Heroes of the Storm

HotS is every bit as toxic as any other moba. A reporting system that encourages bullying doesn’t help

HeroesoftheStorm 3 - HotS is every bit as toxic as any other moba. A reporting system that encourages bullying doesn't help
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Last year I got interested in Dota 2, a game that I knew from reputation as being intensely unfriendly, both in the rules and the player base. I discovered that both of these things were totally true, but I still enjoy playing Dota for the sheer depth; the micromanagement games and build variety gave my brain something to think about other than the incessant aggression and misery of my teammates and opponents – seriously, who ever thought all chat was a good idea?

The way reporting works in Dota is that you get 5 reports to hand out in one week, and getting reported goes toward your behavior score. Any dings to your score can be smoothed over if you lay low and keep your mouth shut for a week or two worth of games. You quickly learn a couple things: five reports a week is not -nearly- enough for the torrent of awfulness you're subjected to during a typical Dota game, and that abandoning a match invokes far swifter justice from the system than just being a racist assclown in general. The latter results in being put into a low-priority queue which you escape by winning three single draft games, which depending on your luck can take from a few hours to a few weeks.

So once I had my fill of that, I wheeled back to HotS with some fresh perspective, and saw some interesting contrasts. First off, the notion that the HotS player base is a panacea of good sportsmanship where everyone plays for fun or the love of the game is largely bollocks. The difference in toxicity between HotS and a game like Dota is in substance more than quality. In Dota, you can expect that every player in the game will be looking for a reason to flame or trash talk, which buffers the offense taken when it happens. In HotS, players are generally looking to enjoy themselves and will remain silent and respectful – right up until the first thing goes wrong. This can be anything from a mild flame, someone being out of position, someone backseating someone, someone saying "gg" even when the game is clearly over, and so on. It's this first spark that usually leads to a massive spike in sensitivity from players.

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What generally follows is that the first person who speaks out of turn, or the person who's called attention to first by someone else, gets reflexively scrutinized. Damage numbers and talents are checked, and the piling on commences. Reports are filed, and if this happens for a couple more games in a row – as it's more likely to given the mood of the person being targeted – the system is alerted and infractions are issued. These infractions start out as silences, then move on to increasingly longer suspensions. This – full disclosure – is my own personal experience.

It's at this point when I wondered if HotS and Dota had swiped each other's reporting systems, because each seems a better fit for the other. In Dota, you only get so many reports, and you aren't going to waste them on someone unless they're really deserving of it; you aren't going to AFK or Alt+F4 in games because the punishment is immediately monumental. In HotS, you can abandon games with relative glee since the penalty for this cools down quickly, and at worse you screw around in ARAM for a while until it clears. And in games where the entire chat is being malignant, only one player is going to receive the brunt of the reporting system.

I don't write this with any hope that either system will change for the better, in either the near or far future. I can only speak to what I think the HotS player base has been allowed to become: impersonal, thin-skinned and passive-aggressive, as opposed to the hyper-aggression of Dota. And it all leads to the same tragic solution: in what is ostensibly a team game, the only winning move is to turn off team chat.

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