One Unexpected Helldivers 2 Feature Could Help Avoid the Worst Part of Online Games

More isn’t always better.

key art from Helldivers 2
Arrowhead Game Studio

When Helldivers 2 launched in early February, it immediately became a hit, drawing so many players in its first few days that the game’s servers couldn’t keep up. As players delighted in its dark, Starship Troopers-inspired satire and deeply challenging combat, some also began engaging in a time-honored multiplayer game tradition — telling other people they’re playing wrong.

As the Helldivers moved into their difficult campaign against the Automatons, which ended in a major defeat this weekend, some players reported getting kicked from groups or harassed for not using the “right” weapons. The arguments over weapon stats got so heated, the CEO of developer Arrowhead Game Studios even stepped in to remind everyone that despite Helldivers 2 depicting a galactic conflict, they are in fact just playing a game.

Arrowhead’s CEO explains you aren’t seeing the full picture with Helldivers 2 weapon stats.

It turns out that Helldivers 2 weapons actually have “maybe 50 stats in total,” while only four are shown to players, Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt said on social media. So while players quibble over stat differences in their loadouts, their focus on those visible numbers may be obscuring their weapons’ true value. Instead of relying on those metrics, Pilestedt advised, “Use the one you like the most.”

Unsurprisingly, not everyone took kindly to the idea that they should focus on what’s fun to use rather than what’s numerically the best option. Some players in the game’s subreddit demanded that Arrowhead make all their stats visible and complained that not being able to pore over the minutiae of weapon balance was ruining the game. That’s a way of playing games that I frankly can’t relate to. But especially given that losing matches in Helldivers 2 can have long-term ramifications on the game, it makes sense that some players would adopt a spreadsheet approach to the game.

There’s nothing wrong with this analytical style of playing on its own. If that’s what’s fun for you, go for it! But when a game’s player base gets invested in figuring out the most efficient way to win, it can turn toxic, with players deciding there’s only one “right” way to play (usually called the meta) and punishing anyone who doesn’t go along with it.

Helldivers 2 hiding some weapon stats may help keep players focused more on blasting bugs than calling out each other’s choices.

Arrowhead Game Studio

Some games, like League of Legends or CS: GO, have notoriously toxic communities, where newcomers and casual players tend to be met with vitriol for not knowing the meta. And the meta in those games is made explicitly clear through math, and through comparing strategies and weapons directly to one another. The most unwelcoming communities usually belong to competitive games, but they can spring up in cooperative games, too.

Since failing mission objectives has serious consequences (well, not really, but you get what I mean), there’s a risk that Helldivers 2 could cultivate exactly this kind of community. A survey on toxicity in multiplayer games released by Unity in October 2023 found that first-person shooters tend to have the most toxic communities, and that a vast majority of people have seen behavior like harassment in games over the past year.

Players trying to police each other’s playstyle isn’t the sole cause of this, of course, and pushing back against the meta isn’t enough to stop it. Arrowhead’s decision to hide some weapon stats doesn’t even seem to be aimed at changing player behavior, with Pilestedt saying that showing too many stats simply made the game too complicated. But if this small chance has the unintended consequence of taking ammunition away from debates about playing “the right way,” it may end up being one of Arrowhead’s best decisions for keeping its hit shooter healthy in the long term.

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