When talking about MOBAs, gamers often focus on the toxic elements of their culture. Too rarely do we look at their opposite: the people who are just plain nice. I met one such player last night in Heroes of the Storm, and was so taken aback by his good manners and civility that I feel the need to honour him.
We were 11 minutes into the game with a strong lead when a fight threatened to break out amongst the five players on our team. The person playing as Sylvanas, a lithe undead archer lady from the Warcraft universe, suddenly decided to start calling us out on what she saw as a poor move the other four of us made. She thought that we'd dragged our feet returning from a map-specific objective, which had given the enemy team more than enough time to attack the mercenary camps on the map -- thereby summoning powerful NPC monsters to attack our base's defences.
Dealing with mercenaries (most players just refer to them as "mercs") can be a real pain. We were already two levels ahead of our opposition experience-wise and therefore have a strong lead in the match, though, which helped soften the impact of the enemy mercs. But that didn't stop our Sylvanas from calling all of us bad players...and continuing to press the point even after none of us had tried to retort.
You can see how the conversation played out in real time in this short clip I captured from the game. Pay attention to the lines of white-coloured text that pop up at the bottom-center of the screen. That's where the important stuff is happening.
Here's a transcript of the critical moment:
Sylvanas: u guys
Sylvanas: are so slow
Sylvanas: gave them both mercs
(Nobody says anything for almost 30 seconds)
Sylvanas: watch the replay on this and ull se how bad u are
Muradin: dont be mean
Muradin: we're 2 [levels] up
Muradin: thanks for the feedback
Muradin: we'll do better next time
I've played 571 games of Heroes of the Storm at this point. Never before have I seen a player defuse a situation quite this deftly and respectfully.
Again, keep in mind that my team was two levels ahead by the time Sylvanas chose to call us out. The vast majority of ugly inter-term fights that I've experienced in MOBAs happen when you're losing a game, get upset, and start blaming each other for whatever the hell went wrong. I can therefore only see two reasons why this Sylvanas felt the need to lash out. Either she:
- Wanted to offer constructive feedback to help us do better in other future games, or...
- She wanted to pick a fight.
Since she made a blanket statement about us being "bad" players and waited a full half a minute (that's a very long time in MOBAs, especially since HOTS is fast-paced compared to its competitors).
Muradin's response is, quite simply, perfect. Rather than escalating the situation with any sort of retort, he acknowledged the player's disappointment while simultaneously making the key point that you shouldn't just start being a jerk. He recognised something important in the process: it isn't really worth trying to argue with a person like this. Really, it doesn't even matter if the play in question was good or bad. Trying to defend yourself is only going to make things worse.
I wish I could say that I would have done the same exact thing as Muridan did here. But that would be a lie. Honestly, the dwarven warrior's response cut me off from snapping back at Sylvanas with some snarky line like: Hey, Sylvanas, do you really need to be a dick when we're so far ahead in this game already?
Sylvanas was being a total dick by trying to egg us on. But what Muradin was able to realise that I wasn't was that nobody responds well to accusations about their character in the middle of a heated match in a super-competitive multiplayer game like Heroes of the Storm. There's a key difference between saying "don't be mean" and calling a person an arsehole. It's the same distinction between telling a group of people they're all bad players and saying something more suggestive about a specific manoeuvre that went awry. When I reached out to the Muradin player post-game to say how impressed I was by his response to Sylvanas, he explained that he feels he has to respond to aggressive players this way.
"Lots of kids in these games," he wrote to me over Battle.net. Someone has to give them a positive example to try and emulate.
Someone really does. We need more MOBA players like this Muradin I met last night, and less like the bristling teammate he managed to talk down.