If you play league you know about toxicity. Chances are a friend or reddit post introduced you to the term. The League of Legends community accrued some infamy for the fury behind its players. Popular perception tells that frustrated teens make up most of the player base. The young malcontents express their frustration at the slightest provocation. The veracity of League’s unfortunate reputation says little. The word around it speaks volumes.
You might not feel thankful for a toxic player, but you should feel grateful for the term itself. No word fits the effect of ragers, complainers and pesterers like toxicity. Something toxic lingers. A toxin might not knock a person dead. It could cause a cough or a collapse. Either way, a toxin goes around and people wonder whether it will hit them. Toxicity describes in-game rage so well because rage works the same way. That one argument provoking comment permeates the very air around each monitor. Engaging with it might just spread the sickness. Ignoring it does not will it away from everybody. It might not reach you, but it still clings to the whole habitat, threatening to ruin something fun.
Imagine coming home after a long day and sitting down to play a game of league. The trials of work or school proved tiring. You enter into a quick ARAM to clear you head. Everyone on the team randomly rolls a decent champion. The game starts and your team files up to the bushes at the side. An early fight breaks out and an errant arcane shift from Ezreal blows the whole thing. Your surviving teammates limp back to the tower. For a moment only silence permeates the cold air of the howling abyss. Then one of the champs falls back and stands still. The player starts to type instead of play. Ezreal receives an attack on his character. No mincing of words, not even a passive aggressive ellipses, just a raw assault on a stranger’s ego.
You made no mistake so the mad player did not target you. It does not matter, though. It could have been directed at anyone, even the opposing team. That it happened means at least one of your teammate’s put their head in the keyboard rather than the game. Even worse, that fury could turn toward any teammate that slips up.
Even the thick skinned go on guard. In a team game the morale could mean it all. One player going on tilt makes the carrying much harder. If the argument spreads to three, four, or even five players it could take a miracle to pull the team out of a nosedive. You click tab and mute the player, but that hardly means the end of it.
Responses to the rager start pouring in in spite of your requests for your teammates to mute him. Soon enough the chat lights up with the flavorful exchange of decent people turned keyboard warriors. You slate your team to lose. In the beginning it seemed like a guaranteed win. But the battle over the chat box means more to the team than the push for the enemy nexus.
Sometimes whole groups of people find that perfectly analogous term to describe a widely shared experience. The League community did just that when they coined the term “toxic”. In a team game where morale determines tilts and tilts determine who wins, nothing fits a fit of anger so well as “toxic”. No matter what you do, no matter what anyone says, the toxicity floats menacingly through the air. Even if all four players don their biohazard suits and mute the flaming fifth, the memory of the rage remains. All four know that the quarantine never needed to happen. Some might even want to fight back, but you cannot hit a toxin. You throw the punch, you take a breath, and the next thing you know it has floated right into you. You matched hate with hate. Reporting offer some reprieve, but you will never know with certainty the tribunal response. The only true consolation is that the word itself fits like a glove to a leprous hand.
~Austin R Ryan