Keeping a positive, Christian attitude can be challenging in communities notorious for harassment and toxicity. By sharing my experiences, I demonstrate how to maintain Christian conduct while playing multiplayer video games.
I received my first video game console—a Playstation Portable (PSP)—before the age of ten. I would spend hours playing single-player games such as Lego Star Wars, Need for Speed Carbon and Pursuit Force, enjoying level after level of fun. As I grew up and made friends who also enjoyed playing video games, I was introduced to multiplayer games, which feature the option to play with or against other players from almost anywhere across the globe. While the idea sounds like a great way to enforce a sense of community among gamers, the notorious toxicity of gaming communities tends to emerge.
One of my first experiences with toxicity in video games occurred when I was only 12-years-old. I had begun playing the ranked mode in League of Legends and wasn’t performing as well as my more experienced teammates. Because I was struggling, one of my teammates decided to harass and berate me in the team chat. They used many insults, targeting my intelligence and capabilities, even hinting that I might be mentally challenged. Growing up sheltered from such interactions, I was almost brought to tears by this experience.
Almost all gamers have experienced toxic interactions in online multiplayer games. In a 2021 study, the Anti-Defamation League found that “five out of six adults (83%) ages 18-45 experienced harassment in online multiplayer games—representing over 80 million adult gamers.” The frequency of these interactions has led multiplayer video games to become synonymous with toxicity and harassment.
It has become increasingly difficult to remain level-headed in the gaming space, and in a more spiritual sense, to act within Christian conduct. Trying to maintain a Christ-like attitude while playing multiplayer video games is challenging. You’ll experience many interactions that will test your patience and compassion. However, like most everyday battles, we will find that the answer lies in turning to the teachings and examples that Jesus has laid before us.
When asked which commandments in Hebrew law were the most significant, Jesus revealed in the book of Matthew that there were two. The first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
The number one rule in netiquette, which refers to internet etiquette, shares a similar message: “Remember the human.” Essentially, this phrase reminds us that the people we interact with online are real humans. These may include people with families, jobs, lives, and especially, feelings.
The same rule applies to the gaming community. Sympathizing with players behind the screen will help give pause before you say or think of that next distasteful insult. It becomes harder to harass others in video games when you feel sympathy toward other players. If it isn’t something you would want someone to say to you, why would you say it to them?
In Proverbs 18:21, King Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words carry tremendous weight, and as Solomon wisely stated, not only does what we say affect others, but our speech also indicates the contents of our hearts. Having a mature reaction to toxicity in video games may positively influence others to think before they speak.
I am sure many gamers who partake in toxic behavior were once first affected by it as I was. Players who were deeply hurt by the irrational cruelty and rudeness now act out in similar ways to protect their feelings. They continue to feed into the cycle of harassment that plagues video game communities.
If gamers took more caution and employed mindfulness, I assume you would hear fewer slurs and insults in pre and post-game lobbies. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “[B]e the change you wish to see in the world,” and it is in this way that we should remember Jesus’ beatitude of representing a shining city on a hill for others to see. If we remember and practice these thoughts and actions, the cycle of toxicity can end.
It is important to remember why we’re playing video games to begin with; they are meant for fun. If we’re letting the attitude of others prevent us from enjoying our games, perhaps there are preventative measures we can take to ensure further we don’t make a mistake. If the games we once enjoyed become unsatisfactory because other players ruin them for us, then why play at all?
As an avid ranked League of Legends player, I’ve searched for numerous tips on how to improve my ranked performance and increase my win rate. One of the top tips for improving one’s performance in ranked mode is muting other players. If you find that the words of your competitors easily influence you, try muting their communication.
Instead of feeling like you have to give up, try to recapture a positive mentality by taking complete control of your attitude. If the game you’re playing is becoming too frustrating, step away for at least 15 minutes and try again later. Don’t ruin your experience of what is supposed to be a fun game by suffering through frustrating conditions.
While almost every online gamer encounters negative interactions, it is important to keep in mind the necessary steps from carrying that negativity into future interactions. To keep online video games fun for the entire gaming community, we should continue to keep one of the most important commandments in the Bible: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”