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JustinHeatherBarrios

How to keep the trolls out of online gaming

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About 4 years ago I gave up online gameplay. I enjoy playing games online. I like the challenge of fighting other players. I like the banter with your team and the enemy team. For the most part I really enjoy playing online. I gave up online gaming because I hate playing with trolls. I hate being called a “noob”, I hate being kicked for no reason, I hate when my team chews me out for simply not playing as long as they have, etc... I stopped playing online because I realized I wasn't having fun anymore.

I'm not the only one. This is the number one problem game designers are trying to overcome. 70% percent of new players in World of Warcraft play in a mode that blocks them from seeing all other players; this in a Massive Multiplayer RPG. There is a serious market for online gaming that many people are staying away from because of a handful of people.

Don't try telling me “some people are just jerks.” I am old enough to remember where we went for multi-player before the internet blew up: the arcade. You would walk up to your favorite game, ask to join, and start playing with total strangers. I rarely met a jerk at the arcade and most of the time the act of playing the game was a bonding experience between us. This has led me to question: why does the internet breed trolls?

A few of my ideas as to why trolls thrive:

  • Anonymity. No one knows who your really are
  • Zero risk. If people grow to hate you, you can simply create a new identity.
  • Zero reputation tracking
  • No face-to-face. Many players don't realize there are humans on the other end of the internet. No one can punch you in the face for the things you say.
  • No punishment.

    I know some people don't mind trolls, and I know some people have probably trolled themselves (I know I have). But it's really hurting the online games market. So I want us to come up with some ideas of how to fix this. Lets use two examples: a team based First Person Shooter, and an MMORPG. Here are some common problems:

    Team FPS. Trolls will...:

    • kick players for no reason
    • kill members on their team with friendly fire
    • Poor sportsmanship. (Nobody is just a good player. You cheated or my team sucks)

      MMORPG. Trolls will...:

      • Not allow new players to explore the game (“your using THAT armor? Are you stupid?”)
      • Kill new players when stats are very unbalanced
      • Kill stealing

        Both:

        • Terrible language (this prevents younger audience from playing)
        • Homophobia, Sexism (Gamer girls HATE playing online), & Racism is rampant

          So what are some ideas of how we can fix this? I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about:

          • Language filters
          • Moderators
          • Karma points
          • Paying for an account (there is some risk in having a bad reputation)
          • Rewarding players who help newbies
          • Vote kicking & abusing the vote kick
          • Player ranking (prevent putting a new player in a pro game)
          • Grouping players by age

            Once in a blue moon I have gotten into an online game where everyone, even my opponents, were very respectful. When you find a game like that you never want to leave. I feel like we can get there with some clever tricks. Tell me your ideas!

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Paid accounts + karma points + weighed votekick/ban.

Paid accounts = pay to create, rather than pay to extend. Makes the account worth keeping, as opposed to ditching it and creating a new one instead.
karma points = determine how much power is needed to kick you from a game as well as how much your votekick/voteban weighs. The higher the frequency of different players trying to votekick you, the more karma points you get, the less your votekick weighs and the less points are needed to votekick you. If votekick is successful a bit more karma points are added to your account.

Plus for votekick abuse: each votekick you initiate adds a little to your karma points too.

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From what I've seen, you have to keep the community small. If a player has group-identity with the other players in the game, they'll likely behave better, but to build that group-identity the group needs to be relatively small and intimate. If you throw a player into a group too large for them to identify with, there will be no perceived social repercussions for troll behavior. Seems that might be why you can take a WoW player who behaves relatively normally in a guild chat channel, toss him in the Looking For Raid anonymity, and end up with a fsck-wad. He identifies with the social structure of the guild, and that identity tempers his behavior. There is no group identity with the random folks in LFR so the social constraints aren't there.

Also, I wonder how much an effect priming has on the players. You give them a game of murder-death-kill, splashed with imagery of aggression and bad-assery and rage, and of course you are going to prime them to exhibit signs of aggression and rage in-game.

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From what I've seen, you have to keep the community small. If a player has group-identity with the other players in the game, they'll likely behave better, but to build that group-identity the group needs to be relatively small and intimate. If you throw a player into a group too large for them to identify with, there will be no perceived social repercussions for troll behavior. Seems that might be why you can take a WoW player who behaves relatively normally in a guild chat channel, toss him in the Looking For Raid anonymity, and end up with a fsck-wad. He identifies with the social structure of the guild, and that identity tempers his behavior. There is no group identity with the random folks in LFR so the social constraints aren't there.

Also, I wonder how much an effect priming has on the players. You give them a game of murder-death-kill, splashed with imagery of aggression and bad-assery and rage, and of course you are going to prime them to exhibit signs of aggression and rage in-game.


Which leads me to my thoughts of "super big world, decent travel options, no flight". The super big world allows the players to play in "their area" while also being able to play alongside others if they so choose. Decent travel options, I.E. Player controlled porting beyond some hideously restricted 30 minute reuse timer on recall. Being able to bring other players to your location is only a small portion of what could be made available; translocate other, group ports/evacs, translocate self, temporary moongates/portals. There are options, but they have been thrown aside, why not investigate more options? The ease of movement, with some restrictions/limitations(reagents/skill/etc), can make the super big world more traversable and the size is a very small issue. No flight simply to keep players grounded together.

There are just so many different avenues to pursue and some have been relagated to failure rather than analyzed and worked on. Small and crammed is not >= huge and open. I find huge and open easier to comprehend and experience in a 2.5D/orthographic vantage point. Less distractions around you and more focus on what is important, your surroundings. Finding the balance of player to area ratio is not a simple matter, it is heavily determined by design goals, and it is nigh impossible for it not to have a negative impact on at least some facet of your game.

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I fear that you can't do much. In the real world people are trying for millennia to stop criminals, the current state of this undertaking should be known.

The problme in the real world is similar to the virtual world. Either you try to fight criminals by harsh laws and punishment, but this will always affect none or falsely accused people and make them unhappy, often other people abuse this laws to suppress others. Or you loosen the laws and punishment to make the people more happy, but this will increase criminal activities.

A virtual world is even more "critical", because unhappy people will just leave and play somehting else, so hard laws and punishment is not the way to go. So, you will not get rid of trolls, but you could at least soften the effect of them. As player I would always sugguest: ignore them, if this is not possible for you, choose something else to play.

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"Grouping players by age" -- What you need is grouping players by maturity, which can't be measured as easily as age. I've played with respectful 15yr olds, and immature insta-flame-kicking 40 yr olds.
"kick players for no reason" -- this only happens if they run a server, and there's not much you can do about that if you want your community to be able to run servers.
"Gamer girls HATE playing online" -- they do make up more than half of the WOW player base though... ;)
"Kill new players when stats are very unbalanced" / "Kill stealing" -- your game is imba and/or you need to segregate players by skill.
"sportsmanship / language / intimidating new players" -- allow players to opt-out of the chat system, or make it opt-in. Make your game work without a chat system.
"kill members on their team" -- most FPS games deal with this by automatically kick/banning team-killers, even if it's unintentional. Or just not enabling friendly fire.

A league/ladder/ranking system is very good for keeping the "noobs" away from the "pros", or for when the matchmaking system fails, at least players are tagged as such, so people know up-front that "lulz he's in bronze league, this aint fair!" or "oh well, why did the matchmaking system put me up against a master player?"..

It's standard practice for sports games these days to categorise and segregate players into different groups based on stats besides skill, such as flagging players as rage-quitters (e.g. players who quit during the 2nd quarter when losing) and then only matchmaking them with other rage-quitters. You could apply this to other metrics, such as how often people use mature language, or whether they engage in team-killing-revenge streaks (2 people TK'ing each other, but not other people), or whether they're consistently voted against at an above-average rate, etc...

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"Grouping players by age" -- What you need is grouping players by maturity, which can't be measured as easily as age. I've played with respectful 15yr olds, and immature insta-flame-kicking 40 yr olds.
"Gamer girls HATE playing online" -- they do make up more than half of the WOW player base though... ;)


I couldn't agree with you more on those two points. Age has absolutely no bearing on maturity to be frank. From personal experience both young and old players can be "immature". The sooner people and developers get over this view the better.

I'm not sure about the female player base in WoW making up over half of it but it is true a lot of girls enjoy multiplayer games. It is true I have seen women be the target of quite offensive sexist comments (at least when viewed from my social background) part of the issue is different cultures clashing, those saying said things may not have viewed such comments as offensive. I think that these culture clashes are a problem that is incredibly hard to overcome in relation to any multiplayer games and will be so till the end of time.

I also don't personally know a single girl who has quite due to this sort of harassment in much the same way as I don't know any player who has quite playing a game due to any kind of verbal harassment. I'm not saying that verbal harassment isn't serious just that it often isn't as bad as people would often have you believe and these games being internet based such things will inevitably happen. The more important thing is to make sure those players subjected to it have some kind of effective recourse.

The best way to combat such things happening in the first place is to foster a strong (self policing) community while also providing strong moderator support.

Dedicated servers tend to be a good rout to go in an FPS's case. Players form teams of their own and avoid the public server trolls. The same is true for Guilds in MMORPGs.

It mostly comes down to creating a permanent identity for a player that if lost would cause a big inconvenience. Once you have that you remove the problem of anonymity that will, as other have said, curb antisocial behaviour. Of course this isn't true of everyone but, just like in real life, some people are just b******s.

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I also don't personally know a single girl who has quite due to this sort of harassment in much the same way as I don't know any player who has quite playing a game due to any kind of verbal harassment.

This. Game chat channels just train everybody to be able to function in the face of verbal abuse. You get good at shrugging off insults - it's a valuable skill in real life as well.

And my impression is that most girls give as good as they get - I'd challenge anyone to go head-to-head with my ex smile.png

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Its an old problem -- how do you get rid of the 14-year old mentalities who keep ruining the game experience for others.

The only real way is to have some mechanism in the game that smacks them down and pushes their nose into their mess like bad puppies. Unfortunately it takes a VERy clever mechanism to do this that wont simply be abused/manipulated by the same mentaly immature types causing the problem in the first place.

Grouping with pre-Vet-ed people

A censure mechanism that labels certain players and *ssholes

A 'zero tolerance' system where evidence is gathered IN THE GAME so that miscreants can be proven to be *ssholes and thus censured or labeled

Tough Policies which if not followed lead to banning (very strict EULA) and the game mechanism/gm support needed to make it work.

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unfortuantely the most powerful solution I have observed is to have your game only appeal to a very specific clique. The best example of this is EVE Online. EVE has a ridiculious learning curve, and the turnover rate is enormous.

However as a result it has one of the most supportive, positive communities out of any MMO out there. The kind of people who you might define as trolls usually don't have the patience to play a game like EVE, and it has the pleasant side effect of rooting out many younger players as well.

It may be similiar to a nuclear option, but if you absolutely want your game to be free of trolls it may be good to take such a approach.

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