How to Deal with Toxicity
Wed 6th Jul 2016 - 8:41am
Teamwork in online gaming can be an amazing thing, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the online gaming community. I can sit at home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and work in close, tight-knit cooperation with players from all over the world. A few days ago, during a bout of server issues, I was stranded in a pregame lobby: while the countdown clock stayed stuck at one, I had a fantastic conversation about the weather with a fellow player from Poland. Unfortunately, of course, these kinds of encounters are hardly what the genre is known for.
I think it’s important to establish two things immediately: First, the majority of interactions you have in Smite will be positive or at the very least neutral; and second, the ratio of poorly behaving players in Smite is much lower (in my own experience) than some other similar games in the genre. That being said, no game is free from the curse of unhappy, abusive, angry players that collectively fall under the label "toxic". That’s a label that isn’t applied without reason. A toxic player can poison the success of your game even more than lag or balance issues, and can’t be fixed with an angry call to your ISP or a patch. This being said, there are some ways to deal with the toxic players in your games, try to minimize the damage they cause, and bring your team together to win the game.
The first step in dealing with a toxic player is to go straight to the source. What’s so toxic about them, and why are they acting the way they are? Perhaps you’re dealing with a sore loser, who dropped lane to an off-meta pick and is blaming everyone but themselves. Or maybe you’re coming into conflict with a know-it-all, who’s absolutely certain that none of the rest of you have ever played Smite before, and is doing their best to educate you by way of a curse-loaded chat rant. Or worst of all, you might just be dealing with an unapologetic griefer, someone who lives to ruin other peoples’ day. If you can identify the source of the toxicity you’re dealing with, it can help you to deal with it as quickly as possible.
Step 1: Placation
As difficult as it may seem, it’s sometimes best to just grit your teeth and give the toxic one what they’re looking for. Is a teammate crying about a lack of ganks, even though you’re 5-0 and have been dominating every other lane in the meantime? For the sake of the team, pay their lane a visit, at least to show them you haven’t forgotten about them. Do you have an especially angry “Smite Expert” on your team, who refuses to leave the fountain until you change your unconventional build? It might be worth switching back over to standard. It often feels like giving up or giving in to the worst of the community when you try this tactic, and it doesn’t always work, no matter how nice or conciliatory you try to appear.
The reason this is such an important option, however, is that many toxic players aren’t habitual offenders, or in a constant state of rage; they may have just had a bad day, or experienced a losing streak that has left them tense and tilted. Often, this kind of player is just looking for a little bit of help or recognition, even if they’re going about it in completely the wrong way. The other significant thing to keep in mind throughout all of this, and the reason that toxicity is such an important topic, is that team unity is more important than individual gameplay. What that means for this scenario, then, is that it might be worth sacrificing a little bit of farm or taking a sub-optimal build if it keeps your team happy and working together.
Step 2: Silence
If being nice just isn’t going to cut it, consider running silent, and doing your best to convince your teammates to do the same. It takes two to have a conversation, and even the most dedicated troll or bitter solo laner isn’t going to yell into the void forever. Consider using the mute button to your advantage if they’re clogging your feed with angry comments. They may sulk, or even continue to hurl insults, but it’s important to avoid escalating the conflict; nothing will be served by angering the toxic player further. It’s bad, for example, to have a Bellona that jumps blindly into teamfights and fights to the death every time out of impotent rage, but at least that can generate some opportunities for your team with stuns or distractions. A Bellona sitting in base out of spite will do nothing at all.
This advice isn’t just about minimizing the extent of your losses: an extended argument can end up pulling in the entire team and causing all members to lose out on farm and objectives while they stop to type. I’ve seen previously sane players lose their head over an insult and stop in the middle of a crucial chase to hurl back some kind of witty comment, only to be turned on in a split second. Trying to reason with or debate your toxic teammates unnecessarily divides your focus and is just going to lead to more failures, and thus, more tilt.
Step 3: Active Sabotage
This is the last step to take, and also the most drastic. If you’re dealing with a teammate who absolutely refuses to work with you: feeding, running aimlessly around the enemy jungle, or blindly initiating into 1v5s, consider cutting your losses and essentially playing as a team of 4. Take their camps and XP; if they’re not using it, give it to someone who will. Don’t trust their initiations, even the ones that seem well-intentioned, and always be ready to pull back and leave them to their own fate.
If you’re going to write off a player and cut them off from the team, make sure you’re in constant communication with the members of your team that are actually trying; playing understaffed is difficult enough as it is, without a wild-card team member running through your backline and disrupting your plans. Look for ways to use your errant ally to your advantage, such as using their ill-fated split push attempt to take objectives on the other side of the map, or using their feeding as bait to draw out an over-eager enemy jungler and trade out kills.
From my experience, these three options, in this order, are the best choices for dealing with a toxic, rude, or angry player. Always remember to report a toxic teammate after a game, with a detailed description: Hi-Rez’s report system may work slowly, but it does work eventually. And always try to stay positive yourself. If you’re dealing with an especially problematic teammate, put on some of your favorite music or take a walk after a bad game. Good luck out there!
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