Gaming Toxicity – What’s Next?

I’ve talked about this one at length already but it bears repeating after recent events.  There are a lot of asshats in the gaming sphere and the level of anonymity that the internet provides is a cloak they abuse.  The concept of privacy on the internet is something we’re eventually going to have to give up (or have already if you pay attention).  The advent of social tools without the social skills to use them makes for a mess of a time.  This is still the Wild West and the sheriff is more or less whoever wants to wear the badge.  There are many countries that are making changes to their laws to make people accountable for their actions on-line – the UK is the most advanced in this (but also has amazing trolls).  Canada is getting better but the US is like a ballpit of dumb when it comes to this – in particular around their understanding of what Free Speech actually means in a legal sense.

And let’s be clear about this.  Reasonable people saying reasonable things don’t get attention.  It passes the logic test, and we say “they’re ok”.  It’s the people on the extremes that get attention because what they say makes little sense.  So you end up hearing the 1 idiot spouting stupid (and we getting dumber for hearing it) and the moderate voice that counters it is barely heard because everyone is arguing against dumb.

Never argue with an idiot; they’ll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. –

Back to the gaming world now.  League of Legends (LoL) is making a few changes to their system.  You might remember them from the concept of tribunals a few years ago.  A group of (volunteer) players who act as a council to vote on players who have been reported for bad behavior.  They assign bans or time outs or what-have-you, based on in-game logs.  The recidivism rate is actually surprising, with something like 90% of them never coming back to the tribunal.  But let’s make no mistake here, with the millions who are playing, there are still many who cause issues and the penalties are currently very black/white.

There’s an old story about UO and the Trammel split, where Origin at the time didn’t understand the problem with griefers and the open PvP plaguing the game.  If you recall, it was not a terribly complex thing to lose your house to a greifer, people would stack bag and bags of crap to hide their keys so that the PvP looters would take forever to find the right one.  The concept was as this “a griefer is one who costs you more money than they pay”.  So you might make $15 on that griefer but if they cause 2 people to quit, you’ve lost money.  And UO was losing money.  I am not saying the split was the right choice (in fact I would easily argue other things could have been done – I was a noto-hunter in the day, which could have been a much more elegant solution) but it was a hard solution to a very large problem.

XBONE has a reputation system of 3 tiers.  Regular, borderline and scumbag.  Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.  Regular and borderline play in one bucket, scumbags play in another.  Your rating decays over time so you can come back to the clean area.  I haven’t seen any reports on this program since launch mind you…

LoL once again.  They are implementing a new type of penalty where poorly rated players can no longer play ranked games.  Ranked games have rewards, they are seasons, they allow you to join the professional circuit.  It’s pretty similar to the XBONE solution except that non-ranked games are where the casual players are found.  This is really putting the wolf in with the sheep, when you look at it from the outside.  I’m sure there’s some thought as to how this can impact the bottom line but it’s rather clear that the bad players need more types of punishment.  I’m guessing the matchmaking process aligns no only your skill level but your player reputation, which should make it fun to watch from the outside.

I know Hearthstone’s approach to this is to not allow chat at all.  Just some basic pre-canned messages.  People will quit before losing, which is another topic.  When Heroes of the Storm does launch, and as with all Blizzard items attracts DragonSoul to complain/grief, I am extremely curious as to their plans for managing that issue.  (And yes, I realize I’m avoiding the SC2 scene, which is arguably pretty tame).  Once we get passed LoL into Blizzard casual-land, I’m of the opinion we’ll have reached a gaming crest of toxicity management

4 thoughts on “Gaming Toxicity – What’s Next?

  1. There is a huge difference between removing anonymity vs what you went on to describe, which is letting players police each other. And categorizing a country by its internet postings (what are you basing those sweeping judgements on anyways?) is like judging a games merit based on forum posts, which represents a tiny population of the player base. Like XBONE and LoL is doing now, these are the small steps needed to get internet communities directed towards a less hostile environment. The problem with having real names attached to what games you play is obvious if you think about it.

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    • The country info is based it on the number of court cases that end up with a judgment. That’s not terribly complex to find references to. It’s important realize that there hasn’t been a single person convicted in the US for online harassment? And that the UK, Canada, Japan, China and quite a few countries have legal offices that deal specifically with this issue. The US, being one of the largest internet/gaming presences in the world is objectively trailing the leader pack.

      That aside, you’re right in the difference between giving people the ability to police and simply shutting everything down (which is quite well related to the UO example – they went overboard in the shard split). Blizzard’s RealID fiasco is a good reminder of what not to do.

      I think the XBONE and LoL have good systems, if still lacking if full maturity. They are miles beyond what we had just a couple years ago.

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      • Thanks for the response regarding court cases – didn’t even think to follow the thought process past some asshat sitting beind a keyboard. I am pretty sure all the assholes in gaming are either poorly supervised children or a loud small percentage of adults. But with employers doing Facebook and Internet searches of interviewees, there is a reason why people are using pseudonyms on FB now. And with the environment being so judgmental who knows if my 400hrs of Grand Theft Auto played time won’t be held against me in the course of a job search or attempt at political station? I personally know 3 people in my department who were FIRED because one of them – the guilty party never confessed – had written a 3 word racist comment in their report but all 3 were on the same run. This is why I’m a little sensitive when someone comes along to add another ‘card’ to the pile that can be dropped which will end up 1-shorting a career or chance at one.

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      • I’ve heard similar stories, hence why I don’t use Facebook any more. The general lack of security and ease by which you can be associated with oddballs (friends of friends) makes it a dangerous card in my line of work, where security checks are very deep. The other side of that coin, discrimination based on your on-line persona, is another thing that’s very immature. Canada has had a few high profile cases where people were dismissed because of on-line actions (while acting on their institution’s behalf) and there have been cases of wrongful dismissal for the same. Lawyers are making piles of cash here and few of them even understand the issue.

        Here’s a link to a guy charged with online harassment (among other things) who lives like 10 minutes away from my place that dates from a month ago.

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