Updated: Jul 10, 2022
You have probably noticed my profile jokingly states I am “allergic to online multiplayer”. For me this is mostly due to being an introvert - after a long day of dealing with ‘other people’ at work, I simply don’t have the energy to be dealing with yet more ‘other people’ in my leisure time #SinglePlayerCampaigns 😉
But many gamers love playing with other people online - or at least they would do - if it were not for the behaviour of some of the players they run into. It is a sad fact that online play attracts a small but disruptive minority of players whose behaviour is at best unpleasant, and at worst outright abusive. These toxic players can ruin the experience for other gamers, and can be so off-putting that some players end up avoiding online gaming altogether.
I am a firm believer that gaming is for everyone, so I find this unacceptable - and I’m not the only one. So, what can be done about it? I honestly don’t know - but I know some people who do, and they have a plan.
Two-Way are a collective of gamers and streamers that aim to tackle abuse in online gaming by creating a network of like-minded gamers and streamers to play with, watch and interact with. They are currently centred around the Two-Way Discord server.
Two-Way's motto is 'PACE' - Positive Attitude Changes Everything, and this is at the heart of everything they do.
I highly recommend watching the video below before reading further, since it will explain what Two-Way is in more detail.
Two- Way Introduction Video
NB - I wrote the script for the video, but I wasn’t involved in its production or its narration - Nomad has a voice for print 😉
Video by Two Way Official
The Six Principles of Two-Way
Two-Way operates under six principles, and has a mascot representing each (some mascot are in development). These are:
Be respectful and considerate of others.
Mascot: TBA, the winged lion
PACE, A Positive Attitude Changes Everything. Streaming Champions show an active interest in promoting and advancing evidence-based understanding of mental health.
Mascot: Poddle, the turtle
When in competition with others, engage in it in a friendly manner.
Mascot: Micho, the meerkat
Do not engage in toxic behaviour.
Mascot: TBA, the bunny
Be mindful of others and do not use hurtful words or tones. Reaching out to others is hard. It risks rejection. Two Way Champions treat those they encounter with compassion and kindness, even if they cannot intervene directly.
Mascot: Cody, the three-headed-dog
Focus on your mental well-being, and that of others. Physically and emotionally, we can only give what we have. Giving to others at the expense of one’s self can be just as personally harmful as never helping others.
Mascot: Aqua "Squish", the hydration dragon
Two-Way also has a bonus mascot - Toodle, metamorphic butterfly, the main mascot Two-Way uses for updates and main announcements. You can see it in the thumbnail of the video and this article's featured image.
Technically I am a part of Two Way, although due to my aversion to online play I’m not a particularly active Participant. I first became aware of Two-Way when they reached out to me after noticing I had linked to one of their founder members’ YouTube videos in my Unreal Tournament ’99 article.
The Interview: SparkleCat
I had the privilege of speaking with the founders of Two-Way recently, and they agreed to talk about their work and answer a few questions. Their answers were both in-depth and enlightening and so I will publish them as two separate articles. NB – SparkleCat is from Belgium and speaks English as a second language. I have edited some of the text for readability with SparkleCat’s consent.
So, without further ado, here is what Two-Way’s co-founder SparkleCat has to say about online gaming and the genesis of Two-Way.
Nomad's Reviews: What is purpose and aim of Two-Way?
SparkleCat: Two-Way aims to reduce and/or eliminate toxic behaviour in the online world. We do this by encouraging and rewarding positive behaviour rather than punishing the bad. There's a reward system behind Two-Way where members can redeem their earned points for products, services, digital codes and more. Everything is and will always remain free for the Participants; although we also have a Champion program where volunteers and content creators such as Youtubers and Twitch Streamers fundraise money to fund the rewards. Everyone can join and leave whenever they want.
Nomad's Reviews: What was the inspiration behind Two-Way?
SparkleCat: Self-experience. I've been gaming and socialising since I was young. And by young, I mean 20 years ago. As my first online games were MMOs, read Lineage, Planeshift, Runescape, and Guild Wars - which were fairly innocent at that time, - I had a positive attitude at the start. But slowly I noticed I was growing in the wrong direction. I got caught up in the hacker world of Command and Conquer Generals, where you could release an instant nuke to destroy the enemy base. Then the aimbots in early Call of Duty 1 multiplayer matches, and the farm bots in Runescape. All of these tools and assists make you feel almighty and powerful. And with great power, comes great responsibility. However, my responsibility got cloaked by bad behaviour: teabagging, trash-talking and their synonyms in Battlefield 2 and Unreal Tournament '99/2003 weren't strange to me. And looking back now, I can see the negative growth I made over the years.
Now for the inspiration behind Two-Way, which started after being silenced multiple times in Overwatch. After my final full month of silence, I realised I couldn't talk to my friends in my favourite game. Therefore, it was time for a change in myself. And why not think bigger than myself?
Nomad's Reviews: Why did you choose Two-Way as the name of your organisation?
SparkleCat: In friendship, you can't expect to get something and not give something back. It goes both directions, ergo, it goes Two Ways. It's about rewarding good behaviour.
Nomad's Reviews: How did you go about setting it up?
SparkleCat: A lot of sketching and writing in a big A3 sketchbook to start my ideas, and always questioning my questions and answers. First up, I found a website domain, and then made a Discord Server. And from there it naturally grows.
Another thing I really wanted for this idea was a whole storyline and the universe behind it. Stories that can later be translated into kid’s books, video games, online comics and animations, using our mascots as the main lines. All the stories and the characters will be available on our website: https://helx.two-way.eu/
Nomad's Reviews: How prevalent is the behaviour you are seeking to tackle, and are there any specific games or genres that are more affected by it than most?
SparkleCat: Game disruptive and demotivating behaviour might be the best way to describe it. It is really important to understand that we all perceive remarks differently. People are people, but we're all different. One person might be used to having daily banter or ranting, but others might find a friendly insult hard to deal with. Above and beyond this, we also see actual toxic behaviour such as calling out enemies with heavy insults which might or might not include racist or discriminative remarks.
Aside from the above, we also need to understand that some behaviour has grown in certain games, as daily players may perceive it as 'normal'.
As far as these all go, the behaviour we're trying to tackle is the kind of behaviour that makes the game or community lose their player base, starting with all the non-thought-through insults, and the explosive emotions of some players. We do not want to intrude on gamer groups' private vibes and behaviours. What we tend to do, is to make people understand that their actions have consequences. If you throw out an insult or even a misplaced joke, it can have a very negative impact on someone's life. It could even make them uninstall a game or start a depression spiral in their real life.
From what I have heard from our current audience, MOBA's are the biggest challenge.
Nomad's Reviews: Conversely, are there any games and communities that are largely unaffected by it?
SparkleCat: The unaffected communities are the already existing positive communities. There are a lot of streamers out there that are encouraging people to be nice within their little bubble. So why would we interfere and possibly, as we say in Belgium, "wake up a sleeping dog"?
I want to specify that these communities can reach out to use and have their communities become verified and Two Way Approved. For now, it will be a small page, but soon it will be available with the needed filters and search bar: https://two-way.eu/communities/
Nomad's Reviews: What does Two-Way do on a day-to-day basis?
SparkleCat: We're constantly scouting the online world for ways to expand, connect and grow, not only as a company/charity but as a community. On a daily basis, we talk to people within our community, set out events, rewards and giveaways, help people understand their problems, and possibly forward them to the right place for them to be or stay. Please let it be clear, we are not psychologists, we are not mental health professionals. We are a safe place. Think of it as a daycare, foster care etc. that offers guidance. We are certified as Mental Health First Aid, through the community manager program of SafeInOurWorld.
Nomad's Reviews: What are your goals?
SparkleCat: My personal goal is to make my little corner of the world a nice and comfortable place to live and do what I love.
The goal of Two-Way is to make sure other people get the chance to do the same. Bringing awareness is the first step. Our biggest end goal is to implement the Reward Program and Helx into other communities, games and online platforms.
Nomad's Reviews: Have you been in touch with any major video game companies, and if so, what have their reactions been?
SparkleCat: We have, but to avoid creating any false expectations, we won't be giving any details about that just yet. Might I add we also have reached out to several well-known voice actors?
Nomad's Reviews: What barriers to entry (if any) have you experienced, or know that others have faced?
SparkleCat: We can only take in those who 'want' to be helped. Our Discord server, for example, is a matter of free will. Everyone is free to join and leave whenever they want. This goes for the entire project too. We will not force positive behaviour upon anyone, that defeats the objective. We want people to grow from themselves, not to be set in an internet policing position.
Nomad's Reviews: What have your experiences of online gaming been like?
SparkleCat: I try to enjoy the games I'm playing, even if it is in a non-conventional way. Although for team-based games there are metas, tactics and certain necessary communications. Before Two-Way, I had made a bunch of questionable decisions, but now I'm enjoying my games because I try to be attentive to the things I say or do. I want to emphasize there's no wrong way of playing games, but people should stay respectful toward others.
Nomad's Reviews: What aspects of online gaming are you most concerned about and why?
SparkleCat: What I'm fearing most is people getting sucked into the bad behaviour standards of a game. A simple example is how the 'gg ez' meme is now a semi-accepted term. But in reality, game developers try to avoid it, such as Overwatch replacing it with sentences like:
"Well played. I salute you all."
"For glory and honour! Huzzah comrades!"
"I'm wrestling with some insecurity issues in my life but thank you all for playing with me."
"It's past my bedtime. Please don't tell my mommy."
"Gee whiz! That was fun. Good playing!"
"I feel very, very small... please hold me..."
None of these integrations would have been needed if the use of 'gg ez' hadn’t become accepted. I'm concerned that the real toxic behaviour will go in this direction.
---- Interview Break ---
NB – I (Nomad's Reviews) had no idea what the 'GG EZ' meme is, or what it is about, so SparkleCat kindly explained it to me:
SparkleCat: 'GG EZ' stands for 'Good Game Easy'. It's something you type with a nonchalant smirk after crushing your opponent at a game of DOTA (Defense Of The Ancients), LoL (League Of Legends), or SC (Starcraft).
Nomad's Reviews: Is 'GG EZ' toxic?
SparkleCat: Some people say it depends on the context, but it does not. Riot's system is automated - it takes no context whatsoever when banning. It is triggered by words, like 'gg ez', that the 'community' has decided is toxic.
GG as in 'good game' isn't toxic. The added part of EZ (easy) puts in the idea that there was no sense of competition.
Also, saying 'gg' before the game actually started, is a way to tell the enemy team that the game has already been lost/won.
Nomad's Reviews: Or, to put it another way, 'GG EZ' became an insult said by A$$-Hat trolls to belittle other players by suggesting after a match that beating them was easy, or before a match to imply that beating them would be easy. So, the Overwatch devs created a system whereby any troll typing ‘gg ez’ would have what they just typed replaced with a sentence or two that would make the trolls look lame. Trolling the trolls – that some 4D chess level trolling right there 😊
--- Back to the Interview ---
Nomad's Reviews: If you could change one aspect of online gaming, what would it be?
SparkleCat: I would add a Two-way integration for all game clients. Filter out specific words used during in-game chats and add them to auto-report systems. There are a bunch of insults that return on a regular basis in games that could be highlighted automatically.
Adding custom words profanity filters. Think about the word alcohol for recovering alcoholics, specific words for neurodivergent people. There are many words that people should avoid using as they can cause arguments and fights, which can lead to someone getting hurt. Sadly, a lot of these words are very personal and need to be manually filtered.
Proper education on online behaviour, better rewards for endorsements, and more options for in-game groups. There's so much more on the list.
Nomad's Reviews: Can you offer any advice for prospective online players about how to avoid these issues, or how they should deal with them should they encounter them?
SparkleCat: Be aware of the state of online gaming and don't get sucked into the negative behaviour. It is like seeing a bully at school and joining him rather than enjoying your own hobbies. When you play a game, enjoy the game. Feel free to come over to Two Way and educate yourself on how we handle things. Educate yourself on those who already got hurt. Know that your words can hurt.
Nomad's Reviews: Do female gamers face additional challenges when playing online, and if so, what are they and what should they do if they encounter them?
SparkleCat: You will get this question answered by Hayztee.
Nomad's Reviews: Some people might say that talking trash has been a part of online gaming since the beginning - even the bots in Unreal Tournament bad mouth the players and each other - and that players upset by this just need to ‘man up’, ‘grow a thicker skin’ or ‘go play something else’. What would you say to people espousing such views?
SparkleCat: In addition to this, I'd like to point out that there is a difference between following the views of a character you're playing in a game, developing the game, and making insults personal. It is like saying Spyro from the Reignited Trilogy is too sarcastic. Hence Unreal Tournament was an earlier game and developers weren't as aware of the problem in the community as they are now. Overwatch’s heroes sometimes have questionable voice lines, but the majority follow the character's personality if you talk from the game design perspective. Although we can also ask questions about the way they are getting used by the players themselves. Here it is about context.
Nomad's Reviews: How can people get involved or show their support?
SparkleCat: The best way to get involved is to join our Discord.
Alternatively, we have a dedicated page that gets updated regularly here: https://two-way.eu/supportus/
I would like to thank Sparkle Cat for agreeing to be interviewed, and for their forthrightness and honesty. In the next article, we will hear from Hayztee, Two Way’s other co-founder. See you all there.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you agree that corrosive online behaviour needs to be tackled at its source? And what are your thoughts about using the carrot and not the stick? Do you have any experiences of online behaviour you would like to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you would like to get in touch anomalously feel free to send me an email or direct message - absolute discretion is assured. Alternatively, reach out to Two-Way via their Discord or email@example.com.
Helx Universe website: https://helx.two-way.eu/
Safe In Our World: https://discord.com/invite/SAFERTOGETHER
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36(ish) years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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