The toxicity of the gaming community

Dota is one of the best games I have ever played. Unfortunately, it is a team game and the community is rife with unpleasant players.

In a gaming community of 10.7 million people, you would expect some bad eggs whom you might encounter from time to time. As you climb the skill ladder, you see less and less of them, and everyone generally enjoys themselves near the top. However, Dota’s sulfurous members permeate both the low and the high skill margins. In fact, there are more delinquents at the higher skill levels, as if being one makes you a better player.

The community has a malevolent, casual air of sexism, racism, homophobia and elitism. It is cool to incessantly mock the one girl on the team to the point where she abandons the game. Peruvians and Russians should be permanently banned for generally being bad at the game, and slurs directed at anyone are commonplace. Calling someone you do not like a homophobic slur is the status quo of online gaming. Losing has never and will never be your fault because you are the best non-professional player in America; blame your team.

I have muted well over 200 of these people in my past 400 games, and I have played 2500 games (I am not addicted, I swear). Several times, I have had to mute all nine other players in a single game. They are so prevalent that matches are oft won not by the more skillful team but by the less dysfunctional one. I should not have to proscribe hundreds of people every few months to have a chance at enjoying a few games.

Much of the Dota community spills into the Twitch community, and anyone who has stepped into a popular Twitch chat for three seconds knows how dumb hundreds or thousands of anonymous people will act. It was those three seconds of reading the comments one day that made me realize that most of these players aren’t actually consciously terrible people.

Unless those thousand commenters were assembled from the remorseless scum of society, they simply copied and pasted the racist remark that someone else had said earlier, adding convoluted Unicode emotes to make it their own. They are not all terrible people. They are all people terrible at choosing role models.

Some truly are sadists and play games to ruin others’ fun, and some legitimately have a problem with people different than they are. Others think those kinds of people are cool, edgy, politically incorrect. I mean, that one person got a thousand people to copy his or her ephemeral comment after it whizzed by like a raindrop signaling a torrential downpour.

However, that empathy-lacking acid rain wears on others and erodes them emotionally. One drop is not enough to corrode the Acropolis in Greece just like one comment is not enough to make anyone care.