Discussion Opinion

Why There Are So Many Toxic Players Ingame

Toxic Gamers. Why Are They Doing It, What Types There Are, And What You Can Do To Counter Them?

No matter how often you play multiplayer games, no matter of your affinities (MMO or regular multiplayer), and no matter how many (or how few) multiplayer games you’ve played (or playing at the moment) you almost certainly had more than one session spiced up with toxic gamers.

They can be just loudmouths crying for some attention, they can be silent but deadly for allies (if you played Rainbow Six: Siege, you’re familiar with the problem), or they can just open the gates of hell every time they appear. In general, toxic gaming behavior has two things in common: cyberbullying and flaming.

What is Flaming?

Although the two terms might sound like being the same phenomena, they aren’t. Flaming is more, let’s say “mass targeted” behavior defined as “expressing oneself more strongly on the computer than one would in other communication settings” (Kiesler, Siegel & McGuire, 1984, p1130), with a message “directed with hostility at a particular person or people” (Raymond (1996). The behavior is often violent, including verbal expressions of hostility directed towards other people. It is directed at the whole group, more often than not; for instance, a random guy starts swearing at everyone while playing a game can be described as a typical flaming behavior.

Flaming directed towards an individual is less present, but it happens, like when you get criticized by other players because you’re a newbie, or when you perform below your teammate’s expectations. Although hostile towards other people, it is different from cyberbullying.

How is Cyberbullying Different?

Cyberbullying is targeted mostly toward individuals, instead whole groups. It’s almost always repetitive behavior, it’s intentional, and its sole purpose is to harm others on an emotional level. Definition of cyberbullying tells us that the behavior is “repetitive intentional behavior to harm others through electronic channels.”

From the definition provided above, you can make some conclusions between two forms of toxic online behavior. Flaming is a lot wider term, used to describe all sorts of negative behaviors, but flaming is usually expressed towards whole groups, it’s intentional, but the goal of flaming can be anything from desire to have some attention, to (relatively) justified expressions of anger towards players who lack in skill and who generally play not-so-good. But, when flaming becomes highly repeated, targeted towards individual, with a sole intention of harming other people, it is called cyberbullying. Let us see why people tend to express themselves in such negative way.

The Motivations Behind The Toxic Player


Firstly, one study gives us some motives behind the toxic behavior. Online communication lacks some social elements (like seeing the faces of other people), or in other words “Computer-mediated-communication through electronic channels without face-to-face communication lacks social psychological influences and can lead to more hostile interaction” (Blackburn, Kwak, 2014).

You see, when being in online environment, people tend to express themselves more freely, more extremely, since there are no other persons in their physical vicinity, there are no hazards, like the chance of getting beaten up because of having loud mouth, and there is no potential punishment except the possibility of being muted or kicked out of the game.

A Summary Of Why They Exist…

So, toxic behavior is present because there is no social bonds between persons involved (except if you play the game with your friends, or when you play a couple of games with strangers, after which some kind of social bond rises), because there are no punishment for the behavior, and because it’s easier to behave extremely if you’re behind a monitor, in a complete incognito mode.

…And You Can Counter Them

That’s all for the first part. In the second part of “Toxic Gamers” you’ll read about different groups of toxic gamers and ways of defending against them. Cheers!


Written by Goran Damnjanovic

A gamer and freelance writer, follow him on Twitter!