Does CSGO have the most toxic fandom in the world?

Steven Rondina • October 30, 09:41

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has long been regarded as one of the most toxic communities in all of gaming. That’s still true, but other games have officially caught up.

The Anti-Defamation League has published its third annual breakdown of toxicity in online gaming. The study, which debuted in 2019, tracks players’ encounters with negative behavior while gaming, and documents which games they occurred in and what sort of toxic behavior they encountered. This serves as a measure of how toxic games are relative to competitors and provides some insights in terms of what publishers allow in their games.

CSGO has traditionally been a contender for having the most-toxic fandom. Things haven’t really gotten better in the game, but other titles have gotten worse to the point where CSGO’s toxicity isn’t quite as bad as some others.

According to the ADL’s study, 74% of CSGO players encountered harassment while playing the game. This is actually slightly down from 2020, where 75% of players experienced harassment. The 74% mark is good for fourth place in terms of the games surveyed. Call of Duty tied with CSGO, while Valorant, Dota 2, and Overwatch made up the top three.

While that’s an improvement, anyone that thinks CSGO’s toxicity is improving or not that bad in the grand scheme of things ought to think again. 33% of the gamers in the study who played CSGO said they adjusted their in-game behavior or quit playing due to the game’s toxicity, the third-highest in this category behind only Call of Duty and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Alongside this, the number of people who reported “meaningful positive social experiences” in the game declined from 96% in 2020 to 90% in 2021. This was the fourth-worst of the games included in the study, with only Grand Theft Auto Online, Rocket League, and Valorant reporting lower numbers.

Why is CSGO so toxic?

CSGO’s toxicity comes from a number of different factors, all of which stem from Valve’s lack of moderation.

Valve has done very little to police the population of any of its creations, which has made toxicity and harassment fairly normal across all its games, as well as Steam as a whole. Dota 2 and Counter-Strike have consistently been held up among the most toxic gaming fandoms in the world.

CSGO still earning this distinction is notable as the last 12 months have seen major changes to the game’s player base. Valve put ranked matchmaking, item drops, and many other features behind a paywall after almost three years of free-to-play action. This was a major factor in the game’s player base declining throughout 2021.

Though this theoretically should have chased off some of the bad actors, that hasn’t panned out in terms of reducing toxicity in the game. It may have gotten rid of smurfs, serial griefers, and hackers, but the overall toxicity of CSGO remains intact.

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