Player Behavior Knowledge Base > Reasons for toxicity

Reasons for toxicity

1. About


In discussions about player behavior, people often ask about the reasons why people even become toxic. Overall it can be said that there isn’t just one big reason for toxicity, but rather a variety of reasons and factors. This article is intended to provide an overall view on several theories and factors. Due to massive amount of literature behind some of these theories, this article will occasionally refer to Wikipedia articles for further explanations, since these articles often have very good collections of sources. Explaining every theory in this article would go beyond the constraints of this knowledge base.


2. The game itself


Being a MOBA game, League is heavily team based and players are very dependant on each other. Working together as a team is more important than individual performance, which can be very frustrating. The fact that actions of other players are so important for every individual player also create an environment where it’s very easy to blame other players for failure, because almost always there are theoretical scenarios how the other players could have helped.

In addition League matches are pretty long in comparison to other PvP games, which can be very exhausting for players. [17]


3. Anonymity & lack of consequences


Anonymity is often seen as a reason why people misbehave on the internet. However research indicates that anonymity is not the actual reason for increased misbehavior, but rather the lack of consequences that usually comes along with it [15, 24]. Getting rid of anonymity doesn’t really change much when there are still no consequences and being anonymous isn’t that important as long as there are consequences for bad behavior.


4. The online disinhibition effect


This effect is named after a scientific paper by Jon Suler [645]. In this paper Suler describes six factors that make people lose their inhibitions when they are online:

  1. dissociative anonymity
  2. invisibility
  3. asynchronicity
  4. solipsistic introjection
  5. dissociative imagination
  6. minimization of authority


For further details what exactly these things are, we recommend reading the actual paper or the Wikipedia article about it.


5. Language barriers


While it’s probably not one of the most important factors, language barriers can lead to misunderstandings, due to the players inability to express themselves as they would be able to in their mother tongue. This can be problematic for servers with multiple languages like EUW [142].


6. Frustration


Frustration is most likely one of the biggest factors that lead to toxicity. There are multiple reasons to believe that:

  1. Punished players often name it as the reason for their behavior
  2. Toxicity mainly appears in the losing team
  3. Frustration is a known cause for aggression (Frustration-Aggression-Hypothesis)
  4. Frustration also explains why most the toxicity doesn’t come from "evil" players but rather players who are normally neutral or positive but are faced with very frustrating situations [79, 119]


7. De-individuation


Being part of a crowd makes one lose awareness of themselves and of the consequences of their actions [14], which partially explains the feeling of flaming being harmless towards the victims, since being in front of a monitor prevents oneself to be able to notice social cues denoting the victim’s distress at being criticized or insulted [18].

De-individuation also denotes a tendency to shift the blame on others in a group, specifically because of the aforementioned lack of self-awareness of one’s own actions [19].

As a more specific example we have competitive banter, which is considered okay as long as it’s used in a context where people are put face to face with those they talk with, or have some degree of familiarity with them. In other kinds of settings, such as online games, people often meet for the first and only time, and therefore miss that required degree of familiarity to tolerate banter, leading to it being easily turned into offensive trashtalk, which is unacceptable among strangers [128].


8. Self concept, Blaming & Cognitive Dissonance


Most players consider themselves superior to their teammates and enemies and have a rather positive concept of themselves as League players (compare: Overestimation). When they are losing, this contradicts their image of being a good player, which is why they are looking for external reasons for their failure in order to avoid Cognitive Dissonance. The easiest external factor for failure are teammates, which often results in blaming. When players are blamed for losing this again contradicts their self concept of being a good player, which is why they often react aggressively when they are blamed in order to defend their image of being a good player.


9. Conclusion


This article is not necessarily complete and all the reasons that were mentioned shouldn’t be taken for the only reasons why people are toxic. There are plenty of reasons and it’s quite hard to say which ones are the most important ones. We tried to limit it to the most obvious and strong reasons, other reasons might be added later on.


10. Sources

119 ; Page 325, 326
128 ; Page 322

Created by mastermars on 09-02-2017. Last edited: 28-06-2017