Toxicity in games, and feelings of isolation


Most internet tests are really just clickbait or used to farm social engineering data. Worth avoiding although I may be being overly cynical. Alas many put a lot of weight into Briggs-Meyer. I’ve had to do it at least 3 times over the years in a professional capacity. You’re an INFJ…no, I’m a FFS not this again. It fails to give any consideration towards the reasoning behind each persons choices in how they have answered each question (the why). There’s no allowance for critical thinking. It’s also largely irrelevant in an environment where there is a chance that those encountered, for whatever reason will move to ‘noob…kick’ within a matter of seconds rather than pondering on a persons personality type as being the cause of whatever action they’ve taken umbrage to.


It isn’t exactly the briggs-myer test as mentioned already.
So what you’ve gone through doesn’t exactly mirror what that site is about, nor what the results says about you. It actually makes it a point to avoid the standard used for work environments, and sticks to what you yourself seem to be an advocate for, that it is not definitive.
However, in regards to how definitive it is for you, you can check it out.

As for its test, then you actually don’t HAVE to take it. You can read through each of the types in until you find one that pretty much matches a lot of you.

What the test does is just end up in one of those types, which you can see for yourself without going through the test. It basically saves you time.

Also, @Radium you can check out if you haven’t already, but it’s not really what you were searching for which is why I didn’t mention it earlier. Because it isn’t them following proper academic protocol, so it might just be them pulling numbers out of thin air.

(Jurgenhan) #23

End of the day no one can force a person to be social or to be your friend or to accept you in their group or guild. People are human and in video games the human character will creep out.

People go on and on about how social classic was, well it was a different era, the internet was new we did not have a ton of social media or discord to distract us and most players back then did not have spouses/gfs/bfs/kids/or a career, so they could spend time to make the relationships needed.

For example back in classic my guild communicated by actual real life old fashioned telephones (remember those?). You were phoned by the guild master to remind you of the upcoming raids.

Fastforward to now, I am a casual player. My alliance guild consists of my alts and my wife. My horde guild is very active, I am not the guildmaster and the guildmaster or officers do not have any real life information about me. We all communicate via discord and in guild chat. If anyone ever asked to phone me to raid, I would laugh and leave the guild, because I will not commit to anything anymore in WOW, as I have a wife, kids, and a career.

If you feel isolated have you tried joining a social guild? Or an rp guild? Have you joined any of the many communities that are out there?

As for toxicity that will exist anywhere you go, whether in game, out of game. People are people and their true personalities will come out even more behind a computer screen.


Why is it always that vanilla is not the mistake but the player.

  1. you are not social in vanilla ? No it’s not because communication is not required for 99% of the game , it’s because you are conditioned

  2. what leveling is too easy ? No vanilla leveling was hard , this are the wrong numbers 100%

  3. what people min Max which makes content easy ? 100% players fault and not that classic was to easy

Everytime it’s the mistake of someone else , but never of vanilla


I never claimed I do. And yes I have been a part of those, but that’s irrelevant.

If it exists everywhere you go, then that’s not really normal.
People are different, so people may be people, but people aren’t a monolith. You’re confusing people to be an absolute. I’d argue they’re more gooey with certain things being similar for certain reasons, and certain similarities having the same reasons while other certain similarities having different reasons.

Let me know when I should stop with the platitudes like you used.

Also, that their “true personalities” come out more behind a computer screen, is not really true.
You seem to be referring to the lack of inhibition, but do you think you can show more of your personality without inhibitions? I’d argue you show more of what you want to hold back when there aren’t any inhibitions, but that kinda goes without saying. So are you saying people are what they want to hold back, or would you say personalities aren’t really any one thing? If you’re angry in one venue, such as online, does that define your personality?

So you think the internet was new in vanilla? Ok.

I played in vanilla. I raided in vanilla. (Not this account, but it’s kind of a long story.)

I was never phoned by a guild leader back then. I didn’t play with a single person from the same country as me. It would’ve cost a lot of money back then, for people to call each other like that across borders.

It was kinda meaningless to nitpick about the phones, but you were kinda going out of your way to paint it as a magical place of wonder where things were very different, so I went out of my way a little extra.
I’ve also been phoned by a guild leader and members about raids, but that wasn’t until cata when I actually played with people I knew IRL. So it wasn’t unique to vanilla.
In vanilla, ventrilo, forum and the in-game chat functionality is what the guild I was in then, used.

My guild leader was married to one of the healers, back in vanilla. He was the main tank.

But you do bring up a good point. The average age of the player base. It’s probably significantly higher now.

But do you know why a player base goes up in age like this? It’s not that the game kept getting a lot of new older players.
A game’s consumer base (in terms of age) grows older when the content appeals to older people. The amount of new players joining the player base, and the amount of veteran players (I’ll use veteran since old was already used to refer to age) leaving, and the amount of new players leaving quickly, are all its own specified statistic.

There are other factors involved than just “appealing content”, such as “my friend quit, so I’ll quit” “my friend quit because my friend’s friend quit, so I’ll quit too” and so on as well.

But the influx of new players is affected by word-of-mouth, and marketing techniques in general, and how many stays goes back to appealing content quite often.

So why do you think so many young players started playing back in the day? Why do you think they stayed? It’s because the content appealed to them, which increased the word-of-mouth, or “buzz marketing” as it’s also called. Vanilla had 8 million players at its peak, and it kept growing ever since until it peaked at 12+ million in wotlk.

So 8 million new players in vanilla, and many stayed. This had both the young and the old, although many were young. The young chose to play back then, because they liked the game. So what caused the drop in attracting young players, and why are there so many veteran players now in contrast to the lack of new players?
Nostalgia and IP familiarity. IP, in this context, is short for intellectual property. Basically refers to the brand and everything related to it.

The drop-off of new players and player retention actually points to endemic problems in the IP itself, and why it was brilliant for Blizzard to stop publishing player numbers and instead only publish player engagement and spending. Because they made up for it by making the average spending of each player increase.

So with all of this considered, where can you imagine is a problem that it’s normal that “players have more real life responsibilities” now? The player base shouldn’t be this old. It shouldn’t have to compete with those kinds of responsibilities. The game’s design and marketing has failed miserably when that is the normal player left. It should focus on what made so many youngsters without those responsibilities want to play it and get so hooked on it way back when.

But that’s a topic for another day, and doesn’t belong in this thread.

Read the original post.

Since there’s a lot to read, and some new replies might only be reading the very last thing mentioned, I’ll just do a little summary of the thread here:

It’s a thread about the sociological aspects and reasons behind the increase of asocial behavior, and also the reasons behind the increase of “toxicity”. (Think of it more as a category and subcategory, they aren’t the same thing.)
Although there have been many things that has gone off-topic already, so feel free to ignore that kind of stuff.


I wish I actually wanted to read that book you wrote, but hope you’ll feel better
-Not to be attacking it either, I have dyslexsia so this post would take me forever to read xD srry


I do ask people to give up if it isn’t their cup of tea right at the top of the original post. But a post like yours kinda falls under the definition of spam, wouldn’t you agree?

I do apologise for not providing a short summary so you can give your take on it, but it’s a complex issue.


Just thank me I get your post straight to the top list before it’s ignored

(Jurgenhan) #29

Not really sure what you are asking for. You are not going to get what you had wayyy back in Vanilla nowadays. People have changed, you can see this from tons of forums online and not just about gaming but about anything in general that has to do with the internet.

People are doing and saying things online that they would not usually do to others in person because at home behind a screen, they feel safe and there is hardly any punishment for their behavior online.

Classic WOW will be out on the 27th so you can try and relive the glory days then. Modern WOW has a ton of problems but I seriously do not fault the developers for why people have changed and why you feel isolated. If the game is not fun for you anymore then you have a simple option: unsub and quit. Find something else more to your liking to play.


I’m not asking for vanilla to return. I used it as an example because it contained better social mechanisms in line with the principles as explained above, and therefore conditioned people which drew out other kinds of behavior from many.

That’s a very shallow analysis, and there is a lot of research you can look up yourself pertaining to differences between online behavior both in general and online behavior in social cliques and in online psuedo-societies, compared to “real life behavior”.

You’re not wrong. But you’re not right either. There’s just a whole lot more behind what you’ve surmised on your own.

… What? Read the thread.

(Cróws) #31

Interesting thread, I don’t have time to read it all now and I don’t know how the bookmarking system work on these forum so I will post here so I can find it later.

(Galander) #32

Kind of disagree with this one.
People raging all kinds of vile spew in chat are often looking for a reaction. If they don’t get one, then they’re left unsatisfied as noone cares.

I don’t find people like that worthy of my attention. Whether it be insulting them back, defending myself or letting them know that I will spend even more of my time reporting them. If I do any of the above, I’ve given them exactly what they wanted.


I never said you should deal with the individuals @Galander. I said you should bring attention to the root causes. Treating the symptoms but not the causes is never a good solution, as you so rightly pointed out. It’d just exhaust you.

I’ll clarify something, because some people seem to be missing the point of the thread. I explained the things I did in the original post, because it’s what the game’s design has gone against. So to change the design of the social interactions to better fit those kinds of things which most people are unaware of, would eventually condition people to behave differently.
That doesn’t mean “ugh, another nostalgia player who claims everything was better way back when”, I merely used it as an easy to understand example to illustrate in a relatable fashion to you all, since you ARE wow players, how those effects worked like for many people back then, and why many people see it as a more immersive experience than now.
That doesn’t mean everyone did, as Punyelf showed with that anecdote. But many did. Many don’t do now, as you can check if you “feel the pulse” of the player base by reaching out to streams, creating characters on different realms and checking the social interactions, the activity of people talking to each other instead of just talking to an anonymous space with no reply like in a trade chat, and so on and so forth. Also go through thread histories of people complaining about bad social interactions, like bad histories with key runs, or inability to find people, like guilds that has a hard time getting started, or in pvp, the difficulty of playing with the same people more than once or twice, and so on.
It goes on and on.

There’s also something called “meaningful relationships”. That means a friend you can really talk to, or a loved one you really hold affectionate feelings for.
Then there are fleeting relationships, like when you add a person on facebook for example, and mostly tend to share cold talk with, like you’d do with a co-worker.

Think of it like the difference between a person with 10 friends on facebook, but is very close to each one, compared to a person with 300 friends on facebook, but barely talks to more than just a few, if even that.
So don’t make the mistake of conflating meaningful relationships with fleeting relationships like illustrated above.


I know i said earlier i back up from here but , this being my field, obviously i cannot keep my nose out from the subject so …

It is not quite this simple. Social interactions in the game are very complex thing that is affected by many things. What current research and discussion suggests, it is not about personality types or proximity princible or mere-exposure effect, but it is more depending if the game is designed in the way it supports different trust levels between players and gives opportunities to make bonds with good trust. This all needs to be done within limits of our cababilities to maintain different levels of friendships (Dunbar’s layers are usually used as measure). So in short, game activities have to support cognitive social cababilities of the players and create repeating positive loops that are needed in relationship building.

You seem genuinely interested on subject, so here is one link to report from last year about this subject from convention where game makers from different game houses have yearly think tanks about different aspects of developing better games. I can look you some more too if you wish, but i think you will also find those easily yourself, just starting from references section on end of this report.

Group Report: Design Practices for Human Scale Online Games

To everyone asking for solo queue
Dooms day is coming
Dooms day is coming
A Proper Solo Queue (not que, that's Spanish)
WTF is wrong with this island expedition kick system

I know. I never said it will magically make it all better for everyone. But they are concrete methods in social design to encourage other behavior than what is encouraged now.

As for Dunbar’s layers, those numbers can fluctuate. What’s a good friend now might diminish to only a friend in a week, and so on. So the more time spent in the game, it shifts what’s already occupied of those layers from real life and so on, to open up space for other people you more frequently meet due to spending more time in the game, while if they don’t do the same then the “out of sight, out of mind” saying kicks into effect. In other words, the principles mentioned in the original post.

Friendship formation requires 4 key ingredients:

  • Proximity . Being close together to one another encourages frequent serendipitous interactions.
  • Similarity . Players will generally be more likely to become friends if they perceive one another to be similar.
  • Reciprocity . Players must engage in escalating back-and-forth interactions in order to negotiate shared social norms.
  • Disclosure . At higher levels of friendship, there needs to be an opportunity for safe, consensual, intimate sharing of weaknesses.

It even references the principles in the report itself, that you linked to.

The thing is, the report you linked to, goes into the methodical overview of the events after the initial exposure. I didn’t. Because I believe people can handle that on their own, if you just give them the smaller tools to accomplish it like using the initial principles and factors mentioned above.

But the assumption that everyone can easily get along with each other is a fallacy, because of things like personality types, conflicting cultural differences (doesn’t mean all cultural differences, but sometimes they can conflict with each other, like the open social norm of the Americans compared to Japan’s strict respect of personal space for example), and so on.

It’s a huge subject, and yeah, I won’t be able to cover it in a single thread. Not even close. Which is why I’m focusing on the bare minimum essentials, as I mentioned in the original post.

Oh, I do like this quote from the report you linked to:

You can take any two players, put them together in matches for hundreds of hours, and if the above criteria are not met, they are unlikely to become friends. Naively tossing bodies at one another is not efficient social design.

I’m reading it while posting, so I’m going back and forth. Here’s some more:

Design for consent

Almost every stage of these reciprocation loops involves consent. Each party must consent to both starting, continuing, and escalating the relationship. At any point, it is totally fine for one or both parties to pull away, either to slow down or move onto some other relationship opportunity.

In the context of Dunbar’s Layers, there’s a limit on the number of people an individual can have in their lives. The process of building friendship is also the active process of curating relationships that are healthy and mutually satisfying. When players actively and enthusiastically consent to engage in your reciprocation loops, you’ll find that the relationships you build in your game are more authentic, last longer, and ultimately provide more value to your players.

See what I mean? The reason I kept what I said to real life, is because it’s the best basis for comparison. And what is actively bypassed in automated matchmaking systems, and *psuedo-automated matchmaking systems. Because not giving consent or withdrawing it carries severe repercussions, so many people become conditioned to concede these subconscious mechanisms, and it spells disaster.
I’ve noticed myself though, that social butterflies can still excel even under such circumstances. But they’re an outlier, and not the norm.

*By psuedo, I’m referring to the lists in the group finder interface. While both parties do give consent, it’s not often in a social nature and instead in a merit-based way, similar to choosing which bot to use in a game with AI teammates/opponents of different difficulties. So the social interaction and loop of consent doesn’t kick in until a dialogue is started.

Social immersion is important, especially for a game like this.

If anything, social networks damage our relationships. By making it possible for us to cheaply form superficial relationships (and invest our limited energy in maintaining them), such systems divert cognitive resources from smaller, intimate groups out towards larger, less-intimate groups. The result is that key relationships with best friends and loved ones suffer. And, unfortunately, it is the strength of these high-trust relationships that are most predictive of mental health and overall happiness

A little further down, that thing about group trust is indeed interesting, and correlates to how many guilds bonded and worked back in the day.
The things about group stability and secondary groups, to give it context for WoW, the game has heavily shifted towards secondary group encouragement, and severely downsized the primary groups as a consequence.

Weak ties are not universally good for game developers.

  • Scope creep . The economic and political systems necessary to make very large groups function are often some of the most complex features in a game. To support weak ties in your game is to accept a certain level of scope creep.
  • Over emphasis on weak ties can hurt strong ties . Weak ties are also not a replacement for strong ties. Social groups involving mostly weak ties are poor at providing emotional support as well as transferring and enforcing group norms. Many critiques of strongly capitalist, technocratic or libertarian dystopias center on how a overreliance on weak ties (via large-scale trade, algorithmic replacement of reciprocation loops, and other scaleable-yet-dehumanized systems) leads to an accidental erosion of strong ties.

If anything, modern MMOs suffer from too many weak ties and not enough emphasis on building and supporting strong ties. Perhaps because MUDs and early online games were historically rich with strong bonds, MMO designers simply assumed they’d get those for free. They didn’t realize their desire to build a big game—which historically has been conflated with popularity—was antithetical to the magical social connections that made early online games attractive in the first place.

I’m gonna take a break from reading the link now, because I’ve got other things I need to attend to. But I’ll get back later with more to say, if there are more things to say about it.

But all in all, your link actually strengthens the reason for this thread and what I aimed to put focus on while making it.


Dunbar’s layers can fluctuate who is on what layer in persons life, but the numbers what actual layer can hold remain about the same. On this report they are used as tool to measure what kind of encounters are possible to create to bring positive experiences in game.

Do note it is not based on making lot of friends. It is about building content to very large group of people where very few are actually friends. This means providing lot of low trust activities to low trust level groups and building higher challenges in the way that it is possible to have group with high trust level to do it.

is in that report to provide basis for building activities that offer this loop and avoiding design errors that break this loop (which is especially important in groups doing content requiring high trust levels). It doesn’t mean everyone will become friends (it is not even possible) but it helps to make content where such bonds don’t break and can grow.

There is no such assumption there, but well made structures in game design smooth this kind of differences in the way that it is possible to build trust.

Pressing that button to join queue is consent. But it is important to remember that basic LFR and LFD are especially designed as low trust content, which you can play with strangers. If we look at “toxicity” in game it is usually related to pugged content that is ment for doing with friends (think of pugging high mythic+ for example). There we got groups that have low trust doing content that requires high trust and we see the results in the problems and clashes that arise once in a while.

I am happy you got interested on that link. You might want to check main site of the Project Horseshoe as well and read their other reports of improving gaming life. This group of gaming professionals gathers up once a year for this. There is also lot of research done on social aspects and design of gaming if you are interested in to dive deeper into this. This subject is definately interesting and needs to be talked and that is why i originally was asking for some references for your OP. I think you have right subject but all the talk about personalities was bringing it from the core of the issue (right design based on limits) to bit on the side.


I brought it up because it introduces an element which can’t be controlled in gaming environments. That personality types can be at odds with each other, which would put a limit on the amount of trust which can be formed between the two people.

Also, LFR and LFD (presuming you mean the fully automated matchmaking queues) are isolating experiences quite often, because as mentioned, it strips away the act of consenting properly, doesn’t naturally encourage dialogue before encountering problems (which is a time when many can enter that “coffee shop” mode of placing blame, because for many by now the perceived social norm is to not suffer problems in that type of content), and conditions many people to get used to forcing their way past that natural mechanism of consent. Which is covered in that report you linked to, but with other terminology.
To clarify, I’m not against automatic queues. I think they can work great. But it needs social mechanisms integrated, and an intuitive balance between accessibility to content and people’s right to choose not to participate with people they feel sends off the “wrong signals”.
Because to only force it with the threat of punishment, is authoritarian in nature.

Yeah sorry, I phrased it poorly. I meant that the content of the numbers can fluctuate, which I illustrated with the example right after. So just because you have those 15 good friends now, it can drop to 5 good friends from time spent apart or a change in interest or a severe fight and so on, which would open up space to replacing it where you’re spending your time which would, in this example, be in the game.
So it fluctuates.

The reason why it’s there still doesn’t change the fact that it acknowledges the relevance of those principles.

Yeah sorry, phrased it poorly again. I meant the general assumption which seems to be the design philosophy of this focus on secondary groups which has overshadowed primary group formations.

I’ll definitely be checking out their reports further, one at a time. Thank you for the tip! I’m genuinely grateful.

And now, back to those other things. I’ll respond when I get a chance to if you’ve got more to say.


Can you explain that again but slower.


Here are some more key quotes from the report, and really brings attention to where it matters most:


The big idea

Key discoveries in social psychology place hard limits on the types of social games we can build.

  • Friendship research shows meaningful in-game relationships require conditions such as proximity, similarity, reciprocity, and disclosure
  • Dunbar’s Layers research shows that players have hard limits on the number of meaningful relationships in their life. These friendship are organized into layers of increasing size and decreasing intimacy.
  • Social group research shows the need for increasingly complex support structure as group size grows

These are the physics that social designers must understand and build into their designs.

The trap

Many past designs ignored Dunbar’s Layers and naively assumed “more is better.” They ignore friendship formation and assume “it just happens.” They ignore social groups and arbitrarily mash players together.

In reality, these assumptions are actively harmful and cause the following:

  • Fewer in-game friendships . A flood of strangers swamp the reciprocation and proximity mechanisms that generate friends. Poor identity, persistence, reciprocity, and consent systems mean these strangers never convert into friends, so there are fewer meaningful relationships in the game.
  • Increased toxicity . Large groups of strangers naturally breed toxic sub-groups. Players engage in violent rejection of out-groups in order to protect their experience and intergroup conflict becomes the cultural norm. Such communities are hard to reform and poison long-term retention.
  • Scope creep . The additional systems necessary to manage large groups of strangers substantially increase the scope of your game.

What players need

If players have not filled all the slots in their primary friend network, they suffer. And, in response, they are intrinsically motivated to deepen their existing relationships or build relationships with new people. Striving for belongingness is one of the strongest human motivations. They will naturally seek out activities that help them make friends and belong to something bigger than themselves.

The opportunity

If your games help build relationships for the player in any of their inner layers, you’ll accomplish a couple key benefits:

  • Increase retention and engagement . Your game becomes the place where people attain their desires. Since you provide immense value, they make the game a key part of their lives.
  • Improve the lives of your players . They’ll experience less depression, better health, and have more robustness in the face of negative life events.


What is your take on all that on wow level? Where do you see pitfalls and which parts of the game are good as they are?

I don’t know if you play gw2, but that game is built pretty much on those principles from the very start and it shows (one of the writers of that report is dev of that game who is specialized in gamer motivation and building high social engagement activities and very known on that area). Community is extremely mellow and nice and there is hardly any toxicity. If you are curious how such game looks and haven’t played it then it is worth checking out just to see how these princibles work out in real game.