Trainers,

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you just don’t want to play any more, not for any reason to do with the game itself, but for an unfavorable social element?

In many games, especially those with in game chat or messaging, a toxic environment can be heartbreaking and demoralizing.

So what is toxic gaming behavior? In general terms it is making the game environment bad for everyone else. Below is the Top Definition on urbandictionary.com, but I’ve taken the liberty of softening it for the younger reader.

Adjective used to describe usually very negative person, that <complains> about everything, spread unnecessary hate or just talk <rubbish> about others. You can meet these people in any online game community and they are the <primary deterrent> of online gaming.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of articles out there about toxicity in video games. It’s been linked to fateful incidents, which in turn fuels the media into denouncing video games as a sport or an art form.

I don’t think it’s necessarily suitable for me to link other articles denouncing games for having a reputation for attracting this problem, games ranging from Minecraft to DOTA to Call of Duty to World of Warcraft are all well documented. A quick google search will show not only articles but chat logs, memes and blogs about incidents and actions taken and not taken by the developers.

When you’re at home it is easy (most of the time) to switch off your device, block a player or find a different server. But how does this affect our platform? Is Pokémon GO (and similar games) subject to the same toxic behavior? If you are out in the world and subjected to negativity when fighting a gym how can you react?

I have unfortunately read examples recently of such poor player behavior. Examples include

  • People being targeted and threatened to facilitate the trade of shiny Pokémon.
  • Deliberately boycotting a player from raiding due to personal reasons.
  • Abandoning raids if specific players join.
  • Accusing players of spoofing or sniping, to hinder progress in local communities.

Within the concerned writers blogs they often reference that players who just stop playing because of how others act. I don’t imagine this would be as big an issue within a large community, but rural and smaller groups will certainly feel it more.

So what fuels so much aggression that we as players are subjected to this type of behavior?

We see in the media that professional athletes are subjected to abuse for personal reasons, do players target other players in a similar vein? Is toxic behavior an extension of school yard bullying?

With Player-vs-Player (PvP) now a core part of Pokémon GO, will battling fuel an undercurrent of toxicity? Back in May 2018 I did an article focusing on Rivalry which highlighted that our franchise has always included an element around conflict, but is toxic behavior the same as rivalry.

Trainer Rivalry: Red vs. Blue, Ash vs. Paul, YOU vs. ???

Certainly there will be examples circulating the internet that show where a community has actively taken steps to remove a toxic element. There will also be examples where misunderstanding will have fueled incidents.

I guess what concerns me the most is that while such situations in communities maybe few and far between, how actions play out can affect all parties privy to the incident. Unlike other mainstream platforms where the developers try to take actions against the negative, Niantic has little they can do, there are no in-game chat logs which could be reviewed for example.

If two players have a disagreement and people take sides, there can be a breakdown of a community altogether. What happens if you do not have enough people to raid because Player A does not want to be involved with Player B? How many players will just stop playing because they are “sick of all the fighting”? This is something I have seen in MMO’s certainly, but only recently have I started to see posts about it on games such as Pokémon GO.

In the spirit of the season, is it a good time to mend fences, rebuild bridges and put toxic behavior in quarantine?

Have fun and stay safe

Venasto1se