Let’s face it: whether it was an attack Torbjorn, a BM’ing Quest Mage in your last game before rank 5, or a Singed support who spent more time dead than in lane, we’ve all been tilted. And every time it happens, you want to grab that keyboard and lay into them until they beg for mercy. Most of the time, you can shake that urge, be the better man (or woman) and take the moral high ground. But every once in a while, you can’t resist. You’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is making a stranger on the internet cry. But if you don’t even get to experience the schadenfreude that comes with bashing your antagonist, then why do we even do it?
A Scientific American article tried to tackle that exact same question: why are people on the internet so mean? They brought in a psychology professor from UT Austin to help answer some of these questions. He helped answer some parts of the question pretty thoroughly. We’re all anonymous on the internet. You’re never going to see xXCornStar45Xx ever again, much less in real life, so it’s easier than belittling, say, your grandmother. Plus typing, rather than speaking, enables you to go back and change what you wrote. You don’t stutter and stall while trying to find the right word when you’re typing out all manner of obscenities against the guy that dared call you a noob. Finally, you get to monologue. Who doesn’t love a good monologue? Conversations don’t offer you the opportunity to say everything that’s on your mind all at once. That’s why the villain always needlessly monologues in Bond movies; it’s why rousing speeches between a group of friends are always so enrapturing on TV. It doesn’t happen in real life. Getting to fire away and type to your heart’s content is like being your own Patton. Nobody gives impassioned speeches anymore, except for you when you’re telling iR1venG0Di how he should just uninstall the game and go back to his minimum wage bagging job at Walmart. But we all know that nothing good comes out of toxicity. As Jedi Master Yoda once said, “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda also said “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is,” so keep that one in mind next time someone accuses you of feeding or something.
So what are we supposed to do to stop this toxic path to self-destruction? Lots of people have different coping mechanisms for handling toxicity. There’s the ol’ “Write all the nasty things you want to say in a Notepad file and save it so you can go back and see what a horrible person you were half an hour ago”. There’s “Flame until you get banned, then reform (not really)”. And then there are the more constructive strategies. OU Esports President Jack “JackLovesLamp” Counts has his own way of reframing his mindset. You don’t need to beat your head against a wall, grinding games in League of Legends if you’re happy with yourself and you’re content with how you played, learning something new every game. The learning itself is the reward, he posits. Does it work? Sure, for some people. Some people are just wired that way that they can psych themselves into ignoring the Victory or Defeat screen and just focusing on whether they improved as a person and a player. These people are the best of us gamers. I’m not gonna lie, we’re a horrible bunch, fueled by hormone imbalances and Mountain Dew, turning into one big ball of aggression. But getting over yourself and countering your ego with a little bit of empathy for the person on the other side of that screen might do wonders for your temperament. Who knows? Maybe Genji_Dragon_Slash_Demon is actually twelve years old and is trying to make himself feel better after failing an algebra test. Maybe Sparklezz_n_Sunshineee just lost her job and is trying to forget it over a few Janna games. You’ll never know if you don’t consider what they’re thinking. There are real people playing these games, and whenever you’re hurting because someone took the time to personally attack you, remember that the next time you’re about to go off on someone else. As Yoda said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or maybe that wasn’t Yoda.