Opinion: Esports needs to be less toxic

Toxic speech is only making it harder for new players to break in.

“Imagine these corporations in an Xbox 360 COD lobby” says Twitter user @MagicTouch10.

This seems to be the recurring sentiment beneath a Twitter post from Valorant News about the possible suspension of a pro Valorant player due to hate speech. Gage “Infinite” Green, a pro Valorant player for NRG chatted his thoughts, and is now facing the consequences of his actions. However, the gaming community is split on toxic speech.

Like in many gender-charged arguments, the rebuttal “not all gamers” comes up. Not all gamers are (insert: racist, sexist, ableist, etc.). This is true, not all gamers are toxic. However, there are enough that the issue persists within the community.

The issue above is not a unique incident. There are plenty of incidents of professional and casual gamers using ableist, sexist, and racist language in-game. Just recently, FaZe Clan suspended Daniel “Dubs” Walsh from its team for his use of the N-word slur.

Some Twitter users were out for Dubs’ head. Others rued cancel culture. Some claimed that his young age should prevent him from being punished.

While the suspension was indefinite, and all FaZe Clan members are undergoing sensitivity training as a result, the internet is still rife with videos of the occurrence and debate about if this is an issue or not.

Like the quote above stated, all one has to do is jump into a Call of Duty lobby and suddenly, the societally implemented rules of politically correct speech are thrown out the window. There are those who argue that trash talking is a part of the game that cannot be taken away. However, game developers are attempting to remedy this issue. There are ways for players to report each other and mute options available. However, this is doing little to actually stop these incidents from happening. If anything, it only stops people who have already heard toxicity from hearing any more.

The issue I see with toxic speech is the fact that it creates a barrier between existing players and new players. Race and gender aside, much toxic speech stems from a player’s ability to even play. New players are at a distinct disadvantage against more experienced players by the sheer factor of being new to the game. This creates a barrier to entry that is difficult for many starting players to overcome.

Esports is unique as a sport in that it is not boiled down to the physical capabilities of the player. Sure, players need swift hand-eye coordination and the ability to execute complex guidelines and formations, but these skills are not limited to any gender, race, or amount of ability. No esports player needs to be over six feet tall or be able to lift over 200 pounds. What makes esports great is that it is an equalizer. However, said equalizer has found itself floundering in the wake of players bashing each other for their skills.

Take League of Legends and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege as an example. Rainbow Six Siege alone has 58 current playable characters. The numbers of playable options in both games are immense and each character offers a different skill set and requires a different method of play. However, this is a daunting task for new players to overcome. That trepidation is then enhanced by the surrounding players who demand to know who is throwing the game or why the new player is not as capable as they are.

Toxicity is a very present issue within gaming. However, it needs repeating that not all of gaming culture is a toxic place.

The fact that esports is an equalizer that allows any person to play and attempt to reach the pro-levels is a massive success in terms of leveling the playing field. Few other physical sports allow for the presence of women and differently abled players to play without any handicap.