Too Much Salt?

Below is an article written by our admin Ayla [ShadowsAngel] and although long, it’s a discussion worth sharing.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and if you have any suggestions on improving our community.

Thoughts on Improving Toxicity in the Community

Toxicity in the Community
Toxicity by definition is when someone behaves in a manner that results in emotional harm or distress.  In the gaming community this has sadly come to be expected. Dota 2 has been labelled THE most toxic game today, and I’m sure League of Legends isn’t far behind.  All too often I hear people who excuse joining gaming communities, in particular Summoners’ Society, on the basis of it being ‘too salty’ and ‘way too toxic.’ Both in and outside of the game itself, toxicity is present and it is my belief that it needs to be pacified – not attacked.

What Does a Healthy Gaming Community Look Like?
I’ve done a little research into what different games have in terms of toxic environments and ones that have a much healthier community.  In my personal experience, the best community I’ve found was for Final Fantasy XIV (MMORPG). The main things I noticed that improved the outlook of the players was actually pretty simple: help each other.  Regardless of working together or against each other within the game mechanics, players are happy to answer questions and guide new players. The Australian and New Zealand Facebook group for FFXIV is one of the most positive and passionate gaming communities I’ve been a part of.  I feel welcome – and not stupid for needing to ask questions. I can share my triumphant moments without being attacked or put down. I can feel a part of the community as a whole and not feel ashamed to be there.

Another great example of making people happy and encouraging them is to appreciate them!  Make them feel like they made a difference in your day. Did they carry your team? Square Enix hosted a community meetup in Sydney, spending thousands of dollars in hiring a venue, paying for food and drinks and giving out merchandise.  They listen to their community. With the efforts of the two who run the Facebook group, they’ve made Square Enix stop and listen and see that there is a passionate community down here. I feel like Riot Games is on the right track with their birthday reveals.  Thanking the community for everything they’ve done. Rewarding them with incredible giveaway prizes for over a week, bringing back URF, and looking to the future for what they can provide for us to grow their community.

How to Pacify Toxic People
From my research and personal experiences, I would summarise that there are two main concepts I would put in place to help pacify toxicity.  Before I get into that I will briefly explain that I chose the word pacify as simply shutting people down or using words like ‘combat toxicity’ only leads to more resistance and anger building in the community.  Alternatively helping people feel like they WANT to be nice and be inclusive means they’ll do the work for you.

Concept one:  The buddy system.  Inspired by an in-game process in Final Fantasy XIV where the new players have their own chat channel where they can ask questions from mentors.  Mentors have to go through an extensive process to prove they are ‘end-game veterans’ that are motivated enough to go through the quests to become someone who can help new players.  Mentors can then access the chat channel, but also link up with new players to help them learn the ropes. Returning players can also use the ‘noob channel’ if they’ve not played in months or after several major patches.  Personally, this was a huge plus for me as I hadn’t played for over a year and yet I felt welcome to come back to the game as if it were yesterday – AND I had help readily available.

Concept two:  Honour and appreciation.  As previously mentioned, people who feel appreciated will also feel important and involved.  Thanking people who are already upholding community values will show the entire community what it means to be a part of your community.  You don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars or giveaway your gaming currencies, but incorporate it in to your community as a normal occurrence with small gestures and occasional large ones.

The Plan in Action
Yes.  These concepts are a two-part plan.  They work alone – but together they create a stronger show of… well, positivity, inclusion and structure.

  -Concept one: The Buddy System
For Summoners’ Society, we could create an ‘application and title’ process for people who are happy to show players the ropes or mentor them to be better.  They don’t have to be challenger or a stupid high rank so to speak, but prove they have the right attitude for the game. Facebook has a badge system that rewards people for how often they comment, starting conversations, etc.  Why not offer a similar one for mentoring and support in and out of the game? What does this look like?

For me, coming in to a community for a game I love it would be wonderful to see support in place.  Why not let people apply for a title or group of people. Things like “Mentors for In Game Knowledge” and “Happy to Chat” roles for anyone willing to lend an ear about anything (including outside of gaming.)  Being inclusive of everyone in the community means listening to them and being open to improvements… I’d even suggest a person to listen to suggestions and complaints: A controlled forum for toxic people to vent their frustrations.

Setting up this system would be a little slow to start but it shows people you’re willing to listen and take care of your community.  It allows the already positive and active members to step forward and feel useful while giving the toxic community a better outlook on how things are structured.  A ‘Lead By Example,’ if you will.

  -Concept two:  The Honour System
Riot Games was heading in the right direction with their in-game honour system.  When it was first released I had so many more positive games: people wishing the other team good luck, supporting their own team with positive remarks on actions taken.  People wanted the reward and recognition of being a good player. Being recognised in the community as a friendly player, or a tilt proof player is something that not only looks attractive, but it lets other people know they’re going to have a better game because you’re there.

I feel like this one would be a tad harder to implement but hear me out: let people nominate others for titles each month.  Whether it’s across all socials or just Facebook to start with. You cannot nominate yourself (needing to give your own FB account in the submission) but you can screenshot a comment, or show someone helping another player out.  Anything really. Create titles if you like. “Best Comment of the Month,” “Most Positive Remarks” – I mean obviously I could use some more brainstorming time with the actual titles but… Wouldn’t it be cool to see people scouring the Facebook group for opportunities to compliment each other, and give cool advice… and then be rewarded for it?  Letting the community nominate themselves gives them the power to make the changes and avoid them feeling the system is rigged by “leaders choice.”

Conclusion
Create a support system for the community where people can get help in and out of game for any manner of issues: In-game tips, Item Build Advice, Find a Friend, Mentor Me, Mental Health, Women Talk, Men Talk, LGBT Chat, General Advice and Support (to find the right person to talk to), Suggestions and Complaints.  Anyone who takes on a role like this could also be rewarded at the end of the year by a VIP invitation to a party or just online rewards.

This support system is then followed through by giving the community something to do themselves not just reach out.  Look at each other and how they treat each other and then reward people for their efforts. Titles could include: Positive Change, Influencer, Advice Giver, Community Engagement, Best Comment, Funniest Share… etc.

References
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759215921
https://www.pcgamesn.com/dota-2/toxic-online-community
https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/aug/17/tackling-toxicity-abuse-in-online-video-games-overwatch-rainbow-seige
https://gamequitters.com/how-the-toxic-gaming-community-made-me-quit-gaming/
https://www.dailycal.org/2017/11/27/dont-be-a-dick-toxicity-in-the-gaming-community/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gaming/features/final-fantasy-xiv-director-naoki-yoshida-community-driving-force/

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