How games minimize or encourage salt

Hey so I used to play a lot of Overwatch, now I mainly play Apex Legends and Siege. Something i’ve noticed is that I don’t think I have ever gotten salty/tilted during a game of Apex or Siege, I am always having fun. When I played Overwatch I tilted all the time, at first I figured it was just because I didn’t like Overwatch as much. But the more I compare my experiences with these games, I’ve noticed that there are things about Overwatch’s structure that can encourage it.

If you die in Apex Legends or Siege you don’t respawn, the round is over and the game resets. In Siege you are now playing on a new site with different concerns, in Apex you start a new game with new players, loot, and drop zones. There is never a point where u can attempt an encounter again after you fail.

When you die in Overwatch nothing changes, you are forced to walk back from spawn, often to the same teamfight you just died in, on the same point with the same players until the clock runs out. This leads to many games where you are forced to spend huge amounts of time in the same losing situation over and over again.

Worth noting that this kind of maps to the toxicity I experience in game too, there is way more of it in Overwatch which I wasn’t expecting when I switched, there seems to be just a lot more time for people to get mad.

Have you guys had a wide range of experiences with salt during competitive games and if so what do you think contributes to it?

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With Apex, too, (I haven’t played Siege), there’s also the fact that the game by its nature has 57 “losers” and only 3 winners. I think knowing the odds are that stacked against you makes it easier to stomach a loss while also encouraging a more positive outlook toward good performances that still result in a “loss” (“made it to the top ten, not bad!”).

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Ya true, I’m never really disappointed with a “loss” in Apex Legends, especially since the way I play I always drop where the loot is hot and if I die I die (I usually die). Siege is a lot more similar to Overwatch though.

I’ve experienced an absurd amount of toxicity in Siege, but I think a lot of that has to do with how it’s marketed as a high skill-ceiling game for “real” gamers. There’s a lot of locker-room talk–variations on the n-word fly back and forth as often as bullets.

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I’ve only put a few hours into Overwatch on PC, but the same match where someone got really mad at me for maining Wrecking Ball, I also made a friend who’d be my pocket Mercy if I ever wanted to practice in quick play. The rest of my interaction with the PC community has generally been positive, as well, but that’s just my personal experience.

I don’t really play competitive online shooters anymore, but could this also have something to do with the community and how they compose themselves in general?

I have a partner who is super in to Overwatch and she watches streamer videos on YouTube fairly often, and the thing that frequently surprises me is how borderline unhinged some of these people are.

And these are, like, pro players and popular streamers. Not small time dudes (and they are ALL dudes)

It feels like they are always on the edge of an explosion, which they often do in increasingly absurd ways.

These guys set the expectation because they have these huge number of followers, and here they are acting like spoiled children to an increasingly susceptible audiences. It makes sense to me that they’d try to copy their favorite streamers.

But then I’m an old man and streaming confuses and scares me, so I might just be blaming the new thing. :man_shrugging:

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In Heroes of the Storm you cannot speak with the enemy team at all and in the options you can disable even your team’s chat.

When I did that competitive games changed for me forever. I never want to play a competitive multiplayer game ever again where I have to hear any thoughts or comments from anyone outside my own discord call.

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I’ve thought for a while that the special reputation of MOBA games for toxicity can partly be attributed to their design.

  1. Matches in conventional MOBA games take a long time, and players are punished by the matchmaking system for quitting early. If you see yourself losing early, you might have to continue to lose for half an hour or more.
  2. MOBAs demand more team coordination than many other popular team games, with fewer mechanical guardrails than something like Overwatch. Each player has to depend on their teammates to play their roles, and it’s easy to blame the rest of the team for poor play if things go south.
  3. MOBAs snowball by nature. A power advantage gained early on can be hard to overcome.
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The sad thing is that Overwatch started out as a super friendly game that wanted to be about “anybody can play this FPS”. It was easy to read, had several characters to use if you weren’t good at shooting (OG Mercy, OG Torborjn), and even used a lot of positive reinforcement in the results screen.

Then they turned towards eSports, kept re-balancing the game towards the competitive crowd, and it became toxic as fuck. There’s a reason I haven’t played since 2016.

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These are the things that eventually killed my League of Legends addiction. Only having time for one or maybe two games a night, being forced to spend 20 minutes before you’re even allowed to initiate a surrender vote playing out a game where you know you’ve lost within the first five minutes, and having to do it with a bunch of miserable, regressive jerks? No, thanks.

And then of course it also turned out that Riot sucks really bad as a company, too, although I was long gone before any of the worst stuff got public.

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Was having a similar discussion about toxicity in games earlier and I think a sad encourager is that at times it serves a purpose? Not a good one but a purpose nonetheless.

There’s the obvious psychological benefits of tilting an opponent, making them angry, slip up and become frustrated. For circumstances where it gets to team play I imagine it’s an outright attempt to drive undesired players away. In big multiplayer games there will be ample players to fill the ranks. It might be faster to drive someone out and have the ranks replaced rather than help someone up. Especially when prolonged poor performance will negatively impact your own scores.

It’s effectively like choosing to reroll stats rather than train them. When you can do that endlessly why would you choose the latter.

I suspect that’s what drives some toxicity, an attempt to improve team performance in as ruthless a way as possible. While the teammates are anonymous or only acquaintances in a pool of millions then this would be easy as there is little consequence for us.

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This is a really interesting angle, actually. I think “salt” is a pretty specific kind of anger. I’d kind of like to separate toxicity and salt here. I think there is a correlation, but “salt” is a specific response comes from situations where you are losing.

For me, a big part of it is feeling “stuck”. I might be angry or upset after a loss in a battle royale, but I’m not stuck. Meanwhile, in a MOBA, you’re frequently trapped in cycle of loss, fighting an uphill battle that gets harder and harder. But then, alternatively, perpetually losing in a fighting game feels can spur salt if you feel like you’re doing everything you can and still losing. I feel like “salt” is related on some level to how much the player perceives they can have an impact on their success or failure.

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Yes if i was able to start this thread again I definitely would remove the paragraph about toxicity. I think the moba analogy is perfect for Overwatch since Overwatch has ridiculously long walks back from spawn and its such a moba thing to have in a game. It’s just a lot of time where the player can do nothing and can foster a lot of negativity. That might be why more friendly games like HoTS or Paladins have mounts that make the walk back from spawn less of an event.

There’s a couple of things I’ve seen that can exacerbate the issue:

  • Positive feedback loops: a ton of visual, audio, and UI feedback goes into making the thrill of succeeding downright intoxicating, to where getting cut off from that (or not receiving an effort validation via a match win) creates a severe level of whiplash, leading to anger toward factors that might have denied you that positive feedback loop; teammates failing in your eyes, or enemies doing something “cheap”.
  • Account reward structures: if there’s a reward that’s either exclusive to or increased by winning, there’s now something on the line contingent on that win. This can be things like account XP, extra goodie boxes for weekly objective completion, or ranked matchmaking score.

Both center on a pretty similar idea, that by irresponsibly employing all of these little motivators to maximize player enjoyment and engagement, developers have unknowingly cultivated an atmosphere of passive contempt for other players.

(there’s also the advent of matchmaking heightening a sense of atomization that was disincentivized via dedicated server communities, but that’s another subject altogether)

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I very much agree with these points, but can you clarify what you mean by atomization?

So I play a lot of games in ranked multiplayer; 2000 hours in StarCraft 2, 1000 hours in Splatoon 2, 400 hours in Overwatch, etc. I got my start doing ranked online games in about 2008 with StarCraft Brood War. I was super late to the party on this one, and the ranked matchmaker I was using was a third party thing that mostly had hardcore players on it. I lost maybe 90% of the matches I played. I realised early on that if I’m gonna be playing anything online, I have to learn how to frame every moment I play in my mind as something that is either fun or something I can learn from. Basically just gearing everything in me to positive thinking.

Games can do all sorts of things to try to soften the blow of a loss, but as cheesy as this sounds, I think it has to come from inside. And as miscu said above, sometimes this serves to just make the difference between a win and a loss all the more severe. I play these games because I love the mechanics and I love the idea of competition, including in low-stakes situations (I’ve never really been in a high-stakes situation personally). Playing against bots and playing casual queues in games doesn’t give me the same rush since often games are played using different rules (Splatoon turf war, Overwatch doesn’t let you attack/defend), or players just straight up play differently and I don’t find it as fun. I’ve never gotten salty at a video game in over a decade, because the moment I realise I’m not having fun losing in a game, I just won’t play it anymore. Modern games with matchmaking will make you lose 50% of the time, unless you are in like, the top 2% percentile of players in skill. I made peace a long time ago with having fun losing 50% of the games I play in games I do enjoy, and I’ll keep playing even if I lose 90% of the time in Brood War. Except Brood War just hurts my hands to play now, so I had to stop, lol

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Chris Franklin talked about this back when Overwatch came out, and his point has only gotten more salient in the past few years. Similarly to the Internet’s shift from traditional forums to centralized social media sites, all modern multiplayer games now use a centralized matchmaking system with minimal or no options for community-run servers. Like social media, it’s a more convenient system for the average user, but it also destroys the ability for groups of like-minded players to coalesce into formal communities within the game space.

Community servers had the benefit of allowing operators to set preferred rules for the game types, as well as rules for social engagement on the server. Moderation would happen on-the-spot and for reasons that, even if they were wrong-headed, were at least comprehensible to the other players (compared to the moderation systems in modern multiplayer games, where what constitutes a community violation is much more nebulously defined).

That last point is the most important one, since if you wanted to be part of that community server—because you either prefer their chosen rule-sets or just want to be part of that social group—then there was an expectation for players to behave within that space if they wanted to continue being part of it. On top of that, you might have fostered a communal bond with the other people there, and are naturally disincentivized from lashing out against them because they’re people you know.

Sometimes this didn’t always work out, and servers would be full of undesirable chaos that would turn away more casual players, but the modern system of players organizing around the game (via Discord or private voice chat in-game) eliminates the ability for players to build camaraderie with each other or be held socially accountable for acting out.

Also, this is not going to be acceptable to everyone, but community servers also allowed players of varying skill levels to coalesce into the same space. This would often lead to newer players getting utterly crushed by veterans, but they would also act as sort-of mentor figures through their displays of skill. You don’t really get that in matchmaking systems which almost exclusively pit you against players of the same skill level, where (as superhiero mentioned) you’ll win pretty much exactly half of your games and have no frame of reference for what your skill level is compared to the pros.

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That’s really interesting and probably a difficult skill to master.

You got any advice on how to do that? I generally manage to enjoy myself a lot of the time but a string of losses will leave me salty and ugh a lot of the time too.

It’s important to just recognise when you’re feeling bad and step away and do something else. Otherwise, if it’s a game you want to improve at, then every loss has something you can use as a learning experience. If the game supports replays, then you could spend some time watching that and seeing what you could do differently. I play multiplayer games for the social aspect too, even if I don’t talk to the opponent. I like to see competitive games as a way of expressing yourself, especially in fighting games where different playstyles can come through really well. So the “communication” is entirely via the gameplay. In that sense, when I am losing, it’s often because the opponent is doing something good or cool, so it’s fun to just appreciate the cool stuff someone is doing to beat you. Goes back to the thing I said before about framing things in the positives. Every game, someone is gonna win (unless there’s a tie, lol), and it’s fine if the winner isn’t me.

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Yeah I think parts of this were difficult for me I’m part because I do play these games socially. It can affect my friends on voice chat quite a bit and when they get salty it starts to rub off on me as well a bit too.

Can see stuff positively or try to put the spin on it but with negativity all around it gets harder. Plus it’s harder to walk away from because you are playing as a group with friends.

I think that would work really well alone though.