This morning I read a rather interesting article on Gamasutra that I wanted to talk about for a moment. Before anything else is said:
There is a link to the article, and I would HIGHLY encourage you to read through it and come to your own conclusions about the topic at hand. It’s a very interesting read overall, and I think there’s a lot that people can get from it.
With that being said, I personally disagree with the article almost entirely. To sum up essentially boils down to thematic issues and the culture that surrounds competitive games. Competitive games tend to foster a culture that encourages players to dominate one another, which in turn makes the players see each other as lesser. For games such as League of Legends, this domination behavior is further encouraged by the announcer celebrating these smaller victories with announcements like triple kill, or the saying a player is “Godlike.” In turn, this can lead to some rather unflattering displays of ego on the part of the players involved. They say things to one another to make someone else feel inferior or attempt to shift blame over to another player. At least up to this point, I’m at least partially on board but from this point on the argument breaks down a bit. Keith Burgun (the author of the article) then begins to argue that much of the issues with toxic behavior in games is a thematic concern. Besides much of this being simply the byproduct of competition itself the Burgun, shoots himself in the foot with some examples that don’t necessarily help his point.
Competition is something that frankly is ingrained in our very beings. It’s part of what has helped us develop as a species for better or worse. In live competition we actually have both formal and informal solutions for players being jerks. Formally, we have referees who are quick to punish unsportsmanlike behavior result in the player immediately being punished for their actions. Informal situations are typically among friends or family, and are inherently discouraged by the fact you will have to deal with these folks in the immediate future. Video games on the other hand don’t have that. If your friends are with you, they’re most likely on the same team you are, thus negating the issue. If somehow friends end up on opposite teams, behaviors change pretty quickly. The issue isn’t a matter of competition but anonymity and lack of immediate consequences. Some might say that League Of Legends at least has some form of this in the Tribunal, but besides the fact the Tribunal has been down for nearly a year now while Riot rebuilds it, it still lacks any immediate consequences for the player. The player is still permitted to finish the game, and if this behavior is infrequent enough they may get away with it entirely. This toxic behavior is directly a result of the fact that people know they aren’t going to be held responsible for their actions and even if they eventually are the impact isn’t immediate.
This is actually further reinforced by one of the examples that Burgun made to Team Fortress 2. Though Team Fortress 2 is also a competitive, violent game the community is actually significantly better than many places. This game is as violent if not more-so than League of Legends due to the spatter of blood and guts that spray out from a slain foe. Yet, the racist, sexist, or homophobic slurs that often populate other lobbies aren’t as present in TF2 as they are in other games. Part of the reason for this? Host booting. Not only can you be kicked out of a game, but you most likely will be kicked out either by the host or by a vote. In TF2 your anonymity doesn’t mean as much because you can just as easily be thrown out of game as if we knew who you were. In games like League of Legends this kind of system would pose a huge problem for the game itself. However, it does help to show that the issue is almost (keyword) completely unrelated to thematic violence. It does though have everything to do with a lack of immediate consequences.
This is even reflected in our society in general. People have short attention spans and they don’t like waiting for things. If its not happening this exact second then it might as well as not be happening. Same goes for punishment. A player thinking that they will be MAYBE punished a month after the game isn’t much of a deterrent.