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    Dota 2 – The Psychology of Rage

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    Since my blog post on the “Flow” was relatively popular, I decided to continue writing in the same fashion at least once in a while. Today I will be discussing “Rage” or “Toxic” behaviour in Dota 2.

    I will start off analysing the possible and probable causes for it – anonymity and competitiveness. It will be followed by what I assume to be a “correct” response and attitude towards the issue for people who do not participate and dislike this form of behaviour.

    I have provided some references and I strongly recommend reading through them. I only touch the tip of the iceberg on some topics, due to a limited format of a blog post.

    Shall we begin?


    see also: (Madigan, J., 2010)

    Being anonymous means having to face no consequences for your behaviour in the real world. It is not necessarily a bad thing – after all we all need to share some things with the outer world once in a while, and being anonymous can help us open up.

    But for Dota 2 being anonymous mostly means having a license to be an asshole. No one can deal physical harm to you as a response for your rudeness, or file a legitimate complaint that will result in something more than a “mute” for a couple of days.

    As Penny Arcade neatly puts it:

    While I have already explained the anonymity part, the “audience” one remains unclear – unless you are professional player, the only people observing your behaviour are your team mates and enemies.

    In fact, the work I have linked in the subtitle has referenced an interesting research on a somewhat similar topic from 1970’s. It has studied the behaviour of kids that collect candy during the Halloween with the “provider” of the candy leaving the scene, to observe how kids will react under what appeared to be a “no observation” condition and how much candy would they take – the “provider” clearly stated that it is one candy per person.

    The findings were astonishing – kids, that came in groups actually took more candy! Even more so, if one of them (usually the youngest one) was to overlook and be responsible for the whole process.

    A couple of possible conclusions can be derived from the information presented above – while anonymity provides the necessary safety from the consequences of the decadent behaviour, it is the audience that really fosters “toxicity”. And the fact, that most of the trolling/abuse happens in the all-chat, rather that in team chat, makes this sound rather legitimate.


    see also: (Shaw, K., 2010)

    Ah, yes. A typical excuse to rage in a game – “I really want to win and my team-mates are failing, hence I have all the rights to verbally abuse them” (Hole, A. et. al, 2003, p.322).

    Do you, really?

    The article I have linked in the beginning of the section studies the hormonal responses of people in Unreal Tournament 2004 – a very popular game at some point. The sample was divided into several groups, and groups would compete with each other. It is completely understandable, that at this point, with a high degree of competitiveness, the Testosterone levels rose – it is a normal response to an activity of that kind.

    Naturally, there were people who were good at the game, and there were ones who were relatively bad. There might be a variety of reasons for the difference in performance, including the attitude and dexterity of players.

    What remained constant, however, that when the formed “teams” were asked to compete within their circle in a free-for-all, the best players identified in the team vs. team matches were the ones to have the lowest rise in testosterone when competing with their former team-mates!

    So what it tells us, is that the performance in a game, related to attitude, scales inversely with the higher probability of raging on your team-mates – after all, one cannot deny the influence of Hormones on our behaviour. The better your attitude towards the game is, the better you will do in it, as I have discussed previously. And the better you do in it, the lower the chance of raging on your team-mates is.

    It is impossible to prove mathematically that the opposite relationship is also true. But it certainly makes sense from the logical standpoint. After all no one really sees Na’Vi, [A]lliance or DK players rage on each other in the game – there is no time for it – your focus has to be singular on the activity at hand – playing and winning Dota!

    Moreover, when there is very little at stake, rudeness can not only provoke counter rudeness and disperse the attention, but can also make a person very offended. To a point, when he decides to throw a game, creating a 4 vs 6 situation. So, think for a bit – do you really want to rage, if you want to win the game so much?

    And here comes my main point – if one is rude to his team mates in a game, one is not playing to win, because it does not take a lot of intelligence to deduce that his chances of winning are decreasing for every piece of bile they spit at their team mates.

    Logic then dictates, that one has other reasons to play the game. The reason might be looking good and awesome, it might be sheer boredom – just to kill some time or to have some fun. But ultimately, it is not to win – hence these people are not really competitive. They are just immature. (It does not apply to well-mannered causal players – only to people who are claiming to be competitive and failing, before they even begin).

    That means that no matter how high one’s MMR is, if he keeps raging, it will never depict his full potential – one is limiting himself with a bad attitude, while making someone’s day a little less sunny.

    Another possible explanation for decadent behaviour expressed by some people would be the lack of that minimal intelligence required to deduce the simplest of things. But… let’s just leave them be… Their life is complicated as it is.

    And as a rotten cherry on top of a spinach pie – while one is engaged in typing/using microphone for the purpose of raging, one is not fully engaged in the game. And not being engaged in a game is a first step to losing. Use chat to help you coordinate the team or commend someone on a good activity (a boost to one’s self esteem and moral is a valuable factor) – don’t use it to create distractions for everyone.

    Dealing and Coping with Rage

    see also: MIT lecture on On-line Behaviour

    We have identified and explained two main problems that result in rage – Anonymity, with the Audience part of it being crucial, and Competitiveness, with the false perception of it.

    I think with my Economics and Politics education I could not possibly provide more insights on the matter, than certified Psychologists and Sociologists, but will try my best. So here are some basic things each of us can do:

    Do not rage yourself – this is the the simplest thing one can possibly do. What people don’t realise in the ego-centric communities and a whole generation of spoiled kids and bad parenting, is that their actions affect others. And one person raging in one game creates a chain effect of decadent behaviour – the subject of rage is going to enter his next game with a really bad mood and possibly rage himself. Also, if you are a subject of verbal/chat abuse – mute the offender and have a nice cup of tea after the game. It certainly helps.

    Communicate with your team-mates – I had a game with several very casual friends – Ranked 5 vs 5. By the 20 min mark all of our defences were gone and we were bunkered down on our high ground. And it wasn’t on my responsibility – I played relatively well for my party skill rating (3.8k). But all my team mates fed, and they fed hard (to be fair, all of them are around 2.3-2.8 and were not prepared to face a proper ~3.3k stack). And it is somewhat hard to snowball with Rubick.

    The difference in score was ridiculous. I could have raged and blamed them all game, but being a try hard I really wanted to win. So instead I gave a speech about how we have a better late game and that we can win and started coordinating every single aspect of the game – from where to farm, to what items to get. 45 (!!) minutes of reinforcing morals of my friends and heavy coordination later we won.

    There are two parts to the story – never give up and boost the self-esteem of your team-mates – they will start performing better. And if you are not in a 5-stack, you know for sure, that the people you are playing with are not that far from your skill – they might be having a bad day after encountering a troll, or just be new to a hero. So, instead of blaming them, reinforce their attitude to win and possibly provide some friendly advice.

    Listening to advice is another thing to do with communication. If someone is being nice in explaining some of the things to you, it doesn’t take much effort to at least read/listen to it, instead of going mental. I have encountered this behaviour a lot and will do my best helping to eradicate it. Eradicate it by being nice and friendly, no matter how hard it can be sometimes.

    And if you don’t believe me, you could always add me in steam and see for yourself – I have 194 commendations out of 1777 matches. Almost 11% commendation rate and not a single mute. (Was in LPQ once due to the internet issues). And I am very competitive, but I know what it means and how to properly use it.

    Moreover, I am pretty sure if I wasn’t that nice and friendly, I would never reach 4.1k Solo. Especially considering that while my theoretical knowledge might be vast, my personal skill is somewhat low.

    Use Commend/Report Buttons – I would like to start by saying that I am fan of Valve. Not only have they released Half-Life 1 and 2 (something that made my childhood a lot better), but they have also given us an awesome and a completely free game of Dota 2. At the same time, their commend/report system could possibly do a lot more to promote better behaviour.

    Nonetheless, I still urge you to use both aspects – we will never know whether there will be changes to it. (What I have in mind, is that apart from usual Mute/LPQ, they could introduce a % change to the amount of battle points one gains based on the Report/Commend Ratio. Just a thought.)

    Do not feed the trolls – the mute buttons are there for a reason. As well as the “disable help” option in-game. If reasoning with a person fails, just ignore them. Without the “Audience” they will have less incentive to rage. It will work out a lot better for you, since you will be able to concentrate on the game, and for the community – starving trolls is a laughable thing. I usually imagine them as 5-year old spoiled kids shaking hands at the computer that has suddenly stopped showing them their favourite cartoon. Let their parents deal with them.

    Closing comments

    This article was aimed at two categories of people – the ones who rage and the ones who suffer from it.

    For the first group I have tried my best to explain that their negative attitude and decadent behaviour does not only make everyone around them feel bad, but also directly results in them losing more games than they should. And that they deserve every single loss.

    For the second group I have tried to explain how to counter/cope with rage. I would also like to say that you are the reason why I will never stop claiming that I love Dota 2 and Dota 2 community. And don’t take the insults too seriously or let them ruin your game or your day. You wouldn’t be cross with a child trying to abuse you, would you?

    Thank you for Reading

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