Toxicity in games, and feelings of isolation


Right, so this is going to be a very long post. So give up now if you can’t muster up the strength to read it all.
I’ll be writing mostly in absolutes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meant as an absolute. It just takes up more space to phrase it differently, so don’t nitpick on the grammar, please.

There’s something called the proximity principle and the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle.
The proximity principle is basically about how we are more likely to develop a relationship (interpersonal, not necessarily romantic) with people we meet often. What it means is that we’re more likely to talk to a person the more we meet that person.

The familiarity principle is about how we develop a sense of familiarity with things we are exposed to repeatedly, even if we aren’t consciously aware of it.

These two things can be extrapolated to explain why we typically care more about an old person we often see in our commute to work who tends to struggle a lot with getting on the bus or subway or whatever, compared to war crimes and huge casualty numbers across the world.

Why this is relevant to this topic, is because there are examples of this in the game’s history itself. Some of you may have heard stories of people sharing a more amicable atmosphere in the game in the past, but now it’s pretty well-known to have deteriorated quite a lot.
This can be explained by those two principles.

In vanilla for example, before cross-realm battlegrounds, people faced the opposite faction inside battlegrounds, and every single player was always from the same server. You would often come across people you had played with and against before, and this kept repeating over and over again. So people subconsciously created rivalries, they created social hierarchies, and all of this fed into the reward scheme and creation of envy and emotional investment.

As for the reward scheme, there’s also the ironclad rule of market value that what’s rare and hard to get is typically seen as more valuable than something you can buy at almost every corner store for 10 pence.

But that’s enough about the BGs, reward schemes, and for now about the principles.

So our brains also have conditioned mechanisms in place for social interactions. We treat strangers in a certain way, and we get to know strangers in certain ways.
But in “real life”, we have different procedures than we do in digital environments. This is because there are more factors in “real life”, and our awareness of the social space is much more tangible.
So in real life, we go through subconscious mechanisms, like giving consent to talk to a person even if you aren’t aware of it, and we feel each other out as we get used to a stranger.
This also creates a stronger emotional investment for a lot of people. Which is why we often care more about the opinion of people we know than of strangers, because it’s met with a stronger emotional response when it’s an opinion by a person we know.

So with all of that said, we also have different tolerance levels.
We tolerate a lot of mistakes done by family, for obvious reasons.
We tolerate mistakes by friends, as long as it doesn’t cross a line.
We do NOT however tolerate the mistakes of strangers that carries demerits for us.
An example of this is you sitting in a coffee shop. The social norm is that we shouldn’t expect to get a hot cup of coffee dumped over us as we sit and mind our own business. So when the hot cup of coffee hurts you, and let’s say it messes up your hair, it messes up the clothes you liked so much to wear to a crowded social environment like a coffee shop, and let’s say you have a big business meeting shortly after that.
In this situation, it’s normal to feel entitled to get very upset. Even if the stranger who did it, did it purely by accident. If it was done by, let’s say, your father, you’d still get upset but you wouldn’t react in the same way. And you wouldn’t necessarily hold a grudge. But against a stranger who did it, you’d just like to get the expected compensation and never meet the person ever again.

There’s also a whole other wall of text to explain the effects of perceived anonymity and the perception of enforcement of rules and so on, but I’m tired of this now so I’ll leave it at this.

Take these things into consideration and imagine deconstructing the design of social interactions in the game, and see for yourself where it correlates.

It’s an endemic problem, and toxicity is a symptom. It’s not something that can be reduced by treating it with animosity, because that’s how you end up with a “us vs. them” kind of rhetoric, while “they” keep increasing due to the causes not being dealt with.

Oh right, I forgot to mention personality types. If you check out
and then their very detailed explanations of the different types, you can get a better understanding of why not everyone can easily get along with each other, on top of things covered in this post already.

There are many more factors that are relevant which I haven’t mentioned in this thread, but these are the more pertinent ones.

Edit 2:
The reason I’m posting this here, is because I encourage people to reflect on their own negative experiences in the game, and to write how you think it could be explained by the things mentioned in this post.

I know there’s a lot to read. I know there’s much more to read when you check out the link to the personality types. But it’ll help you understand more about the mechanisms many of you are likely unaware of, that conditions people to act asocially.

After all of this, if you then write down your own experiences in this thread, I’m hoping it’ll serve as a good source of feedback for how Blizzard can steer the ship in a more socially immersive direction again.

But the things mentioned in this post isn’t limited to just WoW.

Bellular did a video about the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, which is basically about how reward schemes stimulates emotional investment, which is also a relevant factor.

I'm back and I've brought more walls of text for you all to enjoy
People are toxic as hell

Not really new information for me.
Still nice to meet an other smart person.

This is a nice long way of explaining why alot of people felt more social in classic then in modern wow.


In wow this happends too.
Tanking for a guild is more fun then tanking for pugs because guilds tent to be more forgiving.
Aswhile as train togather too improve.
Where pugs are little more then buggy ai with just want to rush.
Both can act the exact same way and yet we are more forgiven too guildies because they are closer to us.

I disagree with:

World of warcraft is build on us vs them.
The problem is us vs them no longer means alliance vs horde.
It means me and my friends against the world.
I believe that if we the players had more reason to care about our faction we also have more reason to work and talk togather.


This is the reason many remember classic foundly.
Because mobs where hard cooperation was rewarded.
You could do more quests and dungeons faster with people then on your own.
Encourging people to help eatchother.
Likewise you had a motivation to get stronger.
As only the creame the la cream.
The very best could raid.

A truth nobody wants to admit is that we are a selfish spieces.
Everything we do we do because it benifits us.
We spen money on chairity to feel good about ourselves.
Help people because it makes us feel good about ourselves.
We pay taxes to avoid jail and the goverment does spend 5% of the taxes on fixing road’s, funding school’s, etc.
We have laws to keep people in line.
Even laws we dont agree with we obey out of fear of getting caught(most of us atleast)
Because order is more benifical then anarchy.

Now the thing is.
If we accept this truth and start asking ourself:
How can i get the most out of world of warcraft the answer will be different for everyone.
Finding what most people agree upon and working with that is how sociaty functions.
Same with world of warcraft.
When 80% of the players agree that killing people who are lower level then you is wrong then it will be wrong.
However criminal scum will try to get around it.
And if a law is not enforced it isnt a law.
Now lets say that ganking a low level player would end in you being corpse camped for days.
Would you risk it again?
This is what i mean with us being selfish.
We act in our own best interest.
And blizzard best interest(which in there arrogance they have forgotten)
It is make fun games people want to buy and play.

For example: Pathfinder exist because people mass unsubbed after the anounce they where going to remove flying.
People arent happy with it but it is a compremise between both side’s getting what they want.
People dont get to fly to near the end of an expension (personal venting: Because jerks dont like it when people have fun in a way they dont)
Where those who want to fly can get it if they are willing to put the effort into it.
Personaly i just dump the entire pathfinder crap and place anti air turrets* all over the zones.
Making walking accauly faster as you arent dodging anti air all the time.
It would also make flying more challanging.

  • Turrets shoud be dodgeable.
    The goal here is to disencourge flying long distance’s not short burst by making flying a bigger hassle then it is worth.


The quote about “us vs. them” rhetoric is actually a reference to the very divisive rhetoric used in the US, and it isn’t actually related to the view of faction favoritism.

Your view that we’re a “very selfish species” is more your observation of actions made, but not all actions, and confusing it with something else. We’re actually originally pack animals. In other words, we’re social animals.

As for your view on flying, that’s more treating the symptom, not the cause.
Flying is one of the many changes made for convenience, although it did have a purpose back in burning crusade with the netherwind reputation stuff. It was just a type of design that never made it into the core part of the game.

So what flying does is that it detaches you emotionally from the world, and counteracts the immersive process of the world building. But it does get you where you really want to go, faster. Hence it affects the pace of dopamine stimulation.
It also counteracts the proximity- and familiarity principles, socially speaking.

But anyway, you’re forgetting the reason why people feel that flying is such an integral part of the game. It’s because there are so many places to go to. So of course people want it to go faster, otherwise you’d be looking at a horrendous amount of travel time. It’s similar to the dungeon teleportation functionality (without using the meeting stone), the world was rather large when it came in the ICC patch, so it helped reduce travel times.

But there’s a more organic way of designing it, which would help alleviate the perceived need for flying. However, it might be too late, because people have been conditioned to this type of game already after all.

A way which is more organic is to close off access to each new continent after the new expansion comes. So for example, as burning crusade ended, they would’ve shut off access to it, and open up access to northrend instead with WotLK.
This would’ve alleviated the need for quicker travel, because there’d be less need to travel around so much. The immersive perception would make the world more organic as well, instead of old content being phased out so darn fast as it has been done for so long. In other words, it’d make it feel more “alive”.

But with changes such as these, it would basically make it a completely different game.

But this is not what the thread is about, it’s about trying to get people to share their own experiences that could be explained by the things mentioned in the original post, and to help Blizzard tune the game better so it would become more socially immersive again overall.


I did get off topic.
I appoligize.


I used to be kind - polite - helpful when i’ve started the game at late WotLK.

Tbh im still helpful sometimes…
When someone asks w/e at /2 , i pretty much check wowhead , linking the page where he/she can find the solution for the problem etc.

Im 28 years old atm and there are some new & different aspects around me and the game itself.

Firstly im not looking for new friends.
I’ve forged a mass friendlist over the years even tho 95% of the friendlist quitted the game or log once in a while for no reason.

Secondly , i’ve turned into a casual bot which means i dont need to be part in any social/raiding guild to progress or anything relative.
I’ve managed to transfer the guild i used to be Guild Master @ Horde - MoP till late Legion and its only purpose is to keep my alts.
I dont have the time or mood to try revive it because i’ll disappoint everyone and waste their time.

I dont have any negative experiences at all simply because i couldnt care less about the game or how i will be treated by some strangers sitting on their computers miles away from me.
Maybe one ‘‘harsh’’ moment was , when i joined a group of R1/HotA players and the leader kept trashtalkin to me because i couldnt anticap base 1v5 as Void Elf MW aka i failed the blink/tele/RoP but i knew i was trash since i had around 10hours played with that character.

I’ve been into online gaming est 2002 - Diablo II era .
Then i’ve moved to CS 1.6 - DotA @ Garena and many more online competitive games.

There must been more than 1k players who wished me to get cancer , they wished that my mother gets aids and i find terrible death irl but you kno what?

Who the hell cares?
I also used to trashtalk back in every single online game because…It was part of the game.There wasnt any Report button back then and players were not taking things so seriously or didnt get offended at all.

Now you have this Report system made to protect snowflakes who get hurted so easily by some random words coming from a troll or no lifer when at the same time you can just Ignore someone and never read anything from him/her.

Toxicity was always part of COMPETITIVE online gaming for a reason.
Some people wanted to achieve something in game , meanwhile others were trolling or wasting their time without carrying.


Apathy isn’t a solution, it’s a cop-out.


Apathy is the best ‘defense’ mechanism (If you want to call it a mechanism) ,to avoid getting tilted in a game by a bunch of random trolls.

Also , apathy is a helpful mechanism irl as well which will help you counter/reflect all these morons who will eventually surround you.

Just focus on the important things in life , as well in game.
Apathy for everyone and everything else will keep you sane and calm.


Yes, I know. It’s a good coping mechanism. But it enables the problem to persist, instead of dealing with it. It needs to be addressed, not ignored.


Ok so tell me.
Im playin in the highest MMR @ CSGO which is Global Elite.
I have 2 premades in a team of 5 and 2 random players.
The 2 random players start acting like apes , teamkilling us , flashing us aka they are trying to get us deranked and lose the game.

What do i have to do ?
Report them or simply /afk as well?
Im gonna get my rank back in the next game meanwhile they’ll be forever noobs

Like Athene said once . You’re either pro or noob . Thats life.
Since im not pro , im trying to be on average + level anyway.

And since we’re talkin about ingame ‘issues’.
If you are having a ‘‘hard’’ time with a random the solution is simple.
Ignore him/her or start playing with premades/friends.


Keep that in mind.

(Punyelf) #10

I have the complete opposite experience to the ‘everything used to be better’ brigade. My first experiences in wow (started during TBC) taught me that people were nasty judgemental horrible insulting pieces of you know what. I ended up not doing group content because people couldn’t accept that I was new and learning my class. I went back to do dungeons solo when I outlevelled them.

It wasn’t until Wrath that I begrudingly became the healer in my offspec so that I could actually get invited to dungeons and do group content with my guild. The guild (as many are) was full of cliques of people who all waited to do the dungeons together. There is nothing wrong with that, people playing with friends.

Eventually there were enough of us outcasts that we started to play and do our own thing. I eventually left the guild I was in. The best most amazing thing for me was when the patch came in with the dungeon system. I could now queue for any dungeon, with or without my friends and I’d be taken. What was even better was while levelling I could actually do ALL the dungeons as they were intended to be done. It opened up a whole new world.

The old system made me feel isolated and alone. The new system instantly gave me people to play with and some groups were chatty and others wouldn’t say boo to a goose. That’s just people.

I am not the same shy clueless person I was when I started. I have a much better idea what I am doing and how to get around the game. Due to the horrible experience I had I have always been very patient with people who say they are new. I never want others to have to go through the experience I did.

There are nice people in the game. I have made all sorts of friends via all sorts of avenues, some randoms I ran into in game, some are people from the forums, some are from guilds we’ve been in etc. Some no longer play the game and we still keep in touch.

Having said that I do hate CRZ at times. One of the nice things on the stress test weekend on Classic was regularly running into the same people, even if you weren’t playing with them or hadn’t spoken to them.


You seem to be misunderstanding something. I’m not saying you need to deal with the people acting that way directly. That’d just be a horribly inefficient way of dealing with it.
What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t ignore the underlying causes while blaming the individual people. Bring attention to the underlying causes of it as mentioned in the original post, and make the game designers deal with the flaws in their social design of the game.

If you’re referring to this quote with your personal anecdote @Punyelf, then this is more referring to the general perception shared by many. Doesn’t mean you disagreeing with it negates it, and yes I know you didn’t claim it negates it, but I’m just clarifying it.

You seem to have had a lot of bad times in the past, and that’s indeed unfortunate. Many people made a lot of deep friendships during the time of vanilla, burning crusade and wotlk, so it’s a shame it took you so long to get started with the social networking.

Also, you mentioned you used to be shy. However, have you considered the possibility that you might be what people tend to refer to as a “social butterfly”? So when you “blossomed”, it went better. That doesn’t mean other people have had the same experience.
You can check out the link to the stuff about personality types and see what matches yours, because if what you said is true then you’re likely one of the types that has an easier time getting along with others.


You do realize that link you provided is not providing information that actual scientific source would do? If you want to get into serious discussion about this subject i wish you could look some proper sources (peer reviewed scientific articles with full references) and also add sources behind your own ideas. We can have fun conversation about this based on what you linked now but you sound like you want more serious discussion and extra info with better sources would really pave a road for that. :slightly_smiling_face:


There’s such a thing as being overcritical.
I link to that page specifically so you can see what it’s about, and if you’re on a crusade to scrutinize it as much as you possibly can, then you can check out its reference materials.

However, better yet, you can take the test (and do it seriously), and see what your result is and see what it says about it. Testing it out for yourself is the quickest way, wouldn’t you agree?


Different people have different experiences in WoW. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw. With classic, I’m not convinced it’ll be some social utopia. As others have said or alluded to on the forums, the mindset of many of those playing is very different than it was. Toxicity will always be there, but it’s possible the perception will be even moreso when playing content where individuals have to await mob spawns and others think nothing of ‘jumping the queue’. I saw a fair bit of that on the 3 day realm test.

I agree with the above that where possible, toxicity should be challenged not just ignored. It’s the same with any bad behaviour, RL or otherwise. Apathy just allows it to persist unchecked and to continue to affect others.

Just a point on the whole Briggs-Meyers personality traits thing. Don’t put much faith in it, the results are notoriously inconsistent.


Yeah, it isn’t perfect. Hard to claim anything is. And it isn’t the Briggs-Myers test per se, it’s an adjusted version of it. Read what I linked to, and take the test yourself. Best way to judge it is to try it for yourself.

I’d say it’s pretty obvious it won’t be. Players have been conditioned to other standards already, and the influence of private realm superiority will have a very elitist effect, much more so than in vanilla where the gap between the experienced players and new players was much smaller.
BGs will also suffer from the increase of anonymity since it’s based on patch 1.12, so PvPers won’t get the benefits of the two principles mentioned above either.

I never mentioned this new release of classic, and that was on purpose.


I am sorry if i came out as critical or scrutinizing towards you, it was not my purpose. I was trying to check reference materials on that site but i couldn’t find, not even full names of the people writing that test so i could have checked their work on other databases. If you find them there yourself give me a shout, i would love to check them out. I am not critical towards you but i am critical towards sources provided, sort of comes with my work.

I am not the type of random internet tests. Me “testing their test” is also not the way to find out if it has any use (other than entertainment), there is different protocolls for that. Testing things like personality is usually done with multiple different tests and methods over the time, not just with one test anyway. Internet test are more for entertainment value and should not be taken too seriously.

This. Also don’t put much faith on any single personality trait theory, there is plenty of theories on that field and it is good to get to know at least most common ones (also critical reviews).


You kinda repeated what’s mentioned in the link. Did you read it?


Yes i read your link. Why would i otherwise ask for more info?

edit: to clarify, i was not asking more info of their theory (which i read) but names of the people who wrote that and (either straight on site or based on searches i can do myself with their names) some peer reviewed articles about it.


Yeah, I get what you were looking for. But I can’t provide that. They do offer a way for people who seeks such things to get in touch with them at so feel free to share what you find out.
In the meantime, you can actually take the test and see what it says about you.


This kind of information should be provided with the article if they want to be taken seriously.

No thanks. Like i said, i am not a fan of random internet tests. Those are usually there just to suck some data out of as many people they can.

With all above, i realize i come out quite strict. I once again apologize, it’s not my intention to sound rude or such in any way. I also understand you want to talk about those in game relations just reflecting to your link and theories you talked about so i bow and back out from here and not disturb your thread further. :slightly_smiling_face: