How to Stop Political Trolls From Ruining Your Games

Illustration for article titled How to Stop Political Trolls From Ruining Your Games

Illustration: Robuart (Shutterstock)

Is it me, or has politics taken over nearly every video game with a chat component? Even with Election Day officially over (even if we don’t quite know who our next president will be), I doubt I’ve seen the last of “TRUMP 2020,” “MAGA,” or worse within World of Warcraft’s Orgrimmar (or Barrens) chat. And I’m not the only gamer dealing with this:

The list goes on. And while the best advice I can offer to deal with toxic political chat in games is, “just ignore it,” that’s not always the easiest solution. If, for example, you’re playing an MMO where much of the information for what you’re doing drops in the same window that’s used for chat, it’s going to be harder to ignore someone telling you what a horrible [insert political affiliation here] you are. If text or voice chat is a bigger part of the experience—in a team game, for example—you might put yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you try to tune out.

What’s a person to do? You have a few options.

Look for plugins that can pull politics out of your chat

Illustration for article titled How to Stop Political Trolls From Ruining Your Games

Screenshot: David Murphy

This advice mainly applies to massively-multiplayer games that support plugins and add-ons. With World of Warcraft, for example, you can find add-ons that give you a global ignore list. Add an annoying person to the list and you won’t see them on any of your alts, either. You can even set an automatic timer for when that person is removed from said list, in case you only want to give them a temporary ban. And, of course, you can create your own filters for chat—whether you’re targeting political trolls or just annoying people trying to sell gold.

Hide the chat (or hide the trolls)

If your game won’t let you mess with or automatically disappear messages in its chat service, it’s possible that you can at least hide the chat so it isn’t in your face all the time. Some games will even keep the box, but remove everyone else’s messages; you’ll get any key details you need about the game you’re playing, but nobody else will bother you. If you’re playing an MMO, odds are good you can leave certain public channels and stick to safer waters—like your guild chat—if you don’t want everyone’s opinions to get in the way of your gaming.

Similarly, make sure you’re running the most up-to-date versions of the games you’re playing, and check patch notes to see if any new features have been added that you can then use to block trolls. In the case of Among Us, for example, a recent update allegedly makes it harder for people to spam chat with political crap. Soon, the game will launch a moderation and reporting system, which should hopefully cut down on the sus political nonsense.

Avoid voice chat (if you can)

Illustration for article titled How to Stop Political Trolls From Ruining Your Games

Screenshot: David Murphy

I have never played Fortnite with voice chat enabled, because I don’t need someone else to tell me how terrible I am at it. The same is true for any first-person shooter. That’s partly because I suck, and partly because I also don’t need 14-year-olds screaming all sorts of racist garbage at me because they’re showing off for their giggling friends (or thousands of Twitch fans).

I’m not saying that you can’t handle yourself online. But if you don’t want people to direct a stream of bullshit your way, simply search through your game’s settings and see if you can disable voice chat. You’ll feel a lot better when it’s quieter, I bet.

Don’t be afraid to be a narc

I’m 100% guilty of this one. When I see terrible comments in a game’s online chat, I usually just shrug and go about my business. I never stop and think, “hey, I could report this asshole, and maybe enough of those will convince the game’s overlords to do something about it.”

Nobody likes a narc. But also, no one likes chat trolls. Don’t rat someone out because they did something stupid like blast every player with “TRUMP 2020.” If they do it once, and they get it out of their system, sure. Whatever. Save your reporting for people who are exceedingly profane and/or gross, or just won’t stop. You’re not reporting them because you’re offended. We can all handle naughty words. You’re reporting them because they’re being a combination of asshole, not clever, and spammy.

Don’t feel bad. You’ll sleep just fine at night, because your account in the game will remain active. Watching a person’s years of effort, achievements, and/or witty online handle get stripped away because they’re running their mouth is its own reward.

Chat somewhere else—like Discord

Illustration for article titled How to Stop Political Trolls From Ruining Your Games
Screenshot: David Murphy

If you absolutely must use a chat feature while you’re gaming, consider a different service entirely—one where you, or a moderator, sets the rules, rather than a company that might not be that interested in doing much about spam.

In other words, switch to Discord. You can plop an in-game overlay into whatever you’re playing, giving you a great real-time chat that isn’t tied to the game itself. You even get voice chat. It won’t let you chat with the people you’re playing with unless you’re gaming with your guild and chatting via Discord, but it’s something. If, or when, a game’s chat moderation fails you, go somewhere else.