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Inclusivity has become a buzzword for many that when used will often create presuppositions towards the writer in a fairly large audience immediately, regardless of whether they are familiar with who wrote it. The word has become a particular worry within the gaming community. A recent article from Matthew Ballinger over at PC Authority wrote about inclusivity in gaming for people new to games and gaming, but shed it in an exceedingly negative light.

Matthew spends much of his article describing his experience with Dota 2. He notes that he often plays his favorite hero, Bane, in a way outside the role Bane is designed to be played to be the most effective for the entire team, and is often chided for doing so. The italicized part is not something Matthew addresses in his article, but the clarification is a necessary one.

He fails to acknowledge that Dota 2 is a competitive, team-based, multiplayer game. His choice to play as he wants, outside of that hero’s role it was designed to play best, has a fairly good chance of affecting others’ enjoyment of the game. Is Matthew wrong for playing the way he finds most enjoyable? No. But he should not be surprised when others get annoyed at him for affecting the way they play the game. His choice of hero may affect someone else’s choice of hero, who is likely basing that decision partly on the assumption that Matthew would be playing Bane in the assumed role. Not doing so messes up team composition, which can lead to less synergy, which makes it harder to work as a team, which makes strategizing a lot more difficult, which makes the team rely on individual skill, which … 

As you can see, his choice to play that way has a near certainty to affect someone else’s enjoyment of the game. 

dota 2 bane

He says he receives these comments regardless of whether or not he is successful playing his way or if the team is successful. That doesn’t tell you all that much. Is the team successful because he is successful? Is he successful by himself but leaving the team behind? Did the rest of the team alter their play and hero choice to try to strategize around Matthew’s choice to play the way he is, thus causing success or failure?

People calling Matthew a “scrub” or questioning his way of play, offering better solutions, is just how some voice their annoyance. Imagine playing basketball and someone insisted on shooting the ball every time they had it and only used hook shots. That’s the way they get the most enjoyment when they play, and sometimes they are really successful and the group ends up winning. I think we can all see how that could become annoying.

What Matthew experiences in his time with Dota 2 is just what he would experience in any other setting involving competition. Michael Jordan is fairly well-known for having been a pretty ruthless trash talker, listen to any of Mike Tyson’s interviews when he was boxing, or take a look at any sport out there for particularly vocal players. To be fair, they usually trash talk their opponents, but what do you think they do with teammates that don’t play that well? They just don’t play with them anymore—they get kicked off the team, let go, whatever. Unfortunately, for something like Dota 2 with matchmaking, gamers don’t have the luxury, unless playing with friends, to choose their teammates. They’re largely stuck with who they were matched up with and just have to deal with it. If they leave or abandon the game due to a player affecting their enjoyment of said game, they’re punished. So, they have little recourse but to stick it out and, in Dota 2‘s case, probably waste at a minimum 30 minutes.

So not only can Matthew’s choice to play his way affect the enjoyment others have with the game, but it wastes their time as well. I’ll repeat it again: Realizing that, how can anyone be surprised that they may get some comments from players criticizing the way they are playing, being annoyed with them or anything else, when their choice of play can have this sort of negative effect on others?

There are already systems in place that will make people new to games, and those that just play how they want like Matthew, to have more fun. Many games have different modes, some sort of ranking system so you play people of your skill level, and more. People will still vent their frustrations—maybe because of you and maybe because of themselves—and I’d encourage people receiving said ire to treat it like constructive criticism. What can I learn to do better? Or just ignore them because you’re playing the way you want to.

heroes of the storm in game objective

Another significant thing that gamers don’t have with their teammates is context. Unless they haven’t played with you before, they don’t know how skilled you are at a game, how experienced, how knowledgeable, etc. They can only go off what you’re doing. So those that send messages out of annoyance are reacting in one of two ways. They either see you playing a different way and assume you don’t know better, thus believing they have some dead weight they’ll have to carry through the game, or they’ll be annoyed that you are intentionally playing a character in a subpar way, which can affect the success of the team—success often translates to people’s enjoyment of said game. The latter is the more likely case with Matthew, as he said in the article he announces his chosen way of playing at the beginning of a game.

The final thing to address is the argument that all of what I just wrote above is irrelevant because it only really explained why there is a toxic community, not refuting the existence of one. In Matthew’s particular case, and to anyone out there that has competed in any team-based competitive thing before, how you act and play directly affects how people will then react to you—this is true in all life really. If it is just you, or certain people, receiving these messages all the time, maybe it has something to do with that and not the fact that the community is toxic. Maybe how you play, and possibly converse, with others is abrasive to a good chunk of the gaming community. I’m not sure, the only times I’ve been treated similarly is due to all the reasons I listed above. 

To me, Matthew is just asking the wrong questions and approaching this incorrectly. Nowhere did he insert himself into the equation as a variable. He was asking about whether the community was inherently bad rather than trying to figure out why he may have received certain reactions from the individuals themselves. The sole way he could truly answer the question of the community’s toxicity is through testing himself as a variable in many different ways. So this opining offers little more than to reveal some presuppositions Matthew may have about the community. He makes the mistake of conflating his own experience, and that of a few others, to the community at large. 

Gamers aren’t toxic; Matthew just simultaneously experienced both competition and how one’s actions can affect an interdependent group all at once. His experience is not something unique to the gaming community. Any setting, any game, anywhere that puts people in similar relationships as what happen in Dota 2 will be the same in how people react. How well you compete, how well you help the group, and how you conduct yourself will make up the vast majority of reactions you receive from those you’re playing with.

In the end, this has all just been a discussion of human nature with a gaming veneer.


Andrew Otton

Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Lover of some things, a not so much lover of other things.



  • At most, the original article can only be used to say that gamers within the DOTA 2 community are toxic. At, MOST. To say that all gamers are toxic from experience with one game is absurd.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    Whenever you try something unique or different in a team based game, you talk to your team. I’ve had support Teemos and Brands in League of Legends (Neither Brand nor Teems are typically supports) and thought it was bizarre until I asked the support and they explain their reasoning. Then I adjust my play style to work with theirs, and everything turns out good in our lane. The worst thing to have on your team is a person who does abnormal, unexpected things and barely communicates with you.

  • Robert Grosso

    It is honestly one reason why I don’t play DOTA 2, I am not a fan of that form of competitiveness.

    League of Legends has that same problem, but there is a bit of lee-way and a community for just having fun with it there at least. So I do agree it’s not toxic in the way this guy may be portraying.

  • Cole Pram

    I don’t even think you can say that. Perhaps his team members could be called “toxic”, but not even gamers playing DOTA can be pushed in that box.

    And honestly after reading the guy’s article, he was at fault. He didn’t play with his team, then acted like an arse to them when they got mad he was screwing them over by not playing as a team, to which he responded by acting like even more of an arse.

    The only person I can truly say is “toxic” in this situation was him, but that’s likely what he wanted. He went fishing for something to confirm his bias so he could write a stupid click bait article calling gamers unwelcoming, went in, acted like an arsehole and surprise surprise, found all the anecdotal evidence he needed to crap on everyone whether they were on his team or not or even never played that specific game.

    In the comments he listed a bunch of hobbies he has that are more “welcoming” than gaming. Half of them aren’t team sports, like fencing. One he listed was historical reenactment and I told him about when I lived in NC and how some of those guys get really pissed if you don’t have 100% authentic period equipment and how my older sister wanted to participate in a battle and was told to go back to the kitchen because girls couldn’t be solders.

    Every hobby has it’s snobs, but for him to pick gaming as the worst is bull. I’ve tried to play some team sports (I’m not good at sports in general) and a lot of teams won’t even let you tryout unless you’ve had previous experience for like a high school team or something similar. Hard to get that experience when you’re in your 30’s and none of your friends have any interest in playing sports and no one wants you because your old and have no experience.

    Kind of reminds me of the catch 22 back when I was out of high school looking for a job. No one hires without experience, but you can’t get experience because no one will hire you.

  • Dave

    I’m an avid dota player. Shit-talking and ball-busting are mainstays of the game, but I think its fucking great. Taunting your opponents when you make a great play, calling out teammates for misplaying terribly and screwing your game are as much a part of the game as flipping a (positive) shit when one of your teammates pulls off a game-winning initiation or getting commended when you go 17-2 and carry the game.

    Heres the dirty secret though – That article isn’t a condemnation of gaming – its a condemnation of male culture. This competitive, aggressive style of interaction is persistent in pretty much every male-dominated arena. Now, I don’t have the time to get into a long diatribe about why competitive male culture is great and why Matt is a fucking asshat, but make no mistake – this is a big middle finger to the straight male gamer demographic that his type love to hate on.

  • Dindu Nuffin

    Couple points from a personal perspective:

    1: I was warned off DOTA2 because of the fanbase. They’re not at the point where a newb can just waltz in and fuck up while they learn the ropes. You have to hit the ground running, and with a load of Heroes and skills to learn on the fly, not to mention an entire team relying on you to play your very best…

    2: Trash talk. I hate it. It’s obnoxious. Respect your opponents don’t belittle them. I guess it’s because I’m not American? Trash talking seems cultural to me.

    3: DOTA2 not being for newbs? I don’t care. DON’T make it easier for me to get into it. Why potentially spoil something for everybody in the hope I’ll “like it if I got into it?” There’s hundreds of other games I’m already playing anyway.

    Pandering LOSES fans, not gains fans.

  • Damian Salcedo

    GG, Report Bane noob!!

  • Zandohaha

    Haha, had to laugh, after largely being told he was wrong in the a section, guess what, he closed them. SJWs really don’t like being told they are wrong do they?

    What he doesn’t understand is how selfish he’s being, HE is doing what HE wants, what he finds fun, doesn’t matter about everyone else.
    If myself and 9 others enjoy listening to music, that’s fine. If I’m at home on my own and decide to dance around like a lunatic, also fine, I’m playing a single player game at that point, nobody will have a problem with it.
    However if myself an those 9 other people go into a small shop and I start dancing around stupidly, those people will tell me to stop it and that I’m being an idiot. By his conclusions, that means those 9 people are “toxic”, I mean I’m just having fun and doing what I want right? Also by his conclusions, because those 9 people told me in an idiot, that means ALL people who go shopping are assholes because apparently generalizations are fine when you are talking about gamers.

  • Zandohaha

    Yeah mostly because they’ve spent their lives unable to compete on a level field with most other males so better to brand it “toxic behaviour” than admit to themselves that they just don’t have what it takes to compete.

  • Zandohaha

    Also the fact that his silly little rant doesn’t apply to like 99% of games, he’s free to play most other things, even multiplayer, dick around all he wants and people won’t say much to him even if he goes 0-20. But no, he’s a combatitive twat trying to prove a point so of course he picks probably the most team oriented game out there, does what he wants without considering the team, then calls them all assholes because they took opposition to his self centered approach to the game.

  • TheVerdantFool

    Out of 3k hours in dota 2 (being brand new to mobas) and at least a thousand in league (got a green ribbon ;3) I’ve only been treated badly maybe 50 times. Those 50 times were mostly people having a bad day too, not some dark evil looking to ruin someone elses life. Overall, playing any game online has never been worse and often better then meetinglarge # of people irl, and I’ve rarely had to deal with anyone not liking me irl. Pretty sure he just ruined peoples games instead of going for ability draft, single draft, bots (are quite good in dota 2) or any other “fun/learning” mode. Lastly I’ve seen people play in unorthodox ways, but they usually had the decency to do it with a pre-made team.

  • TheVerdantFool

    What server did you play on :C I had an awesome time learning the game personally, and had at that point not played any mobas. I play on EUW.

  • kevlarkent

    I’d say that if you play normal mm in dota2 ppl wont be that “bad”

  • kevlarkent

    since i was already not bad at mobas when i started playing dota2 (played alot of hon before) i cant say how it was then at really low skill tiers, but from what ive heard its first close to 2k mmr (dunno if that tells you anything) that ppl start to get tryhard
    but id recommend watching pro games, that will increase your game understanding loads, if you want to get into the game

  • kevlarkent

    most annoying with dota2 is that alot of the players have never watched pro games so they dont know the real roles, and then flame me when i try to play the correct way
    dunno how much you know about dota2 but the seasonal ranked mm they introduced with this years compendium has helped alot with that though

  • kevlarkent

    that depends on how you define “treated badly” ive been called and called faggot loads of times, but that goes with the game
    the only thing that annoys me is when people who have less game knowledge than me tells me im a noob