyone, as most lack a filter when gaming and it can lead to a stressful environment. Players in the gaming community can have toxic words thrown their way by other players, meet friends from all over the world, or both. It is a platform comprised of people that is easy to get lost in and forget about the feelings of others on it.
Most gamers have been berated by another player for a petty reason at one point or another, but when it comes down to it, the gaming community is a great way to find like-minded individuals and maybe even do some good. Just make sure you enter the community with some thick skin.