Competitive shooters are undeniably fun, and playing with friends is even better. Unfortunately, these same games are a breeding ground for toxicity. Specifically, games like Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Rainbow 6 Siege have shown that team-based shooters can quickly get ugly.
Even newer games such as Rogue Company already face problems due to toxic players bullying those they deem useless. What’s ironic is these games also thrive on player communication. Why does the greatest chance for teamwork get reduced to toxicity so quickly?
Gaming and sports are two very different worlds, but where teamwork is concerned, gamers could take some pointers from the world of sports. There is no shortage of toxicity in sports. It’s easy to recall the mean football player from high school. However, sports implement teamwork incredibly well.
Hormonal confrontations in locker rooms aside, the core of sports is teamwork. Working with, protecting, and understanding your team are all your responsibility. So, it seems it would be easy to implement this framework into games, right? Apparently not.
Teamwork is Key
One reason for this could be the fact that gaming originated as a primarily solo experience. Large award-winning games such as The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima give players freedom. Whether that freedom comes through an open world or just sandbox-style gameplay in a linear world, the choice to give players control is clear. You can go about things your own way.
Another is the technology barrier. While speaking via voice chat is effective enough for games, it can simply never emulate in-person interactions. Speaking to someone you don’t know through voice chat completely throws their tone of voice, body language, and facial expression out the window. It is very easy to misconstrue what somebody says, often resulting in some spiteful discourse between rounds. You can’t predict another gamer’s habits or preferences when being matched with them for a game. Furthermore, gamers with disabilities may find it harder to communicate this way and can be left out.
Finally, matchmaking plays its own role in all of this. Much like voice chat, matchmaking is supposedly there to help players. If you are playing by yourself, the system will match you with four other people and find a game to join, instead of manually searching yourself. The problem is, this can lead to these aforenoted spiteful encounters. When thrown into a team with four people you don’t know, those four players could be playing together without you, and then you are an awkward fifth wheel. This sets some players up to be loyal to certain players on their team over others.
“Team-based games cannot thrive with toxicity.”
Of course, team-based competitive games are not going anywhere as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive still sits at the top of Steam Charts. But, toxicity is a major problem in games, and it can dramatically affect gameplay after a while. Once this culture affects certain people, they begin to participate in it themselves, much like bullying in school.
Games like Due Process play with the usual format to try and prevent this culture from gaining a foothold in the first place. There is no scoreboard in the game, preventing players from attacking others for their poor performances. What makes this choice so interesting is that it actually puts the focus back on teamwork. The game is not about how good you are, but rather, how good you can make your team. It will be interesting to see how other games adapt to this developing culture.
Team-based games cannot thrive with toxicity, and games are beginning to realise this. Playing as a team, as in looking out for one another, is an incredible experience. I am enjoying playing Due Process, and I hope in a few years, I still can.