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Prodigy Rises

Let’s Talk About Competitive Halo Culture

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Hi everyone, I wanted to preface this with a brief background on myself. I have been a part of the Halo community since Halo 2 and would consider myself a competitive player. I by no means have the skill to be a pro, semi-pro, or anywhere even remotely close, but I have experience with higher level gameplay. Throughout my countless hours across multiple games, I have noticed some troubling tendencies in this community that I feel need to be addressed. I’ll try to be as succinct as possible, but I also want to make sure I hit on the issues adequately.

The competitive culture of Halo has always been one of cliques, shaming, and toxicity. The central issue being that if you aren’t deemed “good” enough by another player or group of players, you are considered less than as a person and are treated as such. This could range anywhere from shaming to shunning to harassment. The currency for any competitive game is skill, that much makes sense. However, it seems to be a recurring theme in the Halo community that has been twisted and taken too far.

I have witnessed quite toxic behavior from pros, streamers, and competitive players. Just recently, in fact, one of my competitive friends matched a prominent streamer in the community and was consistently talked shit about on stream simply because they were on the opposite team and would kill the streamer (often in a 1v1 situation). It was completely normal gameplay; no stream sniping, no targeting. He was literally just flamed for existing. And every subsequent time my friend ends up in a game with this person (due to the smaller population at the higher skill end of Arena), they get flamed on stream. Again, this is just the most recent of countless examples of toxic behavior in this community that are not addressed.

I myself have also experienced similar behaviors from people who lash out simply because I killed them in a way they deemed BS or happened to do better than them in a game. I get it, losing sucks and some of this behavior is to be expected from any competitive game. But more often than not it turns into major hostility. They’ll tell their clique this person sucks and it just snowballs from there when you match them or their friends again. Screenshots of games and shaming almost always ensues. I can’t even begin to tell you how often this has happened. Perhaps this is a problem specifically in Halo because of the smaller nature of the competitive community.

It’s the mentality of, “if you’re on the other team I hate you and will flame you” coupled with “everyone is bad and isn’t worth my time except for my clique of good people I play with all the time” that turns myself and countless other people away from Halo. There is a reason people have a negative perception of “tryhards” in this community. I have had my foot in both the competitive and casual worlds of Halo, and their cultures are vastly different. It is unfortunately quite rare to encounter very skillful players who do not have some level of toxicity. They also almost never associate with people who are not around their skill level. These “tryhards” are perceived as toxic and noninclusive from the more casual community for good reason. Some of the coolest people I’ve met in Halo play the game more casually; the same people that a lot of the competitive community wouldn’t even give the time of day to.

I have listened to multiple players over the years say that they will not add others unless they are prominent streamers, female gamers, or players up to their skill standard simply because they want their friend list to appear “legit.” Even if a player they encounter is an awesome person, they will look down on them and refuse to associate with them if they don’t fall into one of those mentioned categories. I have also been in far too many competitive lobbies to count that devolve into a pissing contest filled with passive aggressive comments in an effort for someone to feel superior over another. This is not a healthy culture to have and it does this franchise no favors if we want it to grow and succeed. And that’s not even getting into the staggering amount of stories that have recently been shared about this community.

I think it is important for people to continue to speak up about the state the Halo community. This culture of bullying and toxicity needs to stop. I really want to see this franchise’s success rocket up into the stars. Part of that has to do with the success of Infinite, but a lot of it also has to do with this community. Especially when it comes to the longevity of the game. WE as players help to preserve it.

 

TLDR: The toxic and cliquey nature of the competitive Halo community needs to change, especially if we want the franchise to succeed. It is important that people speak up, whether you’re a prominent community member or otherwise, to help change this culture.

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The relative success or failure of Halo has almost nothing to do with the community and almost everything to do with 343 releasing a game that people want to play then properly supporting it.  Nothing the community does will make an iota of difference if we get another soulless, generic shooter that overlooks the charm that drew players to Halo in the first place.  

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Can't speak directly to your experiences, but I think there is hardly anything unique about toxicity within the Halo community. It might be more apparent, given that there are only like ten people still playing this game. When the community is that small, the issues are more noticeable; its a self-selection thing. But I'd hardly describe it as a "culture" of bullying and toxicity, especially when you look at gaming as a whole.

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46 minutes ago, Boyo said:

The relative success or failure of Halo has almost nothing to do with the community and almost everything to do with 343 releasing a game that people want to play then properly supporting it.  Nothing the community does will make an iota of difference if we get another soulless, generic shooter that overlooks the charm that drew players to Halo in the first place.  

Sure, that’s certainly a crucial part of it. People have to actually like the game to play it. I also think that the community a game has around it largely affects how long a game will thrive. I do agree that developer support of a game post launch influences that a great deal, but so does having a positive community. Grassroots, for example, is a great step in the right direction to build up deserving streamers.

56 minutes ago, ShmaltzyLatkes said:

Can't speak directly to your experiences, but I think there is hardly anything unique about toxicity within the Halo community. It might be more apparent, given that there are only like ten people still playing this game. When the community is that small, the issues are more noticeable; its a self-selection thing. But I'd hardly describe it as a "culture" of bullying and toxicity, especially when you look at gaming as a whole.

Halo is quite unique in that it’s a competitive shooter with a lot of creativity in its community. To me that’s a large selling point. People can build and share maps, modes, settings, etc. Some of the most fun I’ve had in Halo is playing custom games (whether they are competitive or casual).
 

I guess my point is that people won’t want to stick around a community (namely a competitive one) that is filled with toxicity. I know a number of people who have been turned off from Halo for that very reason, myself included. I still play because I love the game, but it’s very difficult to stay involved in a community where toxic behavior is normalized a lot of the time. Perhaps some people don’t feel this way or cannot relate to the experiences I’ve shared, for which I’m glad to hear, but it is a consistent problem I’ve noticed with this community over the years. Either way, if it is indeed a general gaming issue like you’ve suggested, that shouldn’t be okay either and more people need to call it out.

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12 minutes ago, Prodigy Rises said:

I also think that the community a game has around it largely affects how long a game will thrive. I do agree that developer support of a game post launch influences that a great deal, but so does having a positive community. 

How was Halo 2 so popular for so long then?  Why did people enjoy participating in discussions on Bungie.net?  They were both home to some extremely “toxic” behavior.  

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3 minutes ago, Boyo said:

How was Halo 2 so popular for so long then?  Why did people enjoy participating in discussions on Bungie.net?  They were both home to some extremely “toxic” behavior.  

Halo 2 had an amazing competitive scene (which I’ve always found amusing because the game’s many glitches ended up making it that much better) and was a game ahead of its time. It was also one of the first major competitive games, iirc. It was even featured on tv! Those facts alone can really draw people in.
 

Streamer culture is also a huge part of games now, which can influence the community. Again, I’m not asserting that a game’s community is the sole reason for its success. The point of my post was to discuss how we need to stop normalizing toxic behavior in our community. There are a lot of people that are disillusioned about the direction the Halo franchise has gone, and they will be especially reluctant to come back to it if the community is propped up by elitist players who propagate toxicity. We can debate about how much of it is generic gaming toxicity or more specific to Halo. Regardless, we need to stop normalizing the toxicity and call out such behavior. Doesn’t matter who it comes from, it shouldn’t be acceptable.

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1 hour ago, Cursed Lemon said:

Pretty interesting huh, haha.

 

 

1 hour ago, Prodigy Rises said:

Halo 2 had an amazing competitive scene (which I’ve always found amusing because the game’s many glitches ended up making it that much better) and was a game ahead of its time. It was also one of the first major competitive games, iirc. It was even featured on tv! Those facts alone can really draw people in.
 

Streamer culture is also a huge part of games now, which can influence the community. Again, I’m not asserting that a game’s community is the sole reason for its success. The point of my post was to discuss how we need to stop normalizing toxic behavior in our community. There are a lot of people that are disillusioned about the direction the Halo franchise has gone, and they will be especially reluctant to come back to it if the community is propped up by elitist players who propagate toxicity. We can debate about how much of it is generic gaming toxicity or more specific to Halo. Regardless, we need to stop normalizing the toxicity and call out such behavior. Doesn’t matter who it comes from, it shouldn’t be acceptable.

Competition by it's very nature will drive conflict.  I'd wager outside your anecdote, if you were to view the entire game industry in a broad lenses Halo has one of, if not the best communities historically.  Very active, passionate, informed (somewhat) on mechanics, inspired to create media through Machinimas, montages, screenshots, maps, etc.  Much of that has more or less nose dived in recent titles but, that's a topic for another time.  Are you familiar with the Mortal kombat / Call of Duty pro scene? Or the Starcraft / Melee scene? Halo could probably be better, and worse off. Holding individuals accountable for their actions and words is always nice in relationships but you're never going to change the width and perception of an entire playerbase that way.  Only 343 can sculpt their fine base in that way.

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31 minutes ago, MultiLockOn said:

Competition by it's very nature will drive conflict.  I'd wager outside your anecdote, if you were to view the entire game industry in a broad lenses Halo has one of, if not the best communities historically.  Very active, passionate, informed (somewhat) on mechanics, inspired to create media through Machinimas, montages, screenshots, maps, etc.  Much of that has more or less nose dived in recent titles but, that's a topic for another time.  Are you familiar with the Mortal kombat / Call of Duty pro scene? Or the Starcraft / Melee scene? Halo could probably be better, and worse off. Holding individuals accountable for their actions and words is always nice in relationships but you're never going to change the width and perception of an entire playerbase that way.  Only 343 can sculpt their fine base in that way.

I don’t disagree that there is a lot of good in the Halo community. It’s not my intention to write off all of the great things we offer. And it’s not to say the competitive scene doesn’t have good things about it or that every single person is toxic. Hell, I love watching montages and the amazing moments that happen in tournaments. I also love playing competitive matches; I have ever since the second game. And there are a lot of really cool, positive community members. But unfortunately the reality is that a lot of people (outside of my own personal anecdotes) feel similarly about the competitive Halo culture. It’s always “tryhards” vs “casuals.” And I’m not referring to specific gameplay mechanics (Although, that is something that creates a rift). It’s a mentality of exclusion and the “I’m better than you” attitude that is all over the competitive player scene. Not a problem when you’re trying to hype yourself up, but a problem when you bring it past that.

I am not too familiar with the particular pro scenes you’ve mentioned, but I am a bit with Overwatch’s. Obviously that game’s community is also toxic, but I have noticed a concerted effort by the community to stamp it out and call out the behavior. Having an in-game reporting system and incentives to be a good teammate also have helped them.

I do disagree that we as a community shouldn’t try to make some changes to our culture. 343 can definitely help to facilitate it, but it won’t work unless we call for it and rally behind it. You’re never going to change everyone’s opinions, I recognize that. Toxic people will be toxic, but it shouldn’t be treated as something normal. If more and more people start speaking out about the toxicity prevalent in the community then I believe that we will see some changes for the better. At the very least, we can make the competitive community a more welcoming, inclusive place for players to jump into.

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“Hey random teammate.  It’s ok that you unloaded the sniper without landing so much as a single bodyshot then juggled the flag off the map, costing us the game.  You’ll get ‘em next time.  Would it make you happy if I added you to my friends list?  Because if it would make you happy, I will gladly do it.  Your happiness is important to me.”

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2 hours ago, Boyo said:

“Hey random teammate.  It’s ok that you unloaded the sniper without landing so much as a single bodyshot then juggled the flag off the map, costing us the game.  You’ll get ‘em next time.  Would it make you happy if I added you to my friends list?  Because if it would make you happy, I will gladly do it.  Your happiness is important to me.”

Why does this sound more concerning than someone calling me an n-word and telling me they fucked my mom?

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It's not just a Halo thing, look at what the Smash competitive community is dealing with right now. If Halo was still in the limelight like it used to be I'd bet that a few stories would come out about Halo pros like what has come out against Smash pros.

At Columbus 2011 I myself once saw from a sponsors hotel room window a very well know, very drunk pro have some sort of an encounter with a very drunk girl in a parking lot between two cars. While probably about 20-30 other people in the lot who didn't seem bothered by it. I remember us all laughing watching out the window, but after all this Smash stuff came out I remembered that and it doesn't seem very funny now. I don't wanna say any names because for all I know it was the guys GF at the time, but looking back it looks REALLY shady now.

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These are problems and Halo actually has been pretty toxic over time. I wouldn't say its the worst ever but at the same time I would say it is one of the worst in terms of dealing with the community at large online once you get good enough. There will be stupid people online no matter what you do but once you breach the zone where you're playing with or against people you would actually recognize from events it will vary between the games. Some games culture at the high end is very welcoming and other games people are very uninterested in or even actively against welcoming a new addition. Its because that culture is driven from the top down in that small bubble of very good players and due to the obviously limited number of people it will vary greatly based on the individual personalities involved. Halo came from a bunch of reclusive people with no real presence outside of winning events on a 480p (at best lol) stream with no real PR rules or expectations for a long time and the cliques reflect that. Its been changing slowly though as more and more people stream and interact with more than just their online group of friends

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Halo's always been this toxic. It's a shame that gg culture isn't going to become a thing, but not much you can do about it. 

I mean, people were mad over the racism crackdown in MCC, I honestly doubt you'll get them to stop being toxic. 

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I kind of get what you mean OP but I don't see it changing. It is a problem with humanity, not necessarily with Halo.

The thing that is really offputting about it though is that voice chat in MCC on PC really reminds me that I could be doing far better things with my time. Halo used to be a good way to blow off steam, but I kind of find it depressing now when the people on public voice chat in hardcore lobbies (other lobbies too but hardcore especially) are clearly around the same age as me, have also been playing for a decade or more, but literally haven't grown up at all. It's kind of jarring to hear people talking about their full time jobs, adult lives, sometimes even kids, and then switch to screaming f*g like 2007 never went out of style. It reminds me of how I always feel like the better periods of my life often are the same ones where I'm just too busy to pick up Halo, lol.

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