Ah, online gaming!

The 21st-century sorcery that allows you to grind with strangers - or friends - that could either be twenty blocks or twenty miles away.

It sounds like the dream, doesn't it? Especially when you consider the fact that video games once used to be offline players moving a pixel dot around a half-inch screen.

But if you have spent a decent amount of time in multiplayer lobbies, you'll agree that online gaming is not the bed of roses that it's often touted to be.

With thousands of complaints being filed with game publishers daily, toxic behavior among gamers is fast becoming a hot topic in the community. While it's not been possible to pinpoint exactly why certain people choose to behave like subpar humans online, we can definitely agree that people do get harassed in gaming chat rooms. And it seems to be turning into a popular trend too.

But what exactly qualifies as 'toxic'?

In all honesty, there's no hard and fast rule for deciding whether a gamer's actions are toxic or not. Guidelines for behavior vary from game to game, so what qualifies as toxic on one platform can be considered as another day at the office on another.

However, this is not to say that this subject is a gray area. It is very possible to hear or see something in chat and rightly think, 'Hey, that's being toxic!'

One widely accepted way of defining toxicity is by isolating an action and assessing the intent behind it. That is to say, If a statement or action was carried out with the sole intention of attacking, bullying, or even undermining another gamer, then that qualifies as toxic.

Now, this is a pretty wide spectrum. It cuts across all forms of cyberbullying, racial slurs, misogynistic and homophobic rants, hate speeches, verbal abuse and depending on whom you ask, swear/curse words.

With developers like Blizzard and Ubisoft cracking down on their users to checkmate this growing negativity, you could argue that more attention is being given to this ugly trend - which is a good thing.

But is that enough to combat the toxic nature of certain gamers?

The answer? No. If it was, thousands of guilty users would not be able to fly under the radar to torment unsuspecting gamers. And then, there'd be no need for this article.

If we are to take a wild guess, you probably don't want to be on the receiving end of a string of obscenities and insults. No one does. So what can you do then? Give up gaming altogether?

While that's certainly one way of handling business, we hope that you don't settle for something so drastic. Why give up on something you love just because a few undesirable elements are ruining the experience for everyone else?

But we do hope that you read on to find our best tips on how you can combat toxic gamers online, should you ever encounter them.

Never Respond In Anger

First things first, you must remember to always keep a cool head. Always.

Brunette meditating on Brighton Beach, UK with arms outstretched
Photo by processingly / Unsplash

One trademark of anger is that it robs you of logic. It can jumble all your thoughts together, forcing you to stutter incoherently even though you have the perfect comeback lined up at the back of your mind. Not to mention, you could lose focus on the match you're playing and could end up becoming fodder for the enemy.

So you might always want to keep your emotions in check.

While it might seem tempting to just fly off the handle and let loose at the a**holes spouting nonsense from the other end of your headset, keep in mind that doing so will only drag you down to their level. And you know what they say about arguing with fools… you can never beat them at their own game.

Besides, what’s the point of getting into something you’ll be ashamed of thereafter, only to lose in it?

Don't Hesitate to Cut Them Off

There's only so much negativity a person can handle. And everyone has their limits.

Whenever you feel you've had just enough of a foulmouthed bigot screaming into your ear, feel free to use the 'mute' button. Sure, your teamwork may not be as seamless as it was before but that's a small price to pay for your mental health.

A good portion of gamers feel the need to act tough online and they often do that by invoking words you'd find only in a sailor’s dictionary. This class of toxic gamers is the least likely to listen to reason. So, you might as well do yourself a favor and cut them off entirely.

Be Lighthearted

Nothing deflects a mean remark like a good joke. Not some dark, twisted, possibly offensive humor. Just good old-fashioned jokes that warm the heart.

Pulling this off can be tricky in a hostile environment can be tricky. Why? Because you don’t want to come off as the class clown, neither do you want to validate toxic behavior.

If you must respond, keeping your words lighthearted is the best way to go. But even at that, you should also be firm. Let those on the other end know that you do not stand for their actions nor will you be their verbal punching bag.

Be that as it may, you should also learn to read the room. While some of the gamers you'll encounter will be open to correction, there'll be certain crowds on whom your words will be wasted. If you ever find yourself in the company of the latter, don't hold your breath...cut them off.

Pay No Attention

One feature of online gaming is that you get to play with people who don't know you.

It's important to remember that.

Sure, you may get paired with a real-life friend but that's usually because a direct invite to a game was exchanged. Most times, the people you meet in chat will be utter strangers. They would not have met you, and they probably never will!

Whenever you come across a stranger online who's being toxic to you or someone else, know that they are subconsciously referring to themselves. Rudimentary psychology suggests that these toxic gamers are only projecting their shortcomings onto others.

So, you should never take their words to heart or feel bad if names are being thrown around. If anything, you should feel pity.

Don't Be Afraid To Report

We established earlier that everything comes with a limit, toxic gaming included. Whenever you come across someone whose gamer tag is beyond racist or whose comments in-game are enough to make you cringe in revulsion, don’t be afraid to pull up the menu and report the user. Most people wait until they receive a veiled death threat or something similar but who says you need to wait until things get that extreme?

Gamer with headphones looking at laptop
Photo by Fredrick Tendong / Unsplash

However trivial your reasons might seem - which they probably wouldn't be - as long as you encounter behavior that's inappropriate, report it. It’s what the button is there for.

With any luck, the offending accounts will be penalized, possibly even banned. And as long as you are not making up stories or embellishing the truth, that's alright with the universe. Losing their hard-earned season pass and character skins might be all it takes to set these toxic gamers straight. Who knows?

Respond With Your Gameplay

Having a killer comeback is nice and all, but do you know what really shuts the bigots online up?

Carrying the team and earning MVP.

True, accomplishing this feat might really tick them off and cause them to boil over but at this point, the match is over. That means you can gleefully exit the game without worrying about being penalized. You’ll also feel a lot better knowing that you are a much better gamer than they are. Regardless of whatever slurs that might be flung at you, remember that no one else can define you. Only you!

Conclusion

There are many more things you can do to protect yourself from the toxic gamers out there. But it's even more important to make sure that you don't turn into one yourself, especially when you're losing.

Toxicity in gaming has reached dangerously high levels and if left unchecked, it might just ruin the community we have come to love. You wouldn't want that, would you?

Neither do we! That's why we are rolling out a platform to help gamers build their credibility.

With Street Cred, you can leave a review for any gamer you have played with. These reviews need not only be about a player's gaming skills but can also cover their overall personality, general behavior in chat, and your experience while gaming with them.

Your recommendations or reprimands are shared with other users on our platform. And this ensures that everyone knows who to add for a DOTA match if they need a Midlaner with mad skills. Or who to avoid if a particular someone has a sailor's mouth.

Neat, right?

To get Street Cred on your PC, download our platform from Overwolf right here.

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