Great game, well done! – Positivity instead of toxicity
Ever since I started playing Overwatch I have put a lot more thought into in game interactions between players. Trying to understand what makes some games work well and what turns others into a completely horribly experience.
I’ve been a part of the online gaming scene for decades by now – and each online game that relies heavily on both competition and cooperation has some very common generall issues when it comes to player interactions. From flaming, trolling or throwing, from the most harmless sarcastic “wow, what a great games this is” message to outright harassment full of verbal violence, sexism, ableism and racism – I feel I have seen or even heard most of it by now.
And yes, I would definitely say this is an issue that every single game that has people playing together (mostly) anonymously has. BUT: Not every game has it in the same amounts. Some communities are more toxic than others. Some have actually matured. Some have not at all no matter how dated the game is. There are many studies about behaviour that try to look deeper into that topic and that is not at all what I am going for here. This is more of a personal impression I have had lately.
What I am most interested in at the moment is seeing how a community I am very much involved in and that matters a lot to me personally can change or at least be impacted in a positive way through actually pretty minor adjustments. I have talked about this with a friend of mine not too long ago when we compared gaming communities we’ve been a part of in the last 10 years or so. There was one thing that stood out: Positive reinforcements as opposed to a system of punishment seemed to be a main factor that actually shaped a lot of the community experience for us. She was comparing her years in Wow to her last 18 months playing mainly FFXIV and her words were:
WoW dungeon parties have a kick feature to throw someone out.
FFXIV dungeon parties have a commendation feature where you can praise someone for good work
And that’s the difference between those games and their players in a nutshell
-Anna’s friend who wants to remain nameless here
This is actually something that I feel I have experienced within one single game as well. The moment Overwatch got the commendation feature something seemed to shift in the playerbase. It has been online for a little while now and it has impacted the way people talk in game, the way they write in chat and even the way they play.
“Miss me with that bullshit fake positivity, I’d rather people be honest” is something I have heard a few times since the feature went live and I absolutely disagree. I don’t give a fuck about weather people actually mean it or are just nice because of the system – in the end if it leads to me having nicer games and better teamplay it works as intended! No one can expect Blizzard to give 2/3 of their player base a personality transplant over night. People are allowed to rage, to think their teammates could have done better and to be upset about lost games! How you vent those thoughts though IS important.
Take any work enviroment. Frustrations add up there too. But you know very well that you can’t yell at your collegue about what an incompetent person they are – even if it may be true. Instead you are taught to use constructive language or if worst comes to pass: simply to ignore the people you can’t get along/work with as best as you can. The same should apply to gaming but somehow the annonymity and the almost total absensce of social consequences brings out the absolute, unfiltered worst in some people. And in that a system that rewards cooperation and communication, however small, DOES HELP.
Of course it doesn’t change an entire playerbase over night. And even with this there will always be people who simply don’t care. But ever since Overwatch has implimented the commendation system I have had a vastly improved game experience, both in quickplay and in competitive. Surprisingly though it showed me another hurdle I had not thought of before:
In a game where people only speak up when they are upset the majority of players is actually not used to taking things at face value. A friendly “great team!” can very easily be missread as sarcasm. A “good game!” coming from the victorious team is quickly seen as someone gloating. Realising that over several days of play has actually changed my way of communicating in the game. In competitive I am always in voice chat – there I feel the moments of missunderstanding are rather rare and far in between. But even in quickplay with communication just via the chat things get easier if you change your approach.
And example from last night: Gibraltar Attack round, 4 dps have already locked in, the 5th person goes Mercy and someone writes “I guess no one wants to go tank?” My first reflex was writing “so why don’t you?!?”. Thankfully I didn’t though. Instead I wrote “I can go tank if you want, but we might need a second healer.” I locked in Winston and after a few seconds 2(!) of the dps went “I can switch.” And a 3rd one went “I kinda wanna try this Bastion strategy but I can switch to Brigitte if it doesn’t work, like after the first death or so?” And suddenly everyone was typing, planing together in the short minute you have before a game. I just suggested to try our 4dps plus Mercy/Winston for now and see how far we could get with it – because the general feeling of other teammates being willing to rethink if necessary was enough for me at that moment.
Did we win this game? We did! Convincingly. After an instant death of our Bastion and a short confusion where one player actually wrote into chat that they are not sure how to play with a Winston as the main tank because they ususally just have Reinharts in their game. I wrote down one or two suggestions that were short and easy into the chat on how we could tag team the enemies and whom to go for first if we see them – and it was an extraordinarily smooth round from then on. (And this is also the story on how I taught a quickplay comp the basis of Dive and it actually worked btw…) When we won, everyone seemed to be in a very good mood, people sending each other endorsments for good teamplay, shot calling and sportsmanship all over the place – and for a moment I was sad that I couldn’t enrose my entire team.
These kinds of games are still definitely not the majority. But they happen more often nowadays than they did a year ago and I for one am thrilled about it.