Day 185: Toxic Ain’t Just a Britney Spears Song

As you may have gathered by this point, I’m a bit fond of the Overwatch.  It’s a sign of just how much I’ve played that game that I’m already anxious for new maps and heroes barely a month after the initial release.  In the meantime, it’s been fun getting back into online multiplayer gaming.  Though I had a very lengthy Quake and Diablo phase years back, I’ve mostly been one for single player experiences that I can tackle at my own pace (well, until this year).  I keep weird hours and I’m not super great at human interaction, so it was for the best.  It wasn’t until Overwatch came around that I suddenly felt the compulsion to dive back in.

It’s been a good time.  Though I spent a week writing up guides and such, I never really gave my overall thoughts on the game.  Though I’ve had FPS fatigue for a while, the focus on positive reinforcement and teamwork stood out to me.  It didn’t matter if I was terrible, the game wasn’t going to go out of its way to announce that.  Kill-death ratios were rendered obsolete.  It was, unlike so many other games of its type, welcoming to a new player.

And then Competitive Mode happened.

Well, sort of happened, since we’re barely a week in and the general consensus is that it’s a dumpster fire; the ranking system is busted, players are punished if teammates leave games, and the playerbase itself is full of… shall we say “unpleasant people”.  Suddenly, all of that good will and positivity seemingly went out of the window, giving way to a toxic environment that even some of the better players I know have given up on.  Golden guns simply aren’t worth the hassle.

If one were to visit the Blizzard forums right now, you’ll generally see two kinds of threads; those complaining about how bad Competitive Mode is and those complaining about toxic players.  In the latter, you’ll most definitely see opposing viewpoints along the lines of “get thicker skin” or “ignore it”.  Whilst I’m certainly not a stranger to trash talk, I’ve been told to end my own life approximately a dozen times in the past two weeks.  Call me thin-skinned if you’d like, but defending behavior like that seems silly to me, especially when it leads down a path of absurd victim blaming that starts to look unrecognizable as something that can be produced by a human.  There is no rationale for telling a teammate that you hope she gets raped.  I don’t care if she didn’t play up to your standards.  I don’t care if she sat in one place, literally never pressed a button and got the entire team killed over and over.  You’re still a shithead and you should be banned.

I’m someone that loves video games (obviously), but they’ve never been more important to me than human decency and they never will.  The common response is, understandably, that these things will never change and that terrible and immature people will always be around to poison the well, but maybe it’s that very attitude that enables them, the knowledge that most people, at their core, simply don’t want to rock the boat or bother with reporting because they don’t think it matters.  Even before I started writing this, I knew I wouldn’t be able to offer some sort of revelatory solution, but the idea that abuse is something that should simply be tolerated, that it is somehow the fault of the target for not wanting to put up with it, makes me irrationally angry.

I don’t play games to be angry.  I certainly don’t play them to find new ways to be disappointed with people.  I get enough of that in the real world.

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