When I join in to a player versus player game – Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, even Guild Wars 2’s PvP – my biggest worry isn’t really how well I do, it’s how the other people in the match will react to me. This isn’t an article about how women who identify themselves as women (whether through voice-chat or feminine-coded gamertags) generally deal with more harassment in multiplayer games. That’s an entirely different, though important, discussion. Even when my gender isn’t revealed, there’s still a cloud of toxicity that permeates any multiplayer game – except for one, in my experience.
I remember when I started playing Dota 2. I had practiced against AI opponents for match after match. I had read numerous guides for beginners and read up on strategies to use for my hero of choice (Dazzle, a support hero – safe for beginners). According to Steam, I had put in about 15 hours of game time before I finally mustered up the courage to try a match with real people.
My first game went okay. I mean, I died a lot. Nobody said anything the whole match, text nor voice, even after we lost. “That wasn’t too bad!” I thought to myself as I queued for another match, “This is actually kinda fun!”
Unfortunately the second match was a bit more pernicious. I had the great luck to be the first to die in the match. Not that surprising, seeing as it was my second ever ‘real’ game. My teammates took issue with this. A voice swore at me and accused me of feeding the enemy. I didn’t respond. Instead I tried to get back in and do better. Easier said than done – the verbal harassment continued, calling me all sorts of names and calling my intelligence into question (to put it kindly). This spew was certainly not helping me improve my gameplay, in fact it was just making me play worse and worse. I was getting anxious and nervous about further angering them. I forgot to spend my gold on items and upgrades and accidentally denied my teammates’ kills.
To no one’s surprise, we lost. At one point I had tried explaining in text chat that this was my second game and was brushed off, my teammate saying that I needed to research more and stop bringing down serious players.
The toxicity and barrier-to-entry problems specific to MOBAs are, again, an entirely separate discussion. Instead, I use this incident as an example of why I love Hearthstone as a competitive game that does things right. In Dota 2 and other multiplayer games you have to go out of your way to avoid voice and text chat. When verbal abuse is so often the norm in these types of games, it makes you less and less inclined to play them. Yes, you could mute all forms of chat in the options, but these are often team games that require coordination or communication. Or if you’re like me, you find yourself leaving the chat on “just in case” people decide to stop being jerks one day. That day rarely comes.
Hearthstone on the other hand has no chat by default. Most likely this is because it is a one versus one game where communicating with your opponent is probably not going to add much. This small respite, though, is oh so welcome. I have loved card games since I was a kid – I grew up playing the Pokemon card game and spent my teenage years tweaking my Magic decks. It can be fun to test my skill against others but with Hearthstone being a serious eSport now I just can’t compete. Yet I can still jump into the game and play against strangers on the internet without worrying about being called an idiot, or worse – even if I do lose!
How do you feel about dealing with other players’ toxicity? Do you like Hearthstone’s no-chat approach or do you prefer to have a chat that you can mute as-needed?