2.5 million messages later the science is in: Dota can be a den of toxicity
Data science student Balaganesh crunched the numbers around how Dota 2 players communicate in chat. To no one’s surprise, toxicity is rampant, but there may be a way to fix it.
Perhaps one of the biggest complaints for newbies, and even veterans, of the MOBA genre is how toxic the community can get. Who among us has not had to deal with toxic teammates in our pubs when they’re having a bad game?
Sometimes it’s not even that your playing bad, but that your team is losing, and your teammates needed someone to blame. Toxicity is frustrating and has been a part of the Dota scene for a long period of time. Even pro-players have not been immune to being flamed or being the flamer. But how does that toxicity manifest? Is there a specific time during the game, or a specific player that is the most toxic?
Doing the Math by data science student Balaganesh
It turns out someone has actually done some mathematical calculations to look at just how toxic the Dota community is. Balaganesh, a data-science student, did a regression on Medium to look at varying levels of toxicity during Dota games.
This study used a chat log from around 2.5 million messages from Russian, English, and other language sources in order to measure the level of toxicity from game to game. The author does admit that the data is two years old and so may not reflect current toxicity levels in the game.
According to the study, most messages are sent in the strategy phase, drops during laning, and then start to pick up again during the early to mid-game. It seems that the most toxic of those messages are in the early game, followed by the mid and late game. On a scale from non-toxic, toxic, players also seem to write on the toxic end of the scale. That being said there are still a significant number of messages that are non-toxic.
A graph from Balaganish's data concerning levels of toxicity
As it turns out, everyone is equally toxic no matter what role you play. Though Dire hard support players seem to be the most toxic according to the data, it is by a small margin. Although many of us support players like to think that carry players are the worst when they blame us for not babysitting them in lane, it’s safe to say we have many toxic players in our midst as well.
Why is Dota This Toxic?
Imagine being locked in a room with a group of strangers. All of you have to work together to search the room to find a way out. The issue is that each of you have a different way of how you want to do that. One of the people is also just a complete jerk. Another just disrupts everything for no reason. Apart from being similar to the plot of the play No Exit, that’s kind of what playing a Dota game is like.
There’s at least a 20% chance that at least one of your teammates is going to be toxic or a troll. Combined with the fact that the average Dota game takes about 40 minutes, that’s a lot of time to be dealing with other people. Dota can be a very stressful game, and sometimes that can make people lash out.
It’s also a competitive game and some people are more competitive than others. For some, winning is the only thing that matters, and they’ll roll over anyone who disagrees, even their own teammates. Criticism can be constructive, but it’s not always helpful, especially directly after the fact. That’s what replay reviews are for. Speed from Gameleap did a helpful video on this topic!
How Can We Make it Better?
Dota is a game made up of many individuals. You can’t control the actions of other individuals, but you can control yourself. Try to be a positive force in the game. Tell your team good job when they make a nice play. Don’t flame your team if they make a mistake. If people are being toxic, report them. Do your Overwatch cases. Call out people if they are being racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other heinous behavior. Though we could do with a stricter discipline policy from Valve, there are plenty of things we can do to make Dota a more positive and welcoming place.
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Christian is a student from Schenectady, New York, studying at Albany Law School. He is an avid gamer, writer, podcaster, and content creator who is passionate about Dota 2 and music!