There are many signs you’re a toxic gamer. They do indeed exist — but they’re not actually what most non‐gamers think, nor what parts of the gaming press like to allude to.
Video game communities are not as simple as those around sports, politics, or any other topic. Video games themselves are inherently a complicated medium, and like it or not, those who dwell in this medium the most, Gamers, are more or less as complicated as the games themselves… or they can be.
Here are seven signs that people think are the markers of a toxic gamer, but are actually not.
People have argued over and over about the versatility, use, role, etc. of Camping. Of course those who don’t utilize camping will usually find it aggravating to a great level, where some even hunt campers; while those who do utilize camping quickly find it to be a double‐edged sword when camping spots are widely known.
The concept of Camping has a place in real world warfare. Snipers employ a similar tactic, but those who live for long enough to gain renown only stay long enough in a single place to get a shot off.
No matter that, however, as camping itself is easy to combat, save for if everyone does it. Just act like the area where the campers are isn’t even part of the level, and avoid them. Nothing foils camping more than a camper getting bored. If you don’t like it, stop going where they’re camping.
Campers are not toxic parts of FPS gaming, but I have seen them labeled so. Most people may feel less confident in their skills, or have poor reaction times. Camping can easily help to improve this aspect for such people. Of course, campers are also a good reason most FPS games have tactics to deal with them these days.
This concept is something many gaming journalists and outsiders to gaming just can’t seem to wrap their head around. Seriously passionate players of a competitive sport use trash talking as an attempt to play mind‐games with their opponent. Whether you make them think you’re just some dumb kid with a big mouth, or you get them too angry in some form to play straight, trash talking is a tactic used to disrupt enemy performance. You can, of course, avoid this by simply avoiding PvP‐type modes in games, or choosing to play with like‐minded friends. Nowadays there are so many games that have no PvP aspects, co‐op games, etc that you can find on Steam. Pages of them, in fact.
Of course finding games of a quality that you will personally enjoy is all down to what you like, and how long you look, but theoretically speaking, there should be a game for everyone now.
Trash talking is not a blanket sign of being a toxic gamer. Even with specific language some might find objectionable, it is still context based. Sometimes an epithet is just the easiest way to put another player on tilt.
The only way to make trash talking less effective is for everyone to put less stock into what others say. At least to the point where you don’t get offended or angry due to what some random pubby says. Games these days also offer blocking and muting functions which should make this almost a moot point. Much like social media, you can choose who you interact with and have tools to empower those choices.
Pointing Out a Non‐Self‐Aware Noob
Now, before you type in the comments or tweet at me about how wrong I am, allow me to explain myself.
Noobs aren’t a problem on their own. Noobs are, in fact, a natural part of any game cycle, and we should be more kind and helpful to the fledgling gamer. However, there’s nothing more annoying than someone who is terrible at something, but who thinks they’re not terrible at it.
I mean the noob of CS:GO who reloads all the time, and then complains when the enemy kills them because they knew where they were. I mean the players who do really simple mistakes, but act like it isn’t their fault. Granted, some games have some seriously stupid design in them that from time to time that could be blamed as “not your fault” when it results in your death.
No matter how prevalent that is in a game, gaming has always had one underlying motto, though: admit you screwed up, and get good.
Admitting you aren’t good at something you enjoy doing is nothing to be afraid of or shamed for. In fact, you have to do so before you can ever begin to get better. Of course there are exceptions wherein a player simply plays so much of a game that through sheer persistence and blind practice, they get better at it. Like the artist who keeps drawing day and night, filling sketch book after sketch book until they get truly proficient at art, any gamer can get really good at a video game.
But people like DarkSydePhil, who think they’re the best in the community as a whole, while they’re really not, tends to lead to aggravation of those with some real skill under their belt.
It’s the main reason people meme on game journalists who show inadequate skill, as shown by in Polygon’s Arthur Gies and his Doom game play footage which looked like a drunkard, or Dean Takahashi who played Cuphead had difficulty executing a Jump and a Dash in quick succession.
People could use to be more self‐awareness everywhere, but especially in gaming; being the one to ensure people eventually develop this, does not make you toxic in and of itself, even if it means you look like an asshole or an elitist.
Insulting Your Mother
This is really just part of the second point, but I felt it was a bit important to talk about on its own.
The “Maternal Insult” as Wikipedia calls it, is played out like the following: “Your mom is so fat, Christopher Columbus discovered her.”
These insults, however, aren’t just something that cropped up around the 1990s in an extreme level of popularity with schoolchildren, but actually have much older origins.
The earliest example can be found in the Bible, in the Book of Kings 9:22, when King Joram is greeted by the rebel Jehu. The King had asked him: “Is it peace, Jehu?” And Jehu had replied with: “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?”
Or with William Shakespeare’s own Timon of Athens. The following is an excerpt from Act 1, Scene 1 of this play:
Painter: “Y’are a dog”
Apemantus: “Thy mother’s of my generation. What’s she, if I be a dog?”
This passage implies that he is insulting his mother by calling her a bitch.
Or how about in Act IV, Scene 2 of Titus Andronicus, where Aaron taunts his mate’s sons?:
Demetrius: “Villain, what hast thou done?”
Aaron: “That which thou canst not undo.”
Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother.”
Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother.”
The Maternal Insult isn’t something just gamers use. Much like certain epithets, it’s been used for so long because it is effective at getting people angry.
How do you fix the prevalence of “Yo Momma” Jokes?
Stop finding them so offensive and people will finally stop using them as they’ve been used for far over a thousand years.
Complaining vs. Whining
The act of complaining is, more or less, voicing an objection to the existence of an aspect of a specific thing, such as “The difficulty curve of a game is too severe”, or “Why are Starcraft 2’s Siege Mode drops a thing?”, or even “Why do Bethesda games crash so often?”
Only of course a complaint sounds more like… well… complaining. It’s not a calm statement of what you don’t like, but an outright opinion voiced with distress in most cases. Complaints are, however, no worse than neutral criticism, as a complaint is criticism.
Sure, it’s harder to glean truth from, but when you look at the target, you can weigh it and figure out if the complaint is valid, or if it’s whining, and that is, in my opinion, an important distinction to make.
When a player whines too much, that can be toxic without a doubt. There’s nothing really useful to a game developer in whining.
Even if it sounds like whining, the difference of whining and complaining all hinges on context for its validity.
Even a complaint like “X is Bullshit” or “Y is the worst thing ever” can actually be useful for a developer if there’s an actual problem with whatever is being complained about, even if there’s no real specifics attached. Of course, specifics always help, so if you complain about something you don’t like, try to be as descriptive of the problem as humanly possible.
Even a complaint voiced with a high level of passion, or any other emotion, can be valid. I’d like to imagine not all gamers, or even non‐gamers, who get angry at part of a game, only get angry due to poor skill. Maybe it’s a buggy hit detection. Maybe it’s down to hardware malfunction. Look at any Steam game’s forum which uses microtransactions, regardless of whether it’s well‐implemented or not.
Complaining requires the point you bring up to be at least somewhat valid, in comparison to something actually being “nothing but bullshit and assholes.” This doesn’t make you inherently toxic by any stretch. Any consumer feel free to complain when something bugs them.
Whining, however, is when the complaint isn’t valid, or when you have no specifics attached. This includes: complaining about something being bad, when it’s just down to your skill level not being sufficient; saying something is too difficult when it’s really more standard fare for similar titles; complaining that something isn’t to your liking, when all it really means is “You don’t personally like X thing, therefore it’s shitty and awful, but you have no reason to show why you don’t like X thing.”
Whining is more a toxic trait, and one we could really use less of. But complaining I don’t view as toxic. How is anything to improve if complaints are never made?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate these people as much as the next; however, Boosters are not hard to foil most times.
If you’re camping, of course you won’t like this, because that means there’s two or even more people you won’t really ever have a chance to kill with that tactic.
But boosters are not hard to find if you’re going outside of the usual paths people take in the environment. Boosters will usually be easy to kill once found as well, since if they were actually any good at the game, they’d likely just be hunting players, even if with one another in a free‐for‐all setting. They’ll be in places that are out‐of‐the‐way, and usually unoccupied for a majority of the game.
Boosters will usually either leave the game, or stop boosting, after being foiled quickly enough. That is how you deal with them.
However, I don’t think they’re toxic. Boosting will usually happen either due to people liking a game, but hating how content is gated based on how often you play versus how well you play; but it can also happen when players just aren’t good, but want to get high on that scoreboard.
Boasting vs. Elitism
This is something a lot of people tend to hate. The overly obnoxious people who like to think that because they played a game since its beta, or because they’ve played it for over 1000 hours, they know absolutely everything about the game, and if you state something that conflicts with their experience with it, you are immediately stupid, wrong, and probably a filthy casual.
Now before you hate on me, let me clarify: everyone actually does love the most skilled people. Those who speed run games mere hours after their releases, the grand master‐level players of Starcraft 2, the gods who dominate PvP in Dark Souls 3 consistently.
However, when you start to be obnoxious and in everyone’s faces about how skilled you are, that’s when the novelty of being the best begins to wear a bit thin. Of course when you’re at the top of the ladder, you do have that right to brag until hell freezes over, but maybe doing it a bit too aggressively isn’t the best thing, as doing so too much will usually make you look like an elitist.
You can be boastful of your skill and your victories without being an elitist, but when you have noobs who are self‐aware, but don’t really ever improve, and you treat them poorly in the context of “I’m far better than you’ll ever be,” it’s entirely possible people will begin to hate you for it, and therefore call you elitist.
It is possible to play a game for thousands of hours, yet not get how the game operates on a mechanical level. You can, also, play the game for two hours, and quickly get how many mechanics work. Understanding a game is, of course, only half of the equation when evaluating skill, and judging based solely on playtime or game progress may not always work out.
Elitism is very obnoxious in most cases. Sometimes it’s outright sad to witness. I just don’t find elitism to be toxic, though. It can lead to toxicity, but in and of itself is just a sign of confidence. It’s simply what you get when you have a culture that puts a massive value into proficiency and experience over all other aspects. Just keep mind of that line between boasting and outright elitism.
Conclusion — Gamer Culture
What made me decide to write this? I got tired of games journalists getting “Gamer Culture” extremely wrong almost every single time they write about it, even years after such some such issues should have been put to bed.
While this is only my opinion on it… I’ve been playing games ever since I was 4 years old, starting with the first Diablo, Duke Nukem 3D, and Starcraft. I think I can safely say that I have some level of experience on what gamers are really like due to experience, and what the problems with the community can be.
The term “Gamer Culture” has been thrown around more often than I care to bear witness to. Whether it’s games journalists citing one or two trends of behavior as a part of gaming community as a whole, or game devs complaining about mass criticism, the use of “Gamer Culture” has always been one thing: an attempt at lumping a specific type of consumer into one category by which all can be judged, defined by one singular, oversimplified example.
These attempts, however big or small, simply won’t work anymore; they are not valid. Gamers come from all walks of life. CEOs and entrepreneurs, retail and fast food workers, engineers and professors, soldiers and cowards. A “Gamer” isn’t a black person, a white person, or any of these specifically. Literally anyone can be a gamer.
Gamers have more tactics than most to get into the heads of their opponents, but it’s not even about mind games most times. It can be about understanding of mechanics, or the game’s internal rules, the existence of gaps in those rules, the existence of specific glitches and then manipulation of those glitches. It can be a simple matter of cooperation with your allies, whether you support one another through focused silence, or through formulating a plan in team chat. Cheap tricks, extreme skill, teamwork, and even more are at the tips of a gamer’s fingers when playing a game.
Being a person capable of sentient thought and the manipulation of some kind of peripheral, whether you play often or you play casually, are what define you as a gamer. Anyone can play a game and it’s easily possible for anyone to find, or even create, a game that they enjoy.
What gaming culture is really all about is passion, creativity, imagination, skill, and most importantly, fair play.
And that is what people can’t seem to get about those who play video games as a hobby, career, or even a loosely played source of entertainment once every couple of coffee breaks.
It has nothing to do with agendas, politics, or religion. Your feelings, beliefs, and physical traits mean nothing. Like in mostly anything, all we “gamers” really care for, is how you play, how well you play, and to provide context to it all, we care most of all about how you act and carry yourself whilst doing all of the above.
If it bothers you that gamers don’t or likely won’t care about your opinions, feelings, beliefs, thoughts or appearances, and this prospect irks you to the point that you’ll write think pieces about how gamers don’t matter, and treat gamers in a rather insulting manner when they’re also your audience too out of faux outrage, or whatever poor reason you have…
Then it’s entirely possible you’re in the wrong line of work.