Originally Published 26/04/2015

I love Dota 2, well I do now… But it has to be the only game I have ever played where I needed to force myself to play it. Before I started playing, my friends were constantly telling me how great it is, how much fun I would have, yet when I started all they did was yell at me, “Stay behind the creeps! We need wards! STOP FEEDING!” It was not a fun start, but once I learned not to teleport on top of myself and that we only needed one courier, I ended up having a great time. However, the biggest contributor to my enjoyment of the game was ditching my toxic friends. I would like to examine the health issues that arise from ‘Gamer Rage’ and toxic community’s in MOBA’s, particularly Dota 2.

When I began playing Dota 2 the game had a few basic tutorials, but they ineffectively explained the complicated mechanics of the game. The first thing I was greeted with when googling “how to play dota2” was: “Welcome to DotA. You suck, and you are going to be constantly reminded of this fact for about 6-9 months (if you learn). Dota 2 does have a massive learning curve and I am still considered a noob”. As Polygon’s Arthur Gies said, “Dota 2 doesn’t seem to care whether you know how to play it or not”. In many ways Dota 2 is its own worst enemy when trying to encourage new players. Understandably, the game is extremely complicated, with over a hundred heroes, dozens of items and intricate real-time strategy mechanics. However, I still do not understand why new and old players alike need to be exposed to THIS.

A very important question we need to ask ourselves when examining an issue like this is ‘Why do we rage?’ What is it about MOBA’s that makes, otherwise normal, friendly and polite people, scream and yell at each other like Queen of Pain super-charged on Red bull and crack cocaine? GameSpot’s Cam Robinson explains, this is not something exclusive to video games but is a phenomenon of online behaviour. This is known as the Online Disinhibition Effect, a term coined by psychologist John Suler, Ph.D, in his 2004 study about online behaviour. Suler discusses 6 features of online social and behaviour, 4 of which contribute, in large part, to people acting overly aggressive towards each other in MOBA’s.

To start; Dissociate Anonymity, the belief that who you are online is separate from who you in real life; thinking that you, the ‘real you’, are exempt from the consequences of your online persona. Secondly; Invisibility, much like the rune, is about not being seen. By not being physically visible, you are given the confidence to say or do things you may not usually say or do when interacting with real people. Thirdly; Dissociate Imagination, Dota 2 is not a real place and the heroes are not real people, therefore what you say and do to the other people playing them does not matter. Lastly; Minimisation of Authority, there is little to no fear of verbally abusing someone in game, because there is limited oversight and authority to reprimand you. Suler argues that it is these factors combined that creates a Disinhibition Effect when interacting with others online.

Game Informer’s Adam Whooley explains the effects of gamer rage on the brain. When it is exposed to adrenaline, the brain also produces acetylcholine, which helps temper the more severe effects. However, your body’s ability to produce acetylcholine is exceeded by its ability to produce adrenaline. Overexposure to stressed and competitive environments can cause this, resulting in players’ cognitive abilities being improved, but at the cost of language and social reasoning. This rush of adrenaline and compulsion to compete can become an unhealthy addiction and perhaps an explanation for why so many players of Dota 2 experience ‘Gamer Rage’.

There are things are being done to curb the ‘Gamer Rage’ of Dota 2, while trying to better prepare new players. The “Welcome to DotA. You suck” guide I was greeted with 2 years ago has recently been updated to this: Welcome to Dota, you su… well actually you guys have gotten a lot better.  Dota 2, at its core, is competitive, and MOBA’s significantly contributed to the development of eSports. If we as a community of gamers want eSports to be taken seriously and treated with equally credibility to any other sport then we need to start behaving in a more sportsman-like manner. The game’s community moderators can only go so far to create a more positive experience for players; these issues have to be addressed by the players themselves. Players need to stop dissociating themselves with each other, we should be competitive, but not cruel, we need to remember it is just a game, not a life threatening situation. We need to look past the physical barriers between ourselves and other players and see them as what they actually are: people. Besides, we’re supposed to be having fun.





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