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The Innate Nature of Online Toxicity


Human beings are a toxic species. We like to troll, we occasionally like to bring others down, and for the love of God, we love to t-bag. Halo 3 is my personal first of countless games to be accused of that sin. 

Where there is an online component, there are trolls. Where there is a competitive game with one side pitted against the other, there are obscene Xbox Live voice and chat messages claiming that my mother had an affair or that I was, to my surprise, adopted. And how could I forget this – where there is a crouch button, I can confidently say that it will be utilized for bouncing an avatar’s invisible ballsack on a dead player’s chin. 

Online toxicity is not a new concept. It’s been here since the earliest days of online gaming, and it does not intend on leaving in the near future. It’s a phenomenon that spans across all gaming platforms, whether you play with a controller or a mouse and keyboard. 

Halo T-bag
Ahh, Halo 3 t-bagging. How I don’t miss you.

I can almost guarantee that every single person who takes the time to read this has trolled and has been the victim of trolling. There are several YouTube channels and subreddits that exist and thrive because of trolling, and the inevitable rage montages that spawn from said trolling. To clarify, one who willingly decides to be a troll is toxic in nature, yet those who also fall into an abyss of rage due to said trolling can also be classified in that toxic category. It’s a community of toxicity that is both entertaining to view from afar, yet also incredibly frustrating and disheartening when the crosshairs are centered on you. We all commit the sin of laughing at the expense of others because, well, it’s funny if someone smashes their table when they die or practically swallow their mics as they spew expletives at their assaulter. 

Let me set the scene for you. There I was after a long day of unemployment due to the COVID-19 outbreak – I decided to call up some buddies and squad up for a few Valorant matches. For those of you who are relatively absent from the competitive gaming community, Valorant is Riot Games’ new hero FPS with an intense focus on hardcore gunplay and communication. It’s similar to CS:GO in the shooting, map navigation, and short time-to-kill department, but also unique in its own respect. The overwhelmingly punishing nature of the game unsurprisingly sparks many instances of pure rage, inadvertently attracting the trolls who lurk in their parents’ basements. 

Thinking Valorant is free of trolls? Think again.

Now to recollect myself after that brief exposition. There I was, minding my own business, squading up with a few friends and one random, cleverly named “Spongebob SquareBOOBS”, for a match. A few rounds go by, and we’re down by three. A bad position, of course, but relatively easy to bounce back from in this game. Frustration sets in amongst my team, name calling begins, backseat driving takes its toll and we find ourselves in the second half. Our one random teammate, no older than a twelve-year-old, prepubescent lad, has taken offense to my friend’s rather colorful vocabulary in response to the team’s performance. In Valorant, one uses their heroes’ abilities to both block off sight for the enemy as well as to sneak in a few damage points. Unfortunately, “SquareBOOBS” decided to use his abilities against us – severely depleting our health points and leaving us in an overall vulnerable position at the start of every round. This happened for a total of fifty-minutes until the match ended. The game has a report system that lists various accusations like leaving the game/AFK or cheating, but Riot doesn’t seem to focus their attention on this minute issue. This is a brand new game still trying to find its community in a world of IPs whose mechanics that it has borrowed heavily from, but it’s no surprise how fast the trolls have gathered. 

Contemplating the nature of online toxicity has me questioning its reasons for existing. Is the idea of toxicity appealing to some? Sometimes I go on YouTube for one purpose and one purpose only – to watch streamers rage on the game that I am playing at that time. Personally, it minimizes my frustration with the game by showing me that these people – sometimes professionals paid to be good – also experience the very same frustrations and annoyances. It helps me to analyze what they did wrong so that I won’t do the same. I’ve also come to understand that sometimes a viable tactic to diminish toxicity is to combat it with the same level of toxicity. Just been t-bagged? Well, win the next round, and rub your sweaty balls back on their faces, and to spice it up further, maybe add a “gg ez” in the /all chat. A little backhanded sportsmanship never hurts. 

Gamers in general handle toxicity in their own ways. Popular Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins tends to scream and accuse those who have killed him to be stream sniping, while Summit1G takes a more comedic approach to his frustration. 

Even the professionals have their moments.

Online toxicity is no new practice – it’s been here since the beginning, and it’s here to stay. Will we ever see a day without t-bagging if the game includes a crouch button? No, probably not. The real question is, do we want to see that day? Sure, being on the ballsack side of a t-bag is both infuriating and humiliating, but when viewed from afar it’s a completely different experience. To answer that question, no, I think t-bagging is hilarious and a necessary part of competitive gaming. Once toxicity crosses over the boundaries of race and sexual orientation, only then does it fall into a gray area. Attacking someone because of their skill level is one thing. Attacking someone for personal reasons is a whole different beast, and should not be condoned by anyone, player nor developer. This explains why Infinity Ward is doubling down on banning racist usernames on Call of Duty

Some games are worse than others (I’m looking at you CS:GO and Overwatch) when approaching the topic of toxicity, but it’s important to note that acceptance of its existence and persistence is the only way to overcome it.                              

Nicholas Farinola
Nicholas Farinola
Professional [tbd]
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