Online multiplayer games are a blast to play with friends or randoms alike, but they can quickly get ruined by players who only have negative things to say to you or your teammates. These tips will help you deal with their trash talk so you can stay focused on enjoying your precious game time.
Image via Blizzard and GeForce.com.
Develop a 'Focus Cue'
Trash talking players are an unfortunate inevitability in the online gaming world. You aren't always going to be able to avoid them, so you need to go in with a plan to deal with it when it happens to you. It's often a bored kid or troll that's causing problems - especially if the person is on your team - but sometimes trash talk is an attempt at a competitive edge. As Drew Brannon of the University of Georgia's Athletics Counseling and Sport Psychology Department explains, "Trash talk is an opponent's attempt to take your focus somewhere else."
To keep them from dragging you down, Brannon recommends you develop a "focus cue", or reflexive mental response. If your opponent says something to you, then you should already have a pre-planned routine - like a mantra of sorts - where you think something positive to keep your focus and blow off what they're saying. I have one of my own. Whenever someone is being a jerk, or I'm encountering trolling teammates that want to ruin things for everybody, I tell myself to "focus on the fun". As long as I can keep my targets on the fun aspects I enjoy in the game, people can say whatever they want to me.
Don't Invite People Into Your Head
Trash talkers are trying to get under your skin and mess with you, so don't give them anything to feed off of. As mental sports coach Dr Patrick Cohn puts it, don't invite them into your head. At first glance, it sounds like a fancy way of saying to "just ignore them", but there's a distinction between the two. Ignoring them implies silence, and that can make things worse if the game you're playing requires communication. Not inviting them in is more like "not taking the bait". You know they want in to your head, so don't engage with their comments and ignore their negative behaviour. Because the more you respond to their trash talk, the more fuel you'll throw onto the fire. Let that fire go out instead.
And keep in mind that some trash talkers aren't actually trying to get into your head or make you feel bad. Sometimes they're just trying to hype themselves up, or they just do it out of bad habit. Others are just insecure, so they look for others to jump in on the hater chorus. The worse they can make you feel, and the more blame they can shift, the more they can feel better about themselves. When you stop and realise how essential trash talk is to their experience, it can be that much sweeter to take it away. Enjoy your game, and if you're a competitive type, just keep focused and perform at a higher level.
Play Mind Games With Them
If you feel the need to interact with a trash talker, I have a few recommendations you can try. First, laughing along is a great way to take the wind out of their sails. It shows them that they're not getting to you at all, and that you find it amusing how serious they're acting. Or, if they're trying to be funny, it gives them some of that attention they're desperately seeking and puts you in their corner.
Or, if they're calling you out for being a bad player or something like that, you can simply agree with their accusations. There's nothing fun for them in a situation like this:
- Trash Talker: "You suck noob!"
- You: "Yeah, I do."
- Trash Talker: "..."
You can also try and weird them out, says Rick Night at VentureBeat. He explains that his friend Troy gets trash talkers to back off by telling them to stop being his friend, or saying things like, "I don't want to be your friend, sorry!" It's a little bizarre, but it would definitely throw someone off who's clearly not trying to befriend you. Who's lost focus now? Of course, you can also just do what I do sometimes and give a quick laugh then tell them: "Good try."
Unplug and Play and Without Listening
Lastly, if you're playing multiplayer games solo, you can embrace the sound of silence. Disable chat or mute the offending players while you game and avoid any issues with trash talkers altogether. It isn't ideal for competitive modes, so avoid unplugging completely when you dive into that stuff (you need to be able to communicate), but otherwise your enjoyment and sanity are far more valuable than a ranking in some video game. If you aren't having fun, then what's it all for?