GLHF: pt.6 – Toxicity

GLHF is a series that looks to better understand the dynamics of sportsmanship in video games, today we are taking a look at how manners are being disregarded and players are being rude and disrespectful to each other.  If you like this article please feel free to check out the rest of the series: pt. 1: Sportsmanship in video games, pt. 2: Selfishness / Noncompetitive play, pt. 3: Kindness, pt. 4: Respectpt 5: Rage Quit, pt 7: Honorably Growing Culture, pt 8: Sadness & Defeat, pt 9: How to play for friendship, and pt 10: What we’ve learned.

Toxic Teammates

Toxicity among teammates is usually deeply connected to a player being hyper critical or defeatist.  Toxic players refuse to focus on gameplay and instead spend the game complaining about how bad their teammates are, insulting them, belittling other’s choices, and never admitting their own fault.  In games where players can “All chat” meaning enter chat with both their teammates and their opponents, they are often heard disparaging their own team.

Toxicity is often a reaction to losing, when teams win there may be boasting and bad manners which I will discuss next, but rarely do players criticize their teammates while winning.  They may still be rude but the majority of toxic behavior stems from a defeatist mindset and a decision to commit to being harshly critical of others than to the game itself.

Bad Manner 2
BM Bad Manners

A sublte precursor to full blown toxic rage is bm’ing. It often occurs while winning and can hint that a player may also behave poorly when losing.  When I first started playing online games I was highly focused on learning good manners, because I was taught the importance of being a good teammate by my friends.  However, it wasn’t long before I came across the phrase “BM” which stands for bad manners.  It quickly became apparent why someone would be called out for having bad manners or bm’ing someone.

It is important to identify the context of when to call someone out for bm’ing, BM is a criticism not an insult.  If a player is told they are a trash talking jerk in chat,  they will shrug it off as you complaining for your own poor performance, but if you call someone out for having bad manners, you are pointing not to their propensity to insult but their unsportsmanlike conduct.

bad manners 3
I believe that having the concept of bad manners as a means to cut through the nonsense and to the core of why a person’s behavior is wrong is incredibly helpful to the dialogue.  It is most often associated with someone on the opposing side being boastful or rude in victory.  As can be seen in Clash Royale by using the laugh emoji or the “oops” phrase after taking down an enemy wave or saying good luck mid match vs at the beginning, things done to taunt the enemy.  In contrast using the laugh emoji or “oops” after suffering a loss is a good way to show humility and when the opponent responds with a laugh emoji it can be seen as a way of acknowledging the ups and downs of matches.

bm jungle

BM can also be applied to teammates who aren’t considerate of polite norms, i.e. not leashing for the jungle, ks’ing on purpose, or intentionally allowing a teammate to die in order to get a kill, etc.

As important as it is to foster good manners and sportsmanship in our video game culture, it is equally important to identify and discuss bad mannered players.  By talking about toxic behavior instead of the individual we can hopefully help to guide them towards better behavior.  However, as in all matters of change, we must be the change we want to see. This means not giving into bad mannered behavior ourselves when we are winning or into toxic behavior when we are losing, however tempting it maybe, especially if we finally get the upper hand on a player who had been rude to us earlier in the match.

Have you or your friends ever behaved with bad manners during a game? How did the opponent respond? Do you think it is better to move towards a more sportsmanship focused community? Or do you think it is an inherent part of competitive games? There are some that believe trash talking is part of games, what are your thoughts? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please respond to the thread for this article, or talk to me through my email or any of my social media:, FacebookTwitter.

Play Professor is the blog of ludologist and video game journalist Andrew Mantilla. You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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