The NRS Games Fanbase: What Makes One Community More Toxic Than Another?
The NRS fanbase are commonly seen as a toxic element of the FGC, but how true is this?
On the 29th of August 2020, an MK11 player, @xodivorable, bemoaned the flak she was getting from the NRS fandom, many of whom accused her of being a catfish. Her only crime? Being beautiful. As time went on, Divorable proved herself, and apologies were issued from some of the people who said mean things to her.
However, during the debacle, a common theme was the idea that the NRS fanbase is filled with toxic people and that they represent a seedy underbelly of the FGC. This piqued my interest as it made me wonder why they got this reputation in the first place. As I trawled through Reddit threads and asked friends and members of the FGC, my question only got bigger. What are the elements that make a fanbase toxic? And is it possible that the word 'toxic' is being misrepresented?
But before we go any further, this piece isn't aimed to put Netherrealm fans in a tough spot; neither is it accusing them of anything. Instead, think of it as a couple of thoughts on a very layered and complicated matter.
What does it mean to be a toxic fanbase?
In simple terms, toxicity can be described as a poisonous substance that can harm a person's health. In the same vein, a toxic person or group of people are those who are more likely to put you down than lift you up. They are also described as unsupportive and emotionally unhealthy. With this definition, a toxic fanbase is one that is unsupportive, emotionally unhealthy, and puts people down. But, when you really think about it, every fanbase has elements of this behavior. Another angle that I stumbled across while asking about the topic is the very definition of toxic in the context of a fanbase. For some people, the term 'toxic' has been thrown around a lot and describes something a person doesn't like or is discontent with. For example, I don't like fanbase X; therefore, they are toxic. That is improbable, but you must have come across people misusing the term 'toxic' to describe something they don't like. So, with the NRS community, they may be described as toxic simply because outsiders don't like NRS games, and by extension, the community around it.
This is one way to look at it, but there are other factors to consider, like how vocal a fanbase is or the size of certain personalities inside it. Below, I'll consider the factors that can lead to a fanbase being called toxic.
What could make one fanbase more toxic than the other?
Are there certain fanbases more toxic than others? This is a difficult question, even within the FGC. For instance, some people hold the opinion that the Tekken 7 community is pretty mean and nasty; for others, it's the entire FGC. Outside the FGC, the K-pop community gets a bad rep, as does the League of Legends and DOTA fanbases, with each side believing the other is more toxic. But what leads to these generalizations in the first place? While canvassing for answers, I settled on these ones.
This is perhaps the biggest consideration when identifying a toxic fanbase. Most of the fanbases that get a bad rep are usually based on their size. The CS:GO player base is absolutely massive, with Statistica putting the number at about 1,000,000 concurrent players in July of this year. With so many people, the odds of coming across a toxic person is quite high. Another thing that became apparent is how comfortable people are saying hurtful things behind an avatar, as opposed to in person. Bringing it back to the current topic, the FGC is a lot smaller, and while NRS games are popular, they don't hold a candle to CS:GO or DOTA. That said, NRS games still have a lot of pull with Mortal Kombat estimated to have about 8.6 million players as of the 30th of August, 2020. This is a lot bigger than Street Fighter V, which has less than 7 million. What this means is that Mortal Kombat and other Netherrealm games have a massive presence in the FGC. So, it is also possible that due to a larger player base, Mortal Kombat is seen to have a more toxic fanbase.
Fighting games have been around for some time, and competitions focused on them have been around since the nineties. Comparatively, Netherrealm games are children and are relatively new on the tournament scene. This means that it tends to attract a younger crowd who aren't well versed in the FGC. How does this pertain to them being toxic? Well, because the younger crowd is more in-tune to social issues, they are quick to call out what they perceive as bad behavior. The problem, at least for some of the people I asked, is that this 'bad behavior' could simply be complaints or a difference of opinion.
Also, younger people who haven't grown up in the FGC feel less bound to its rules and unspoken codes of conduct; this could easily lead to misunderstandings and a bad reputation.
Okay, so, here's the thing; misunderstood fanbases tend to have something of a 'us against the world mentality' when they are labeled toxic or unfriendly. This is an understandable way to go when being opposed, but it has its disadvantages and can make you seem even more inconsiderate. It sure seems like a lot of NRS games have fans that feel maligned by the rest of the FGC, and this could lead to further marginalization and while this in itself is not a toxic trait, it could lead people to believe in the rumors about an unhealthy fanbase that doesn't support its own.
Is any fanbase 'More toxic'
Personally, I don't think so. I think every fanbase has a toxic element, and Netherrealm studios are no different. But, with a larger player pool and games that don't have the same legacy in the competitive fighting circuit, you can perhaps see why there is this reputation. There are many other reasons for NRS games' unpopularity, but this is a different topic altogether.
The most important bit is that NRS games are part of the FGC and are evolving just like the other mainstays and this is encouraging as it only means that the FGC is growing, which is all we really want.