“My Team Sucked” — Denying Good Play In MMOs

I’m enough of a child of the 1970s and 1980s that someone trying to steal my thunder rarely does more than raise one of eyebrows and roll my eyes.  However, there have been times when the vitriol that spills into public chat from the losing team, tearing at each other over who was to blame for them losing, has managed to completely sour what should have been the moment of satisfaction that comes with doing something well and playing a good match.

I’m hardly a rockstar of any kind in MMOs, I assure you.  Calling me a “Joe Average” player is likely kind in many cases.  Which means that those times I do have a good game and exceed my own standards it really, really is a killjoy to be told that I did no win so much as the other team screwed up so badly the outcome was inevitable.  I will openly admit that I’ve stopped playing one particular game or another for a week or more because of the down that comes with this sort of thing.

I have seen many instances where a player, unhappy with how the match is developing, openly declares that their team are bunch of vegetables with keyboards and then intentionally kamikaze’s the opposing team’s most hardened defences to get themselves removed from play.  “Well good, they are gone” you might think;  unfortunately, the match-making systems are such that loosing a player in such a fashion commonly seals the fate of that player’s team.  Things are just too well balanced by the game developers, in an attempt to produce as challenging a match environment as possible.

A toxic atmosphere of any kind is a barrier to new players.  MMO players are a fickle bunch, and when the new player stream starts to dry, then the game itself starts to suffer the effects of the drought.

The more toxic the atmosphere, then by definition the only players who will play in that atmosphere are those who thrive in it.  This creates a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse.

To their credit,  “Wargaming, Inc“, the creators of “World of Warships“, have added a system to send feedback on the behaviour of other players in game.  Specifically you can compliment or report players for their behaviour in chat.  I have no idea what the option actually does; a cursory Google search gave nothing concrete.  I use it anyway, but I have little actual faith it impacts the other player’s behaviour in any way that would incentivize them for good sportsmanship.

MMOs, particular the player-verses-player “death match” or “battle arena” games need to incentivize good sportsmanship.  As eSports grows and expands in Europe and North America, these players will be the heroes of a whole new generation of eGamers.  Twitch streams and international tournaments are both venues that this rising stars tell new players what is cool and what is acceptable.  What they see of their heroes accepting both victory and defeat in the virtual arenas will influence how they themselves behave.

The other part of the equation is purely economic.  Folks like me have credit cards.  We spend money on our leisure times.  Call me a “wallet warrior” if you will, but the reason that F2P (Free To Play) games exist is because people like me are willing to say “this is fun, it makes me happy, I’ll spend $10 on some in-game vanity toys just for the cool value”.  If poor sportsmanship means that people like me take a couple weeks off from a particular game, then by definition, we aren’t shopping in the game store for new toys.

That literally means that the development budget of the next expansion is directly affected by the game experience players like me are having.  That Negative-Norman player that just told me my past thirty minutes of game play were worthless just hurt the game for everyone that plays it.

The best gaming experiences for me in any of the games I play online have uniformly been those times where, win or lose, players of both sides were openly gracious about it.  Sore winners, and sore losers, have the ability to sap the fun out of the online gaming experience.  It is the responsibility of everyone participating to be good eSports players;  that is the only way we keep having these games to play.

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