Toxicity and online games are almost inseparable these days. Something about working together always seems to bring out the worst in people. From an early age, society tries to prepare us for this challenge by giving us group projects and ways to handle our differing opinions. Still, you can’t deny the tension of a group setting, and the anonymity of the internet tempts people to be more brazen, including slinging insults and griefing. Through the years, we’ve watched this fester in MMORPGs and competitive games such as League of Legends and Overwatch, but something feels very different with the Monster Hunter community: it’s a welcoming atmosphere where players genuinely want to help others.
Monster Hunter: World was the first game where the “gotta hunt them all” craze totally captivated me. I had tried previous entries but never found comfort with the controls and complicated mechanics. A few nights ago, the credits finally rolled for me on World. I defeated all the high-rank monsters, leaving me with the option to continue to rank up by fighting these baddies for cooler armor and bragging rights. I started as a complete noob, but worked my way to understanding the game, slowly learning new weapon strategies and monster patterns.
One thing I keep thinking about is those downright dirty late-game battles and how I would not have succeeded without firing off SOS flares for help from the community. At first, I was intimidated to let strangers help me, opting to ask friends instead. I haven’t had the best experience with working with strangers. Even in games I love, like Overwatch, I dread playing with strangers, because they often provide overtly negative feedback, with players casting blame, yelling expletives, or suggesting puzzling strategies.
Something different happened with Monster Hunter. One night I was struggling with some of the high-rank monsters and decided to send out a flare. What did I have to lose? I could beat myself over the head trying by myself or prolong making progress by waiting for friends to log in… or I could just ask for help from strangers. What I got when I sent that first flare out was more than I bargained for: Friendly hunters who just wanted to help me succeed in these larger-than-life battles. I never once felt judged even when I made poor decisions. If anything, the community has been nothing but encouraging, teaching me strategies to ensure I flourished. The positivity inspired me to pay it forward and answer SOS flares. In one instance, Japanese teammates and I used stickers to convey how proud we were of our success, which became one of my favorite moments. The game brought me together with people from around the world, and we celebrated our teamwork instead of decimating the flaws or casting blame if someone fainted, decreasing the rewards.
After these encounters, I kept saying to myself, “Why aren’t more communities like this?” If they were, I doubt the anxiety, dread, or eye-rolls I frequently have when entering an online game would occur. I find I play better when I have players pumping me up, not putting me down. You could argue Monster Hunter requires coordination and cooperation, making it in people’s best interest to be positive, but so do MMORPGs and competitive games like Dota 2. We know a high level of toxicity occurs there, and these communities are not known to be kind to new players, often berating or playing tricks on them. I’d argue back that losing a long fight to slay a monster is devastating, so much that you would think it would invite toxicity as people come away with nothing but lost time. That’s not the case, and I can’t point my finger on exactly what the difference is, but I know something special is here. Need more proof? Before Monster Hunter: World even came out, veterans created an Adopt-A-Hunter program to help new players acclimate to game, showing them the ropes. This kindness and desire to help is a sight to behold, and it’s a good example of how an online community should function and prosper.
I’ve always heard great things about the Monster Hunter community, but I worried with this entry’s mainstream success that might change. I fired and answered tons of SOS flares and have yet to have a bad experience, but that doesn’t mean things are perfect. After all, Capcom did have to patch players being able to stun others during carvings to make sure teammates of griefers didn’t miss out on precious loot. Even in the strongest communities, there will be bad apples and these instances are the exception. If anything, the increased popularity seems to have made the community stronger. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, as I tweeted asking people why they like the community and examples of their best moments. I received so many wonderful responses, and the below excerpts are only a selection of the outpouring of positive experiences, from newbies and veterans alike.
Some of my most memorable moments in games come from working as a team to succeed. I’ve also been on the butt end of someone’s poor attitude ruining a fun time. Monster Hunter: World makes me excited to interact with its community in a way I haven’t ever felt. It embraces all the things that make cooperative games a blast, such as overcoming a harrowing challenge, honing your coordination, and being selfless enough to share items and strategies. Every time, I fire an SOS flare, I have this trust, knowing someone will help me through the hard battle and we’ll all feel the adrenaline rush of finally taking down the big baddies together. Carving is so much better when you have three other people at your side, strangers or friends. Monster Hunter makes you look forward to your interactions with others in a way few games do. I wish more communities felt this friendly.