So, how do we treat each other well online?
I ask this question earnestly. If there is a solution to people being crappy to each other online, then I don’t know what it is.
On the other hand, people are crappy to each other in real life. It would be weird if our online lives were somehow more sanitary.
There are two subsets of the Internet that are frequently labeled as places where people are unkind to each other, or “toxic,” in Internet parlance. The first is on forums, which have generally responded by giving moderators the power to remove certain kinds of comments.
The second is in videogames, where moderation tends to happen after the game is over. People get warned, and later banned if their behavior persists.
I wonder if there’s a way to improve the situation.
Well, probably not without utterly changing how humans work. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try.
While I’m not exactly the most level-headed person myself, this is an area that I can look back and say I’ve grown in. I’ve learned some tricks that might be useful in different online gaming contexts.
But, first, let’s take a look at why people rage online.
I won’t pretend to be able to give you a percentage here, but I think this holds true in almost all situations. People get mad in videogames almost exclusively after they make a mistake.
This causes problems in team games because it’s sometimes hard to isolate which action one took that was the mistake, but furthermore, it’s often hard to isolate one’s own actions from those taken by one’s teammates.
Since players lack objectivity towards their own play, and also towards other’s play, they tend to rate their own performance more highly than they should, while also rating their teammates play more harshly.
In the moment, that means that someone who has just made a mistake is likely to lash out at someone else in their frustration. Even if they are somewhat introspective, the one mistake they know they made is outweighed by the many that they saw their teammates make.
Which means that the rage is sometimes justified, even if it isn’t useful.
But not always.
So, what can you do to be less ragey in-game?
There are a couple of things that have helped me immensely.
The first is to think of every game as part of a larger learning process. With this mindset, setbacks seem less bad, as you’re not playing to win now so much as you are playing to improve, which will mean that you will win more later.
When you’re doing this correctly, it means that you will be more forgiving of yourself.
Messed up? That’s okay, no need to be frustrated. You’re here to learn and learning involves making mistakes.
This mindset also invokes sympathy for the other players in the game. Did they make a mistake? Cool. That was a quality learning opportunity. If they don’t take advantage of it, that’s their loss, but that’s nothing to get upset about. Some people are slower learners than others and yelling at them isn’t going to speed up the process.
Obviously, you can only control yourself. But if you can do that, you’ll have a much better time in your games.
So, what should you do when one player on your team is mean to you?
Stay absolutely silent.
I’m not joking. If they start raging at you, they very best thing you can do is say nothing back. Almost every time I’ve done this it’s worked out really well in two ways.
First, ignoring it means that you keep a level head. Their rage shouldn’t mess up your ability to play.
Second, it builds empathy for you from your teammates. Since the angry person keeps hurling insults at you which apparently have no effect, they begin to doubt that there’s any substance to them, which in many cases, there’s not any to begin with.
It’s important that you keep open lines of communication with the rest of your team. Complement them when they do well, discuss strategy when necessary, and do your job to the best of your ability. Often when a person rages at you for a while and you don’t respond, they’ll eventually get bored and start raging at someone else.
Normally, this would be a problem, but you’ve already shown the other people on your team what to do: ignore the rage. And since they’ve already established themselves as someone who rages for raging’s sake, since you didn’t respond to them, your teammates will likely not take them seriously.
Finally, what should you do if someone starts raging at one of your teammates?
Videogames are mental games. If one of your teammates gets off-balance mentally, there’s a good chance they might throw the game on their own, or bring down everyone else’s mental state.
So, if one of your teammates starts raging at another you’re in a really delicate position. The rager, already on tilt, is working to make another of your players equally tilted.
How do you counteract this?
You have move fast. After the rager starts blaming someone, you need to get in before the ragee can respond.
Be vague but upbeat.
Start with something like this:
“Dude, chill. We still got this. Don’t worry.”
Many, many times, that shuts them up. If it doesn’t, it reveals to your teammates that they’re going to rage no matter what—and people are smart enough to ignore people like.
I’ve tried reasoning with them, I’ve tried telling them they’re wrong, and I’ve tried defending the player in question, but none of these things work. You can’t reason with angry people—the part of their brain that would normally respond to that is overwhelmed by the strong emotion.
So, I hope I’ve said some things that will help you in whatever game you play. While it can be hard to master your own emotions, changing your mindset will help you have a better experience in games, and should also increase the rate at which you improve.