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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of friends and I have started online gaming a lot more frequently as a social activity instead of the usual going to the bar / playing sports / pool etc. This is great as we are able to talk to each other as well as do a team activity at the same time.

However there is one member of the group that is extremely toxic.

The problem is that this player thinks they are much better than the other players and often criticises the other players when they make mistakes even though they make similar mistakes as frequently. When things are going well and we are winning, this player is not toxic and performs really well and the team morale is very good and it is enjoyable to play. However if things start to look slightly bad during a game this player gets demoralised very quickly and starts criticising the other players more and more lowering the morale of the group and usually resulting in a loss. It has now got to the stage where everyone is fed up of this attitude and another member of the group suggested we should remove them from playing with us.

They often criticise other players for making decisions that they would not have made or if the decision they did make did not benefit them as much as it did another player. The latter should not make a difference as this is a team game so individual stats aren't as important. One player in particular makes a lot of unpredictable decisions which sometimes work out well and sometimes go horribly wrong. The toxic player is the first to tell them how poor their bad decision was if things go wrong as a consequence. As a result this player often finds themselves having to justify their actions which frustrates them which is apparent with the tone in their voice. This player also directly explains to the toxic player that their attitude is not helping the team.

Personally I would rather win 50% of games and have a good time with my friends than win 75% of games and have toxicity in the losing 25% of games from this player. The difference in win percentage is not necessarily this much higher, or even at all (it's extremely difficult to tell due to the amount of variables in the game), with this player but this is just to emphasises that having fun is of a greater priority than winning in this scenario.

What makes this difficult is that we are friends outside of the game and have been for many years. We went to a bar recently, as they are slowly opening again now, and they are fine to hang around with and we all get on well outside of the online-gaming environment.

I suppose two compromises would be:

  • Let them play online games with us but not join in on the voice chat. That way they would still be playing with us but we would not hear them being toxic. However communication is key to the game and this would make things more difficult to play together.
  • Let them join in on the voice chat but not the online game. That way they would not miss out on the social aspect of the online gaming but would still be able to have a laugh with us. My issue with this is that if we were playing well and getting on, they would then want to play but then would revert back to his toxic ways if we started losing.

So how do we politely tell this person that we do not want them to play online games with us due to their attitude without having an affect on our friendship outside of online gaming?

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    Hi Jsk! If I would answer this right now, I'd say you missed a step, which is discussing their behavior and the impact it has on the experience of the rest of the group. Did you already do anything to let this person know they're bothering you this much and/or e.g. suggest anything they could do to make their criticisms more bearable? – Tinkeringbell Aug 19 at 9:58
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    @Tinkeringbell I have added an extra paragraph which hopefully fills in the gap and makes this question easier to answer. – Jsk Aug 19 at 10:07
  • Does the game have a competitive mode? (where you win/lose to get a rank). Does it have any "casual mode" and would your group be interested in it? What did you try so far to let them now their behaviour is bothering you? – CaldeiraG Aug 19 at 14:15
  • @CaldeiraG the competitive mode is pretty much all we play, which is perhaps why tempers are so high, although our current ranking is currently the highest its ever been so we are definitely improving as a team despite all the toxicity. The only non-competitive mode is little more than a training exercise and would therefore get boring very quickly - we tried this before but didn't play more than 1-2 games. We've all expressed that the toxic behaviour isn't helping anyone - sometimes directly and sometimes a little more subtly. – Jsk Aug 19 at 14:53
  • How do you arrange to play? Can you simply plan that without this person knowing? – puck Aug 21 at 6:44
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+50

Like I said in my comment, I feel there's a few steps missing in your question. So, I'd suggest you first consider your short-term vs. your long-term goal again, then try to figure out if expectations are communicated and aligned correctly. Try to compromise, before resorting to kicking them out entirely.


When trying to manage a conflict like this, it's important to realize there are short-term and long-term goals. Your short-term goal is to get this player out of the group. The long-term goal is to stay friends outside of the gaming group, and also to be able to have no ill-feelings present when meeting up like you used to before corona.

I've encountered toxic players before. While the alliance leaders and me never succeeded in putting up the divergent boundary, the long-term goal of wanting to keep in contact with the good people I was gaming with overruled the immediate goal of setting the boundary and getting this player out of my hair. In such a case, you'll might have to grit your teeth and keep plodding on until you no longer need to game with them.

Given that you're good friends outside of the gaming and want that to remain, you might want to reconsider whether the short term solution of kicking out this player is worth possibly damaging long-term goals like staying friends without any ill feelings, especially if life is slowly returning to normal and you may be at the end of having to resort to gaming as a group activity. If the answer is that yes, this behavior needs handling no matter what effect is has on long-term goals, keep reading.


Your question and comments suggest you haven't tried a lot to tell this player that their behavior is bothering the entire group: You've told them their behavior isn't helpful. At the same time, that comment mentions that your current ranking is currently the highest it's ever been. That, to me, sounds contradictory: You're telling a person that's telling you how to improve (in a toxic way) that they're not helpful, but at the same time the team is improving.

I've had a few situations where things like this caused me or someone else to ignore what was said. It helps to make your words more clear: Instead of saying "Dude, you're not helpful", be clear about the effects of their behavior.

In this case, you can use I-statements: "When you say how poor my decision was, I feel demoralized and no longer have fun playing". When phrased like that, it will point out that the problem here isn't that the ranking isn't improving, but that the fun is being killed. If you're going to speak for the whole group, you can replace "I" with "we".


You might want to keep in mind some orientations to conflict:

There are three orientations to conflict: lose-lose, win-lose, and win-win. The lose-lose orientation is a type of conflict that tends to end negatively for all parties involved. A win-lose orientation results in one victorious party, usually at the expense of the other. The win-win orientation is one of the most essential concepts to conflict resolution. A win-win solution arrived at by integrative bargaining may be close to optimal for both parties. This approach engages in a cooperative approach rather than a competitive one.

Kicking someone out of the group would be a win-lose situation. You might first want to try to achieve a win-win situation instead. I've experienced those work a lot better if you want to keep good relationships with people, and your idea of compromising seems to suggest you're open to trying this.

You do mention you've come up with two possible compromises. A compromise requires two parties. Otherwise, you're just offering this person nothing more than a menu to choose from: Be kicked out entirely, play but mute, or talk but don't play. While it's always good to think about possible solutions, all of these seem very much focused only on what the rest of the group wants, and seem to be completely bypassing what the other person wants. Instead, find out what this person wants and try to compromise based on that too.

You're describing a player who is playing to win, and you mention they want decisions to benefit them as much as others. While you and the rest of the group seem to be there to hang out with friends, to do the group activity and have fun. Have you talked with them about their expectations for these gaming sessions? Perhaps the whole group could benefit to something that's similar to what's called a session 0 in role-playing games.

Talk about expectations, feelings and reasons for the behavior. Try to align and compromise. This is where the question from your title comes in: At this point, you can politely ask what it would take for them to no longer play with you all, or how you can make the experience the most optimized for everyone.

The compromise can be that they won't talk, or that they leave the gaming group and get to do other stuff with the group. It could be that they adapt a different style of coaching the team, that the team sets time aside after the game to talk about how to do better next time (and doesn't talk about that while gaming), it could be that instead of pushing you to do better, you ask them to joke and laugh about silly decisions. You could even perhaps pick a different activity or game. I hope the list illustrated the myriad of options. But they all require one thing: give this player a voice in the solution, in the compromise, instead of just telling them they're no longer welcome.

If you've tried to talk about expectations and to compromise and this didn't work, move to the next section.


Like I said before, kicking the player out of the group is a win-lose situation: there is one victorious party at the expense of the toxic player. It's going to be very, very hard to tell someone they're no longer welcome in the gaming group while expecting them to behave like nothing happened when you hang out at the bar.

If you've reached the point where this is needed, be honest. Also, warn first, if you haven't already. For the warning, you can revert back to the I-statements I linked before, and explain the reason using wording like that: "When you X, it makes us feel like we will be better off playing without you. We'd like to warn you that we're actually considering this, if nothing changes".

If that doesn't scare them straight, you will have to follow up on the warning. I've realized that if I warn people and don't follow up, they will take any further warnings or problems less serious. So, once warned, make sure you are all actually willing to follow up!

It takes a person that can take feedback very, very well for this to not create some sort of fall-out, even for just the warning. I've used it a few times, and it never went well in the moment. It took a lot of patience and making up after to get people to even realize they were cut off in the gentlest way possible. And that needed close friends, who were people that don't generally hold grudges. Less close friends or more grudgy people will usually move on and not look back.

I would advise against asking/telling this person to stop playing with you all, unless you're really ready for a last resort. If you decide it's needed and your relation is good enough to maybe pull this off (after all, you know your friends and the situation of this group the best), be prepared for some fall-out, and for needing something to make up.

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  • I really like this answer, it raises a lot of good points that I did not consider - maybe suggesting that they do not play with us if they continue to be toxic and then warning prior to kicking if they do continue to play with us would be a better option. However this person is not necessarily a better player - but they certainly think so and therefore the advice they offer is often patronising. The current ranking is the best it has ever been but might have been even higher if it were not for the toxic player. Regardless, we play for the social / fun aspect rather than purely for ranking. – Jsk Aug 21 at 14:40
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Disclaimer: I know you asked for a way to gently kick someone out, but my answer is more about ways to let them play with you with reduced pain. My belief is that kicking someone out from your gaming group would damage your relationship, and there are other things to try before.

I was in a similar situation, playing a team online game with people that are so toxic even in written chat they eventually got temporarily banned. We had some heated discussion about the game objectives and decision made, and about behavior. I kept in good terms with most of them, and set a different path with another (we met in the game so we weren't close friends though), so I believe I can share a bit my experience regarding how to handle the situation.

If you want to play semi-competitively with a group of players, which I can imagine at least this player wants to do, you should setup rules for how to use the vocal chat:

However if things start to look slightly bad during a game this player gets demoralised very quickly and starts criticising the other players more and more lowering the morale of the group and usually resulting in a loss.

A fairly simple rule here, that wouldn't offend anyone: game time isn't criticism time. This is not only, from a casual gaming perspective, an undesirable thing for the whole morale and fun of the game, it is also from the perspective of a semi-competitive player an unnecessary distraction, which make it easy to agree for everyone.

You can, for the need of progression, and if players agree, have retrospective criticism. Saving remarks for later make sure people are cooler, have access to replay if applicable, and can focus on the arguments instead of what's currently happening.

If you ask for this rule and you get players to agree, you would have grounding to tell live to the toxic player that he should keep his remarks for later.

If you have a loss where people want to retrospect, insist on it to be constructive criticism: blaming someone for the loss is not constructive. Loosing is part of the game, and focusing on that outcome has no improvement or team building value. Improvements opportunities are equal in won and lost games. Make sure these principles are well accepted especially by this player.


This is how to handle it within the group but a little head's up could also be necessary.

I know a few players that had personal sensitivity to anger and were not controlling themselves as well as most people do. You can first have a conversation about the possible anger issue. You could say "You seemed very angry last game. Anything wrong ? Are you still having fun playing, even when we loose ?". It's a bit fishing about whether or not they agree for an apology, and for the future, warn them (sometimes, with their agreement) about countermeasures. It could be the player confess something else, like they'd like to play with someone else or to another game.

It's also about making sure they understand there is a problem, and that the subtext is that it's not really acceptable, even if that is generally useless to say. Remind them, that it's just a game, and you expect it to be anger-free. You could also say, if things are not going too well you keep yourself the freedom to cut their microphone (if you can cut for everyone, that's best)

Once you had that discussion, even if that seem a bit extreme, you can drop in the vocal "Sorry but I mute you for the reminder of the game" with several desirable effects : you echo to the head's up discussion, you get a game free of anger, and you dissuade from recidive. No need to add on the incident: most people would get the message fairly well.

If everything fails, you could consider playing another game with the toxic player, possibly without competitive aspect. Sometimes, it's just the game just doesn't fit the personality. You could consider this as a last resort before effectively kicking him out of your gaming sessions.

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There are two good answers. One is discusses the short term and long term effects of kicking the player out, and then how to go about warning them and eventually kicking them out. The other answer is about how to compromise and keep the player in and even trying to play a different game with the person.

Here's another method: have the player essentially kick themselves out. You could start changing your playing style so you no longer try to win. Discuss with the others in the team and try to agree that you don't really care about winning in some games. You just want to try stupid stuff, and you're DOING IT TO PURPOSE. Play badly. Make sure you say that you're doing it on purpose because you just don't care about winning and would rather goof off. Say that you're bored mid game and quit with a couple of others. Then play some other online game that you're all bad at and goof off in that too. Just keep making a point that you're tired of the game and just want to goof around. Keep trying out new really weird custom maps of the game if the game allows that. Even your own custom maps. Then quit mid game and say that you have to fix something in the map editor.

Once this is done I think the player will either quit, because winning is all it is for them, or they'll join in the goofing off and there will no longer be a need for this player to act the way he does. Then you can start slowly playing better until the bad behavior starts up again.

The most important thing is to just make a big point of how the things that are done which cause the game to be lost are done on purpose.

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