Verbal Abuse, Online and Off

As with any other online game, League of Legends has its own forums where people can go to discuss the game. The community on said forums is about as pleasant as the in-game community, which is to say it's absolutely not. I mean, probably most of the discussions on there are perfectly civil and productive, and it's nice to read the things that the developers are saying, since they come and post on the forums regularly, but it's still aggravating sometimes to have to wade through the racism and elitism that comes with it.

Recently, though, I stumbled across a thread on the League's General Discussion forums that I actually ended up participating in. One of the common threads on there, you see, is the "how do we react to verbal abuse" thread, which revives itself in a new form fairly often. Inevitably, it devolves into a flame war between two separate camps: on one side, the decent people who want to try and improve the community by getting people to stop spewing abuse at their teammates and/or opponents; on the other, the not-decent people who complain about how the entire community's made up of thin-skinned babies who can't take a joke.

No, that's obviously not an even-handed summary of the arguments, but I stopped caring about presenting this "debate" fairly a long time ago. The thread itself is here, for the curious, although I would be very cautious about following that link given some of the decidedly not-safe-space invective that some of the people on that forum were resorting to. My personal participation in that argument began on page 9 and concluded on page 14 (just the two posts on those two pages) if anyone wanted to see those specifically.

But, if there is actually anyone reading this who thinks there's a viable debate here, allow me to set the record straight: "just toughen up" and all variants thereof are horrible advice to give someone who's having to deal with abuse or harassment. At the very least, I can say it did not help me. It didn't actually do anything to address the abuse itself, which continued unabated. And even if it "worked" in the sense that it helped me "ignore" the abuse, it did so by forcing me to conceal my emotions and identity - not a price that anyone should have to pay just to get by in society.

Maybe the rules are different enough online for it to work. Maybe the faceless nature of the Internet is enough to make ignoring abuse a viable strategy. I honestly don't care, because I see absolutely no reason to go with a "maybe" when I have a much better option to offer. It's a simple option, too - all you have to do is say three words.

"Cut that out."

It does make a difference. Even if you're only on League of Legends. It will matter to the person who's being abused, tell them that they're not alone and that they have support on their team. It will put the jerk in question on notice that they are being watched and will be held accountable by the people around them. And it's a much better idea than spreading advice that has caused real harm in the past.

If you actually want to do something about verbal abuse, whether the online abuse in games like League of Legends or the offline that continues to be a problem in schools today, don't tell me to toughen up so that I can ignore the abuse. Tell them not to say abusive things in the first place.

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