Picture this. You wake up and que into a lobby with every one of a similar MMR and rank. Ahh, you think, no players below or above this skill level, this is fantastic. The game goes well and you get the inevitable win, leading to everyone saying GGWP and it ends there. No BG my team is trash, no rip my teammates are playing on toasters and no FFS are my teammates playing with their monitor off. There is no one blocking entry points or baiting your movements.
Clean, Pleasant, Dreamlike.
Ideally, this is how we would all like our games to go. Free of excessive toxic behavior. But really?
Whether we like it or not, the reality is nowadays we all reach a point whereby we have an interaction that tilts or triggers us, leading to an overall negative experience. Trolls get great satisfaction from knowing that they've already tilted the enemy 2 seconds into the game by spamming quick chat or forgetting they're holding LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.
Below I've compiled a short list of methods and approaches that won't suit everyone and their approach to dealing with trolls and toxic behaviour, but may promote looking at everything from a different perspective.
1. Experience from a troll
I had a short chat with a Grand Master League of Legends player, who requested to remain anonymous, about how he deals with toxic behavior, in a game that's quite renowned for it. He framed it in a perspective that I previously adopted way back during my Starcraft 2 days and I'm glad people are still using it today. That is,
"To think that the troll's life, outside of the game is in shambles".
As sinister and negative as it sounds, you quickly get over the fact that they're spewing abusive comments in the chat, as this is might be how they deal with the hardships they are experiencing. Many people use games as an escape from the day-to-day grind, rough relationships, or as a reward for a task or job they've done well. He told me that more often than not,
"It helps to reset in between games and take 30s to paint the worst imaginable picture that I can of whoever got on my nerves that game, and evaluate whether my gameplay was affected positively or negatively by it. By adopting this approach, it made the grind to GM a lot easier as queuing back to back was not a stressful as it used to be".
2. Bravo 6, We're going dark
Disabling communication whether that be voice or text may only take a few seconds, but can drastically increase your experience with how you deal with toxicity. This approach has backlash if your teammates are the ones being toxic, however, I've personally found that many people I've coached and players I've counseled have just always kept it off, especially if they have had a bad day themselves.
If you're playing League of Legends, this approach will be different from something like CS:GO or Valorant, whereby you can take time by yourself to lane without too much backlash from disabling coms. In an FPS, there is a constant requirement to ensure coms are up each round, to help paint the picture to your teammates of what you saw, in the shortest time possible. We are not saying to shut these guys out, but if you've had a bad day and cannot bear the sound of a 10 year old on a 2014 turtlebeach headset, then the choice is yours.
3. Accountability for tilt
Sometimes it's neither the enemy nor yourself who is to blame for something that has gone wrong within your game, which may be a result of the game itself, a technical error (controller DC/input error) or straight up old fashioned lag. In this situation, we love to adopt the "Full send, run it back" approach whereby you take a few seconds to destress and just run it back. I have personally used this approach with a few players that I've coached in Starcraft 2, where they have pressed the wrong button, leading their army into directly into 25 sieged up big boys, ready to reign down havoc.
There are many situations within a game, that play out the way we don't want to, the way we don't imagine or happen in a way that we had not thought about. Can we blame ourselves? We could. Can we blame the enemy? Of course we can, but should we? Ehhhhh. Sometimes it's better to just full send, run it back, and use the que time to work out if you could have done anything differently. If the answer is no, well then we move on and focus on the next. If the answer is yes, then you may want to take longer to map out what went wrong, why it did and what can we learn from it.
4. We are not defined by our rank number, this is not Hitman.
At the end of the day, rank comes down to purely just a number. Whether that specifically be visible or hidden MMR in a game, more often than not that number will decrease before we see it increasing. An approach that I love to use with some players I coach is that ranked is ranked. That is all it is. You as a player have previously been to Master or Diamond but have now dropped back to Gold or Plat. However, the seeds are in the soil. You have previously achieved that rank. You know that you have previously been at that level, and there is nothing stopping you from getting there again. On the flip side, if you've never achieved those high ranks, where are you now? You've achieved the rank that you are because you've got the aim of Shroud or you have had poor teammates. High or low, the only way is up, and ironic as it sounds, we will be down before we are up.
A lot of stress drives from going into a game knowing it's our promotion to the next rank, and that this is the be-all-end-all of our career. As soon as I get that next rank up, my phone will be ringing with interviews questioning how I am so good. It might, but the truth is, it will not. Neither will it if you lose. Again, lose the massive promotion match that was crucial for you getting into Grand Master? Oh well. Full send, run it back.