Everything You Need to Know about Toxic Gaming Culture

toxic gaming communitiesIf you have played any multiplayer video games online there is a good chance that you’ve had an encounter with a toxic player. We’ve all had those situations where we’ve fired up our game to enjoy a fun session only to be harassed and bothered by a toxic player. Toxic gaming culture seems to be on the rise with more gaming allowing for online multiplayer interactions. It would be surprising if an online gamer had never had an experience with a toxic player.

By toxic I am referring to any individual you meet in a video game who abuses and harasses other players. Perhaps they’re also engaging in activities in game that ruin the gameplay for all involved. This can include exploits, cheats, intentional team killing, and purposely losing matches. 

Have you ever been purposely killed by a teammate for no reason? You just encountered a toxic player! Someone shout bigoted, sexist, or racist slurs at you? You spotted a toxic player! Did you just listen to a teammate explain all the reasons why you’re the worst gamer on the planet? You encountered a toxic player? Did you join a team with another player who intentionally lost the match? You have come across a toxic player!

Toxic Gaming culture seems to becoming more and more normal across all the online multiplayer games. It’s not easy to battle the toxic trolls of the gaming world, but game developers are doing their best. Gaming companies are realizing that incredibly toxic gaming communities will keep potential players and buyers at bay. Knowing this game developers are building in more mechanics to curtail toxicity and reward those who don’t participate in the negativity. Hopefully game developers will hone in systems and game dynamics to the point toxicity will be minimized and positive dynamics between gamers will be reinforced.

Why are some gamers toxic?

There are numerous reasons why a gamer can turn to the dark side and transform into a toxic gamer. We won’t list all the causes, but here are a few answers to the question.

1) They are anonymous. The anonymity of the internet allows trolls to walk in the daylight. Toxic gamers feel like they can say anything without repercussions. If they feel like cussing out, harassing, or abusing other players they feel safe to do so knowing that no one knows who they are. Professional psychologists call this “online disinhibition” and define it as “the lack of restraint one feels when communicating online in comparison to communicating in-person.”

In real life (outside of video games) if you pulled similar antics you could be sued, arrested, lose a job, or face other consequences. Within the virtual world of gaming toxic people feel safe to be their true bigoted, sexist, angry selves.

2) Children (or immature, childish adults) get a kick out of belittling and harassing others. Broken people can get pleasure out of attacking and ruining the fun of others. You know what we call people like this? Bullies. Gamers can be toxic, because attacking others makes them feel better. It’s an insecurity issue, and they need help.

3) Gamers can be toxic if they lack humility and empathy. They can’t imagine being in someone else’s shoes. A toxic player can feel like they are the only one who knows how to play the game and this justifies their patronizing comments towards teammates. A toxic player thinks only about themselves when they install their hacks. Players who are toxic refuse to think how their actions and words are impacting others.

Examples of Toxic Gaming Communities

I have played a variety of video games for the past 20 years many of which have been online, and I can attest to a couple gaming communities in the recent years that seem to spawn toxicity. Here are a few toxic gaming communities that I have had to wade through.

Rainbow Six Siege online is highly competitive. It is a tactical shooter where two teams face off against each other. Both teams have an objective that usually consists of attacking and defending, and teamwork is imperative in the game. A single player can have an impact over the success or failure of their team. Unfortunately the mixture of teamwork and competitiveness brings out the worst in people, and I have had multiple experiences of toxicity in my short time with this game.

In a recent ranked match, I made a simple mistake on the first round that wasn’t severe enough to cost us the round, but enough to activate a toxic troll. In the next few matches he purposely team killed me, and started to spam text chat claiming that I had team killed him first! Of course this wasn’t true. He continued to team kill or wound me in the remaining rounds. The result – we lost the ranked match and the troll continued to be a troll.

this game is toxicOverwatch is one of my favorite first person shooters, but unfortunately it is a swamp of toxicity. Thankfully Blizzard has done a great job since the launch of the game to implement features that promote teamwork and healthy social dynamics rather than toxicity. With this said it is not uncommon to have a player “throw the match” if they feel like there’s no chance of winning.

In addition, Overwatch is notorious for being full of toxic players who harass others who either A) are not playing to high enough standard as they feel appropriate or B) choose a character who they feel is not part of the current meta. I cannot count the number of times that toxic teammates shouted insults over the microphone or through text, because I chose Lucio rather than Pharah or vice verse.

Are you a toxic gamer?

I believe that most toxic gamers know who they are, but just in case you are unsure, we have put together a few characteristics to help you identify yourself.

You may be toxic if….You Scream at Teammates

Do you regularly scream at your teammates? You find yourself yelling instructions and critiques? Is it fairly regular for you to tell a teammate “F*&% you!” If you answered YES to any of these questions than there’s a high probability that you are toxic. Nothing ruins a games atmosphere than having a teammate (or other gamer) screaming over the mic or text chat.

Screaming gamers are clearly upset and they want the world to know. This is no longer a chill game for them, but something that is so serious that they are willing to have a heart attack over it.

Screaming at a teammate is never ok. I can’t think of a single time I have had someone scream at me over the microphone, and I thought, “I like this person, and I love this game!”

You may be toxic if…you send angry messages after a match.

Rocket League is a creative and addictive game of soccer, but with cars. Unfortunately Rocket League has been known to have its fair share of toxic players. One of the real gems of this game is the ability to send messages to other players. If you have ever used the message function (in Rocket League) or elsewhere to curse, swear, harass another player than you just may be toxic. Pro Tip – leave your frustration on the field.

You may be toxic if….it’s always someone else’s fault.

This one is tough, because pride is a tricky little beast. Everyone believes that they are god’s gift to a particular video game. They believe that they’re one of the very best, and everyone else around them is a real newbie. If a match is lost or anything goes wrong there is no way that it’s there fault, and they quickly pass the blame to their teammates. They want everyone to know that they did everything perfect, and that any weakness or loss was another person’s fault. The worst part of this one is that when it really is someone else’s fault they love to really rub someone’s nose in a mistake. No grace in this person. Only toxicity.

You are toxic if…you use exploits and cheat.

Don’t do this. Cheaters and exploiters ruin games for everyone. It is selfish and destructive. Personally I am a huge Playeruknown’s Battlegrounds fan, but nothing makes me want to quit sooner than coming against cheaters. You are toxic if you use aim bots, wall hacks, speed hacks, or any other exploit or cheat. While you may think it’s fun, know that you are bringing frustration to people and literally ruining a game. In addition, you are damaging your own character and integrity as a human being. Have respect for yourself and others. Refuse to exploit and cheat in gaming.

You are toxic if…you purposely throw matches.

If at any point you sense that you have no chance of winning, and decide to purposely lose the game for your team, you can be defined as toxic. Video games are meant to be fun, and nothing is less fun than trying your hardest at a game only to have a teammate decide it is not worth it. Teammates who “throw” the game away and decide not to try waste everyone’s time. Who are you to decide when a match is over? Why play a game if at a moment’s whim you feel like it’s no longer worth it? Even if you’re losing, suck it up and play to the best of your ability until the end, because who knows…maybe you’ll pull out a win!

You are toxic if…you team kill.

Do you find a teammate annoying and think the best measure of dealing with the individual is by team killing them? You are now a toxic problem for your team. Team killing is never ok, nor is it fun for anyone, but you. Many times you’re team killing not only affects the person you killed, but also the entire team. I have seen a team kill force a team to play without a full team. Team killers are toxic.

Four Guidelines to Dealing with a Toxic Gamer

Ignore Them

Toxic gamers LOVE to get a rise out of those they’re abusing. They want you to make noise, get upset, and voice your anger. More than anything they want to get a reaction out of you. Utilize mute, squelch, or other video game mechanics to completely ignore them. Honestly this is the best thing. Ignore them and hopefully they’ll get bored and move on.

Move To Another Server, Match, or Location

If ignoring a toxic player doesn’t do the trick we recommend moving to another serve, match, or location. Remove yourself out of the situation. You may feel like you’re letting the toxic person win the battle, but you’re not. You are being the better person and deescalating the situation. It will be frustrating to have to move to a different location, server, match, but it’ll remove your from the toxic situation and put you in a better one. The worst is to stay around a toxic gamer while they spew garbage. It will only upset you more, and ruin your game time. If you want to optimize happiness during your video game session just leave and put yourself in a healthier gaming environment!

Don’t Seek Revenge

The absolute worst thing you can do is seek revenge. Toxicity is a nasty cloud that can infect even the most healthy of gamers. When that toxic teamkiller takes you down you may be tempted to get back at them by TKing them on the next round, but don’t do it! It will not solve the problem. I have never seen a toxic person respond well to revenge. Revenge will only add fuel to the fire, and they’ll continue to abuse, harass you. Secondly, when you seek to get revenge their is a high chance they’ll take their toxicity with them into the next match (or area) and continue on their path of carnage. They’ll only feel like the world is out to get them.

The best you can do for yourself and the gaming community is to not get revenge.

Report Them

Not every video game has a “Report” function, but if the game you’re playing does make sure to send in a report. It may seem like you’re just putting a single drop in a bucket, but multiple reports will show the game developers that there is an issue with an individual and that punishment should be foreworthcoming.

Toxic Gaming Culture Can Be Eradicated

Toxicity is an issue that every online gaming community must deal with. I honestly believe that with the right game mechanics and accountability toxicity can be eradicated from gaming culture. As game developers understand the impact that toxicity has on their game’s population they will work hard to create dynamic and creative ways to minimize toxicity.

I also believe that gaming communities as a whole are getting fed up with toxic players who ruin a game for everyone. In the past gamers would be ok with the toxic abuser, but that’s no longer the case. More and more do I hear people within gaming communities calling out toxic behavior for what it is. Gamers want to work alongside developers to get rid of toxicity and it is possible.

As a final note – if reading this article you realize that you are part of the problem than start working on yourself. If you’re a toxic bully within your gaming community pinpoint your trouble areas and make the necessary changes. Remember that your toxic behavior is affecting a real human being on this planet. It may sound cheesy, but apply the golden rule to your gaming persona and treat others how you want to be treated.

Secondly, act like how you would in real life. Yes – you may be anonymous, but if you force yourself to act and talk online how you would at work and school you’ll (hopefully) have better behavior.

Thanks for reading this article! We truly hope for a world where toxic gaming will cease to exist, and believe that it can happen. If you want more articles on gaming and health check it out HERE. Happy gaming everyone!


Lemon's the optimist at Hey You Video Game! Not even lag, bad game mechanics, or RNG can get him mad. Lemonsmith's favorite video games are The Last of Us, PUBG, Apex Legends, and Donkey Kong Country.

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