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“You SUCK. Surrender now and UNINSTALL, ****”

Chances are if you’ve played a game like League of Legends, DotA 2 or SMITE, you’ve probably heard stuff like this directed at you by angry, bitter players that seem more focused on fighting teammates than in-game enemies. The sort that make you wonder whether or not uninstalling the game might actually be a good idea. And considering that the above statement is adorably tame compared to what normally passes for “constructive criticism” in these games, I can hardly blame people for feeling that way. I remember back in LoL’s closed beta when everyone was a noob and the few players who were “DotA elites” were friendly, constructive voices rather than toxic screamers. It was a fun, new experience vastly different from the mega-popular eSport hit we know and love today. Featuring an emphasis on silly, cartoonish characters and casual play over DotA’s hardcore nature, LoL was once touted as a casual alternative to the other “DotA-like” at the time, Heroes of Newerth. But somewhere during the open beta, all that changed, and the floodgates were opened to a deluge of rabidly angry types that made me quit for more than a year after release.

The nastiness and negativity continues to this day, spanning across multiple titles and infecting previously friendly communities, to the point where every new MOBA, including HoTS, Arena of Fate, and Strife title tout “reducing nastiness” as a key selling point. I really wish I was making that up, but such is the world we live in, where overzealous competitiveness and frustration often And yet despite the above statement generally regarded as universally true of all MOBA titles, 99% of my SMITE matches these days are pleasant, fun and filled with teamwork and good vibes. Utter sorcery, I know, yet even when things get bad, I rarely have negative or nasty games these days. How so, you may ask?

I am Groot.

Wizardry at work.

“I am Groot,” I say while waiting in the lobby for a game of Conquest in SMITE. I’m playing Sylvanus, one of the game’s new heroes that rides around on a giant ent-like creature. That one joke sets the tone for the rest of the match, filled with generally positive behavior despite the generous ass-kicking we received from the other team. Though we lost that match, nobody was raging or blaming anyone else. In fact aside from getting ganked a few times, the match was reasonably fun and my laning partner and I generously exchanged VGS compliments whenever we scored a kill or broke a tower. Normally a game like this would’ve broken down into yelling and fits of righteous, keyboard-smashing rage and yet everyone actually seemed to keep their cool. And why was that, you may ask?

As someone who’s been playing MOBAs since the dawn of LoL (closed beta in fact), I’ve played hundreds of matches, some good and some really, really bad. And after, you start to realize what makes people tick in these games. For starters, a lack of communication almost always ends up horribly, and those inclined to “coach” their team often vent their anger in colorful and obscenely inventive ways on chat due to “the team not listening”. And while I don’t condone that sort of behavior, I can at least identify what triggers it and do what I can on my end to minimize any frustrations these players may have. You see, those Guardians of the Galaxy jokes weren’t just me screwing around in chat, they highlighted the fact that I was willing to communicate with my team in a positive and constructive manner. And by setting the tone of the game before it started, I was able to guide the attitude of the match to a much more positive place, even though the match itself didn’t end up working.

“That’s all well and good for you,” you might be thinking, looking at your LoL shortcut apprehensively and shuddering. “But every time I play, some jerk tells me to uninstall and quit! Why should I have to put up with that?”

And yes, while people worse than the “boss coach” variety of chat vikings exist, and they’re literally some of the worst people on the internet. I’ve often run into these people and despite trying to be as nice and cuddly as the goddamn Pillsbury Dough Boy, they continue ruining everyone’s day and punching fun itself in the face with their snotty, hideous attitudes. But here’s the thing: even in those scenarios, It still pays off in spades to be nice. Yelling back only fuels the fires and makes everyone (including you) look bad in the process. And yes, I  understand that it can be difficult at times to treat people who act like literal scumbags or mindless noobs with good cheer and pleasant vibes, but like all habits, it gets easier the more you do it, and the positive feedback you’ll receive  from most teammates is far more rewarding than “winning” any arguments at the expense of your team.

And while all this may seem fairly obvious, keep in mind that mouthy behavior and toxic attitude is still seen as a big enough problem to warrant entire game systems meant to prevent the ugliness. And while I’ll heartily agree that it’s an issue that can be dealt with by said systems, there’s a lot you we do on our end to put a cork in the nastiness. A quick google search for top-rated builds on Solomid or Mobafire can prevent people getting on your case for “not playing the meta,” and communicating with the team is always welcome and appreciated, as is warding often and calling MIA. Most of the anger stems from frustration at people’s apparent lack of interest in helping the team, so the more openly invested you are in being an asset to your allies, the less they’ll hate your guts.

I’m not saying this’ll fix every issue or win every game, but In my personal experience, getting angry back or even trying to harshly criticize “noobs” on my team has been utterly disastrous. And while I understand that people can be frustrating and off-meta or salty and hateful at times, being the calm, rational and dominant voice in chat will do a lot more to deal with those problems than calling someone a giant, throbbing ***** watermelon****ing , ****cactus.

TL;DR, be nice. You’ve got nothing to loose.

A.J. Moya

A nerd culture writer, gaming fanatic and devotee to the Great Lord Cthulhu, A.J. Moya also dabbles in fiction writing.

  • Jiří Dvořák

    I love Toxicity in MOBAs.

  • Red Lagoon

    Poor boy! Do you want a biscuit? Boohoo! People online are being mean. I started LOL before mid season 2 (before that I played some DOTA too) and I can tell you that the majority are still good people trying to help out new players with advises, that’s what the ribbons are there for. Also you can just mute people. The problem is that you guys (like other media) focus on the negative loud idiots instead of positive things and I understand; it would be pretty boring to write an article like “Those Thousands Games I Enjoyed In MOBA.” Who would click such an article right?

  • Jiří Dvořák

    But seriously, you seem young, how is it possible that you even care about internet assholes in online games? I mean, I understand that older people can’t cope with it, they are not used to it, and it may be a lot harder to adapt and ignore it for them. But it’s beyond me how “internet children” raised by online gaming, who knows the culture, who can feel the culture, could be offended by retarded players. I’m CS1.6 and DotA(1) “veteran”, which are games full of assholes almost by definition, and back then when I was active, no one was crying about how are people mean and what to do to make them less mean. Everyone was like “fuck, who cares?”. I and my friends always found it amusing. Like, some asshole is telling me to uninstal game or that I should kill myself? SO WHAT???

  • Chrome Elephant

    If you read the article, you’ll know that I specifically tell people to try and listen, even if others being assholes. I flat out tell people that if you’re being criticized in match for something, you’re probably doing something wrong unless the player is a raging idiot. “Listen to People That Call You ****s” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though. If people are genuinely looking for ways to handle toxicity, there ya go. Be nice and do your homework on builds/roles.

    But still, when EVERY NEW MOBA TITLE coming out touts some sort of brand-new system or mechanic for reducing toxicity, clearly it bothers some people. Just because you and I can deal with it doesn’t mean everyone else can. Not everyone “gets” how certain things work on the internet, you see.

  • Chrome Elephant

    Not everyone wanting to play these games has been gaming for a while. The people complaining usually aren’t “internet children,” or are, but haven’t played said games with communities full of jerks. I’ve been gaming for some time, so I usually find these people hilarious, but they can end up derailing a match if they get too salty. Being nice to your team on the other hand, has no drawbacks.

    Even if you’re a veteran, would you rather be in a lobby w/ people that listen and cooperate, or people that yell and scream and disconnect?

  • Wow, comment section’s a little depressing. Good article though, and solid advice.

  • Chrome Elephant

    Glad you liked it 🙂

    In all fairness, they do raise some points about people taking stupid comments WAY too literally. Problem is, all it takes to utterly DERAIL a match in LoL/DotA/SMITE is ONE guy incessantly flamebaiting and arguing with people.

    If it were say, TF2 or a goof server on CS, i’d say laugh it off and mute if it ends up offending you. Anything else would be silly. But when you’re playing ranked or need a good W/L ratio on LoL, not communicating positively is dancing with failure.

  • Yeah, having a thick skin can be important and useful when playing more lighthearted or “just for fun” games, but civility can be much more important when playing some of the more competitive games.

  • Kuroi

    I stayed away from mobas for a long time due to the toxicity. When i finally was convinced to try LoL I could definitely see why people tend to be toxic. While I don’t condone toxic behavior the very nature of the format breeds it. Games can take 45min to an hour and everyone gets punished for others mistakes. When you have to work 3x as hard to cover for someone else it causes a lot of resentment and frustration. I always strived to be positive, but man was it hard sometimes.

  • Chrome Elephant

    The key is establishing good vibes in the lobby and having MOBA/DotA/SMITEFire on your phone so you can look up top builds instantly. The nature of the format is team-dependent, so if you set the tone and are the most vocal, people will tend to follow your lead.

    This doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll win every game or that your team will be competent, but if the ship goes down, you go down knowing you weren’t the iceberg.

  • Chrome Elephant

    Also, you know what’s cool about those games? Private servers. LOVE ‘EM. If you really don’t like a server, don’t play on it. It’s really that easy.

    Crummy maps with anime/touhou garbage and Spongebob smeared on the walls exist and thanks to the server browser, I never have to see them. Praise Gaben.

  • Red Lagoon

    I can think only of 2 solution to this:

    1. Pre-rendered chat like CS 1.6 had back in the days “Go go go,” “Roger that!”
    2. A big mute all button.

  • Ahhh, yes. I enjoy stupid crazy bullshit maps, but only a very specific type of stupid crazy bullshit map, and any other type of stupid crazy bullshit will really annoy me. Glad not to have to deal with that.

    It’s also nice because that allows for more community experimentation with user-designed game modes, and allows the most interesting and fun ones to get popular organically because while playing them you think “Wow, this is great, I should get all my friends in here too.”