Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be sharing some learnings dealing with chat abuse in Dota 2.
MOBAs get a lot of flack for having "toxic" communities. I see a fair few commenters and have a number of friends who would approach starting to play a MOBA with the same trepidation as one would have when tasked with finding a mood ring in amongst a swarm of bees. But never fear, I now have a few helpful tips to share. (If anything has worked really well for you, just pop your own strategies in the comments.)
There's an expectation of flaming, of abuse, of intolerance, particularly when you're out of your comfort zone in MOBAs. From my own experience it hasn't been bad with Dota 2, but I spent the lower levels of the game playing as part of a stack – friends and friends of friends which mitigates a vast amount of the potential for random flaming. I started playing LoL and the experience of learning solo (not many people I know play) was very different.
Mostly I'd say I've encountered players being frustrated at these lower levels of play. Sometimes it's by their own lack of ability in the face of an unfavourable matchup or lack of experience with a champion, other times it's with me or another player not knowing something – a ward placement for pub games or a timing for an objective.
The one which sticks with me was a game where there was a stack of three players, then me and some other person who I think abandoned almost immediately. The co-ordination and game knowledge from the group of three made it clear they were using smurf accounts for some reason. I was trying to help win (which we did) but it felt like I was being punished for actually being the level I was in the game.
I used an ability because I thought someone was going to escape and it was deemed a kill steal, I went over to help with objectives after some pinging on their part of the map and that was wrong too, and so on and so on. I did explain what had happened but the response wasn't positive. I have no idea if they made good on their threats to report me but it was an irritating experience and one which has stuck with me in a way that casual insults or abuse haven't.
The conversation came up again thanks to a recent post on the Dota 2 subreddit titled "Need some advice on how to deal with caustic teammates" detailing a similar experience but with the addition that the teammates deliberately left the player to die in some scenarios. Some of the advice on this thread and others was solid:
1. These people were jerks;
2. There's a mute button which is incredibly handy for silencing people if they're getting to you;
3. You also have your own options for reporting and commending players;
4. Hopefully as you progress you'll encounter fewer butts.
There are, however, a few extra things I have learned or which being insulted has taught me which I'll add here:
Rising To It (And Then Deleting It)
The urge to fight back or to explain is often overwhelming when someone starts flaming or accusing you of all manner of transgressions, in-game and out. I'm naturally less inclined towards pursuing arguments online but I still find myself occasionally smashing my finger down on the enter key to open up the text box and offer a stern rebuttal of all accusations.
Something I've found therapeutic is to type it out, wait a second and then just delete. It's because in that pause I take a deep breath and remind myself that the only way the game plays out from there is either with more baiting because it got a response or an extended back and forth over which one of us is wrong – more typing, less time playing. That won't work for everyone and there's still a risk you'll hit send. Maybe you tab out instead and type it into a Google doc or something where you're not likely to put it into game chat for real. But the act of getting the frustration written out helps me not to dwell on it, to just shrug it off when it's low level bother I don't deem worthy of a report.
I'll confess that very occasionally I will hit send and it's usually when someone's maligning my warding in a game where it's been constant:
"wards???????" asks the carry as we stare at defeat. "lol witch doctor u got no itmes"
"there were always at least two wards on the map" I can't help myself pointing out. "And that's why I had no gold for items".
I wish it didn't bug me but the apparent invisibility of vision is a frequent cause for insults of support players. That's why the next screenshot made my day:
The other type of message I'm guilty of hitting send on is when a teammate is having a tantrum and picking on a fellow player who really doesn't deserve it. I'll generally ignore what's directed at me but when it's sustained grief aimed at another person it makes me cranky.
"Maybe grow up and sort out your own positioning – they were trying to save you," is the short of thing that slips out very occasionally. I'm the insufferable uncle of Dota.
Oh. Also sometimes this stuff sneaks through:
Who Even Are These Fools?
I like a balance in my gaming. I play an awful lot as part of a stack – five where I can get it but smaller chunks of a team when not. It's more of a social experience with in-jokes and chat as well as strategising and killing. It's meant I leaned away from solo queuing for ages – why risk a game of instapick Pudges who don't know how to land a hook, Ursas who forget Roshan exists and Shadow Demons who time their Disruptions for exactly the moment you cast an expensive and important spell?
But recently I've been missing the freedom to experiment which I find in solo queue games. I trained myself not to care what strangers think because it makes it easier to brush off insults which do come your way, but that also means I find it easier to bring out new heroes in that environment. I've currently got my eye on Warlock and I'm more likely to take him for a spin in bot games and with random pub players than with friends who I might Let Down Terribly.
It's an upside borne out of learning to deal with something intensely annoying but an upside nonetheless!
It's Not Everyone
My own experience has been that rude remarks aren't constant, nor are they dished out by the majority of players, but they can stick with you, overriding the memory of all the other players – mostly quiet and neutral, just playing. They can also be incredibly unpleasant, adding in racial or homophobic slurs completely unexpectedly. In a match one person can leave nine others with a negative opinion of the game and its community.
To take some numbers from LoL, "we’re seeing this type of language [homophobia, sexism and racism] in less than 3% of games globally and when it does appear, it’s immediately reported by players and acted upon". They add, "less than 1% of players are so persistently negative that they trigger a permanent or 14-day ban, ranked restriction or even a single chat restriction".
But when you encounter it, it starts to build a tapestry in your head where the player base is repeatedly awful. I remember a blog post from 2013 when Valve overhauled the Dota 2 communication system and they said that "Losing a bunch of Dota 2 games doesn’t seem to cause people to quit. But one thing that did stand out in the data was the amount of negative communication between players. Put simply, you are more likely to quit if there is abusive chat going on in your games."
Something I've enjoyed, though, is that happier memories stick out too, particularly when strangers are involved. I remember the guys who tried to do impromptu tech support for one player who was having computer issues and kept having to pause. I also remember the person working in marketing who was working on a novel in his spare time and was talking excitedly during a pause about the future he was imagining where he had finished it and could leave his job. I remember the two people a few weeks back who I chatted with about a fantasy book series we all enjoyed while waiting for our death respawn timers to tick down. There was a guy yesterday who joined in a stupid joke about one of the other team's players being a duck.
They might not happen often but they're also really nice moments - silly ones and weird ones and happy ones which I like telling people about because they can go ignored in the face of conversations about "TOXICITY".
If It Is A Phantom Assassin Complaining
"fucksake noob team"
"no1 comes to help"
You can usually safely ignore these because the PA is just flinging out insults and blame like she would Stifling Daggers except she can't afford real Stifling Daggers because she has mismanaged her mana. She doesn't feel sufficiently babied (generally despite the team's efforts at clearing space for her) and is annoyed that someone has noticed she didn't get a BKB yet. But it is okay. Eventually she will come online, kill everyone and take credit for the whole win.