Building stronger teamwork in competitive esports games through communication roleplaying
Esports, as a form of sports competition over video games, has exploded in popularity in the last decade. The dominant format of short matches between two teams of players picked via a combination of manual team formation and automatic matching by algorithms has attracted both amateurs playing for fun as well as professional esports athletes vying for prize pools in the tens of millions of dollars. This growth in popularity is accompanied by a rise in prevalence of negatively disruptive—or “toxic” as it is known among veteran gamers—player behaviors. These acts of disruption occur over in-game communication channels accessible to players prior to, during, and immediately after matches. While these communication channels were meant to build camaraderie and coordinate strategy, they can become channels for microaggressions and even threats to one’s physical safety and personal privacy. The current measures that systemically address this problem are largely reactionary in nature, which could be appropriate for severe offenses but are not very effective for less severe behaviors that over time normalize and reinforce this “toxic” culture. The root cause of this disruption is complex. From my research, I identified that most of the incidents of disruption happen among players within the same team, in the form of text/voice aggression triggered by poor performance and/or team coordination and sent over an impoverished player communication channel. To address this challenge, I propose Exemplar, a roleplaying platform that prepares teammates for positive contributions before a battle and fosters team reflection and learning after the battle. By strengthening team communication and coordination, the Exemplar platform enlists players of high-intensity esports games in building better gameplay experiences and healthier gaming communities.