I'm late to the MOBA bandwagon. As someone who works in the game industry, I've followed the MOBA's success from a design and business perspective, but as a player, I've never really felt inclined to jump on.
Recently, a friend encouraged me to get into Heroes of the Storm (HOTS). He can't stop playing it. So, I gave it a shot. I played through the tutorials, played a bunch of games against "Adept" level AI, watched a couple of YouTube videos to fill in any blanks that the tutorial might have missed, and finally jumped into a Quick Match.
The first few matches were fine. My team won, with one match in particular being a thrilling close call. I was beginning to see the draw here.
Then I was dropped into a game where I ran into the "toxicity" that's been a point of discussion around gaming forums and gaming websites for the last few years. A couple of my Quick Match teammates felt I was the reason for all their life's woes, and made every effort to make sure I understood that I -- and I alone -- was the reason for their impending loss.
Now, I'm a grown man and I've been playing multiplayer games for a long, long time. I'm generally numb to some pre-pubescent brat's complaints about my gamer skills (or lack thereof). But, the toxic behavior got me thinking about two things.
First, I don't need this. HOTS isn't a good enough game to make me want to put up with a bunch of dicks every time we lose. I have plenty of other good games to play. And, second, if I'm any example of the expanded audience that HOTS wants to bring into their game, then they're in serious trouble. Because, if the game itself doesn't implement tools and/or features to combat this toxicity, then there's a huge market HOTS (and other MOBAs) are missing out on: a potential market of players with disposable income and a passion for games who will give the game a quick try, find the toxicity overwhelming, and never return to spend their hard-earned money.
Obviously, HOTS has a reporting feature. It's the same reporting features that you'll see in a lot of other multiplayer games and just about as effective. As I saw with HOTS (and as I casually research this phenomena on the internet), simple reporting features don't go far enough.
The multiplayer game needs to be fundamentally designed from the ground up to deal with -- or at least minimize -- toxic behavior, if game developers and publishers want to make games truly inclusive and welcoming to a wide variety of players. Not just reporting features, but actual game design should be brought to task, giving toxic players their emotional outlet without new and inexperienced players being the victims of their outbursts.
Obviously, I don't have the answer to this problem. But, it's clear to me that MOBA developers and publishers should make fixing this a priority lest their sub-genre increasingly rely on their hardest-core fans . . . and nothing else. To do so would bring about a premature end to a promising genre.
The Arkham Knight platinum trophy WILL be earned this weekend!
// 25 Nov 2015 11:34am
CommanderVideo, Jan 25th 2015
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