Greedy Goblin

Thursday, August 3, 2017

MMO toxicity cannot be curbed

PUBG update: just 4 games, #76 ("yeah, it's against the strategy but it'll be OK"), #17 (idiot, left AKM on single shot), #13, #3.

The MMO toxicity problem is mentioned again, along with more bad suggestions. One would guess that if it could be curbed, someone would have done it already or at least shown some progress.

The reason why it's undefeatable is that it's completely misunderstood:

This is probably the biggest wrong in social science. It assumes that the people are aware of the norms of decency and break it when punishment is missing. This is an analogue of the real life legal system, where we rightfully assume that people would steal and rape without cops on the streets rounding them up. But stolen property and sex are self-rewarding, while retarded chatting is not. To solve this conflict the mythical "troll" was created, a person who somehow enjoys typing hurting words. Strangely, this mythical persona has no real world psychological description. Simply speaking: no one ever presented a troll in real life. If anyone is called a troll, he vehemently denies. The closest is a sadist who enjoys hurting people, but probably dumb chat is not the best outlet of sadism and also it's a pretty small deviant group to be everywhere on the internet.

3 years ago I've presented the "4 fun ppl" theory which says that the toxic people are socially inept and unable to realize that their behavior is annoying or hurtful. They are under the impression of being funny and sociable. They heard some friends kidding each other and mimic this behavior with strangers which is awkward at best, harassment at worst. With simple example, he saw a guy calling a close friend jokingly "nigga" and then look honestly surprised when he get banned after his imaginary internet friends reported him for racist slurs. His problem is that he is unable to see how this kind of speak is strongly dependent on social context. Another example: asking your girlfriend to send you tit pics when you are away is normal behavior (though pretty dumb due to how many people has access to your phone traffic). Asking random girls the same is absolutely not. How can they not see the difference which is obvious to normally functioning humans (and those who at least bothered to study them)? Because they are not normally functioning humans, they are awkward young men. There is a reason why archaic societies had very strict socialization rules, exactly determining when it is appropriate to ask a woman out and what ceremonies must be followed. These were abolished in the name of the enlightenment and freedom by the best functioning elites, leaving the problematic people in the dark. It's like a bunch of car racers deciding to eliminate speed limits because they are just dumb obstacles.

The other manifestation of the same problem is "righteous anger". While raging is an objective thing and anyone can see that someone is "mad", if we'd ask the "butthurt" person, he would say that he was violated and he is just confronting the harasser. The guy who calls the teammate "useless piece of shit" feels that his victory was robbed by the incompetence of that teammate causing a wipe. He also - at least implicitly - assumes that the other person should have known better to create the explosive situation.

You can't solve these by punishments, since these players are unaware that they did anything wrong, so can't avoid making the same mistakes again. At best you can remove every socially inept person from a game, but that would probably not contribute to the longevity of the game. So devs just look the other way, even when no corruption is involved.

What can video game developers do about these problems? Only removing the unclear social situation. The player in every situation must be aware what is expected from him, just like he is aware that in a line in the supermarket or on a crowded bus he is not expected to chat with the guy next to him. The root of the problem is that several in-game activities need a team of co-players that the game misleadingly telegraphs as a friendly social situation. Players who are not friends in real life and would never be are forced into groups without clear structure. As you don't have to love your coworker, you don't have to love your co-player either, but games do not sell themselves as simulated workplaces with exciting job of dragon killers but as simulated bars with friends. This is the root of the problem: your dungeon-mates or even your guildmates aren't your friends and if introduced in real life, you'd run from them.

Games must be designed in a way to make it clear that there is work to be done together with people they don't have to like. Shut up, kill the dragon, go home with shiny!


Hanura H'arasch said...

"Simply speaking: no one ever presented a troll in real life."

Of course trolls exist in real life as well, I even know one myself. The question is more why they're so much more prevalent in the online world.

Anonymous said...

"Strangely, this mythical persona has no real world psychological description."

There is a real world psychological description of people who show a "pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others"

maxim said...

About 5% people i met in my life are natural trolls, who enjoy deconstructing everything they find "too serious" with humour of varying levels of execution. They are also some of the most vocal people i met, easily dominating any conversation that doesn't have proper moderation. About a third of them wouldn't object to being called trolls.
About half of them are also immensely socially adept, much more than i will ever be. Somehow, they manage to troll in a way that's socially acceptable and get immense benefits from it.

So i guess i can't agree with the notion that there are no people who naturally enjoy trolling.

i do agree that games could do a better job communicating game goals and intended tone to the players. The only game so far i have seen that actually managed it is the oft mentioned Dark Souls, which both limits player communication to a few simple gestures and quickly and readily punishes any and all lack of in-game competence, occasionally with a sort of morbid mechanical humour of its own.

Anonymous said...

While I fully agree with the second part, games should indeed be presented as a fun activity that you do with strangers and not as a social place where you meet friends, I disagree with your statement that internet trolls are a myth. In various mmo, i've been in plenty guilds and in nearly every of them there were some people who were bragging and beeing proud of themselves for being trolls on forums ... They were perfectly fine inside the guild (with so called "friends"), skilled players in raid, but we could see that every day they would post bullshits and insults on forums, blogs, social medias, and they would link the posts in guild chats for their "friends" to enjoy. Yes they enjoy insulting strangers, saying bullshits ... when hidden behind their "nicknames" and explain this by saying that they don't know these people anyway.

vv said...

Nintendo have found solution. They just removed almost all ways for players to communicate in game in Splatoon. No communication - no trolls.

souldrinker said...

"Games must be designed in a way to make it clear that there is work to be done together with people they don't have to like. Shut up, kill the dragon, go home with shiny!" - this would remove like 70% of MMO audience and maybe even kill WoW.

So I guess, we better evolve toxic resistance, we'll need it.

Gevlon said...

@vv: that's an extreme form of signaling that it's not a place for socializing.

@souldrinker: have any study to back that claim up. Or are you just pushing the "social gaming" mantra that turned WoW from a rising star to stagnation and later decline?

vv said...

You can see other player's characters in lobby that looks like one of those "fashion streets". You can look at characters, their gear and see player's profile in Nintendo's "social network". I've seen that a lot of people choose gear by it's look, not stats. So it's some kind of socializing. But without direct communication between random players.

Esteban said...

Going to have to support Anon's and Maxim's comments here - the most unpleasant people know exactly what they're doing.

The genuinely dim guy in the WoW battleground spamming varieties of "omg you guys suck" once the scoreboard falls behind, and throwing out a few slurs to spice it up, is not really the toxic sort. Everyone knows that he's just frustrated and poorly-raised and few people really take him to heart. He's like a bad smell that quickly dissipates.

The guy running in circles in the corner of the battleground spouting racist and homophobic memes and alt-right conspiracy theories isn't a poor darling who just does not know better. He knows he's a troll, and he enjoys the power to make a handful of other people angry without consequences, both with his words and by helping his team lose.

And then, further down on the scale, you've got people like Erotica 1.

As usual, you underestimate the common man, both for good and for ill.

Gevlon said...

@Esteban: yes, he is a poor darling. He and his family probably suffered badly from liberal policies and he is too dumb to realize that his enemies are the liberals and turn at instead of the groups that the liberals like: sexual and racial minorities.

Erotica 1 was exactly one guy. Not really the norm, even by EVE standards. After all, he got banned for his crap (despite Falcon protected him as long as he could).

Anonymous said...

How did Falcon protect Erotica?

Gevlon said...

Refused to ban him when CSM brought it up in meetings. He was banned when Rippard made a huge scandal of it.

souldrinker said...

Gevlon, actually we have one of your very old posts as a proof - the one where you've found out that if you kill the 1st boss of Icecrown Citadel, you're among 15% (or so) best WoW players of the world.

If 85% do not bother to even enter the raid, I guess they do not want work in their game. (They have enough work in real life.)

Anonymous said...

You can remove the chat function, but retain a list of stock phrases required for gameplay + a few courtesy phrases