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.

Camping

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.

Trash Talking

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?

Boosting

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.

Postmortem: The Darks Souls of Game Reviews
Translating Tumblr: Doctor Who Sucks Edition
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III Strife
IIIStrife (pro­nounced Commander Strife) is a cana­di­an man aged 24 who most­ly draws nsfw de­pic­tions of var­i­ous fan/original char­ac­ters when he’s not busy be­ing lazy and play­ing games, or watch­ing youtube videos. You can find him on Furaffinity at http://www.furaffinity.net/user/commander-strife/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/IIIStrife
III Strife

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