Leaving toxic groups

Throughout our lives we will encounter or be a part of a toxic situation.  It is unavoidable.  The gaming world is no different.  Be it with your online gaming group or your in-person tabletop gaming group, toxicity can spring up or develop.  Some of us will try to push through it, hoping that it will eventually go away.  We do this either because we don’t want to lose our friends, or we feel obligated to stick around so the group, as a whole, doesn’t fall apart.  I personally think this is the wrong thing to do.

Image credit: http://www.strasburger.com/fda-set-safety-limits-potential-toxic-elemental-impurities-approved-drugs/
Image credit: http://www.strasburger.com/fda-set-safety-limits-potential-toxic-elemental-impurities-approved-drugs/

Gaming, for most of us, is a hobby.  We do it because we enjoy it and because we get something out of it.  Be it a way to spend time with friends, unwind after a tough day at work, or just because we like it, we all have our reasons, or excuses, as to why we play.  However, when things get toxic, for whatever reason, the best thing you can do it walk away.  It is just not worth putting up with the toxicity in order to maintain friendships or a routine.  This has happened to me a couple of times in my gaming career (I’m using that term very loosely).  Both times did involve WoW and both times I left and was better off for it.

The first time this happened to me was during WoW’s first expansion, the Burning Crusade.  I had gone a few weeks without logging in due to work and other obligations and when I finally logged back in the first question one of my guild mates asked me was “where’s your roommate?”  We both played WoW and were both in the same guild, but he was, at the time, more active than I was.  When I saw that question, the first thing I thought was: “Seriously? I don’t log in for three weeks and the first thing said to me is a question about where’s my roommate.  Clearly they don’t think enough of me to ever say ‘Hi’ first.”  This really pissed me off, so I quit the guild right then and there.  That did cause some people to acknowledge my existence, but only in the form of “did you mean to do that?”  I hopped servers shortly thereafter.

In this situation, I was going to be the one to make it a toxic environment.  I took things a lot more personally back then, and I would have moped about, most likely complaining all the time.  It wouldn’t have been fun to play the game with me.  Thankfully, I recognized what was going to happen and removed myself before I caused a scene.

The second time this happened was towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King (the best expansion so far) and the beginning of Cataclysm (the worst expansion, without question).  We were one of the top 25-man raiding guilds on our server, but after weeks of trying to get down Lich King on heroic difficulty, we decided to quit raiding.  The next expansion was coming out soon and we all wanted to take it easy for a bit and relax.  Some decided to go for achievements in the 10-man raid.  I was called early one morning to help because someone else couldn’t and for the next couple of weeks we got all but two achievements needed for the epic mount.

The one weekend I couldn’t help, the rest of the group managed to get the last two needed achievements.  I thought, initially, “good for them, I’m pretty sure they’ll help me get those last two since I helped them.”  As you have probably guessed, they didn’t help; they didn’t even want to help.  I figured that that was fine, we have a large guild, and I should be able to find others willing to help.  I was finally able to.  Unfortunately, they weren’t the top tier that the other group was and we struggled for a couple weeks to tackle some of the achievements.

I was finally able to make one last push, a week or so before the new expansion dropped with some main people from the other group, including our raid leader.  And all he did was complain about how terrible the people I was able to find were.  He was so negative and such an ass, throughout the raid that I was on my last straw with him and the guild.  Once Cataclysm dropped, I left the second anyone in the guild complained about helping.  The raid leader had made it such a toxic guild for me to be in that I wouldn’t even tolerate other people in the guild complaining.  In hindsight, I probably should have left sooner.  I did write a lengthy letter to the guild leader explaining that I was leaving pretty much due to one guild mate being an intolerable prick.  I do not remember if I heard back from the guild leader or not.

Even though my experiences with this kind of toxicity have only been in online gaming, the principle of the matter is the same.  If, at any time, the group you are gaming with becomes toxic, you are much better off leaving.  You owe yourself more than you owe anyone else, and no one is going to be as concerned about your health as you are.  It will suck at first, but after some time, you will feel much better for it, as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.

I want to say that this applies to other, more emotionally invested situations you may or may not have in life.  Those are much more difficult and complex.  While the premise is similar, the difficulty in leaving is not.  It is much easier to leave a gaming group than it is to quit your job or leave all of your friends.  Therefore, I am not trying to draw a direct comparison between gaming groups, on or offline, and other relationships.  What I am saying is that if you find yourself in a toxic situation, you shouldn’t just let it fester and become worse.  See what you can do to improve the situation, but always be aware that leaving is a viable option.

Have you ever been in a toxic gaming situation?  Did you leave?  Why or why not?  Please leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

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