The Toxic Trash Wasteland of Online Gaming

Racial slurs, homophobic comments, misogyny, rape jokes and ableist remarks are often expressed by online gamers and it isn’t being taken seriously.

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Online gaming has always been praised as a great way for people to make new friends, grow their imagination and express themselves in different worlds on various gaming platforms. Despite the benefits that gaming and online gaming have for the players, there has always been a presence of problematic gamers and awful, dehumanising remarks. In fact, the ongoing acceptance of problematic comments and hate speech on online games has unfortunately legitimized and normalized various forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism and xenophobia, and as a result has created marginalized, oppressive platforms.

As someone who plays a lot of games, including online games such as Dota 2, I have always enjoyed using these platforms to have fun and enjoy fantasy, fictional worlds. However, recently I have been discouraged from playing as often as I do because there are individuals who feel that it is right for them to be openly discriminatory when they express their anger or annoyance in the middle of a game. Although people may bring up the defense that they said those words and remarks “out of anger”, this defense is a futile argument because their discriminatory, hateful expression reveals their bigoted thoughts and prejudiced beliefs that they inherently possess.

Unfortunately, the majority of online games protects all users by making them anonymous to the public. Only the user can reveal their identity unless the company or business that made the game has to release information because of a legal procedure. Regardless, the anonymity of gamers online protects them and allows them to express and say what they want without any particular legal, ethical or administrative consequence. Some may say that this is upholding freedom of speech. However, with every freedom and right comes restrictions especially when it comes to protecting and upholding the human dignity of every individual and group.

The trouble with all the discrimination on the online games is that it comes down to these individuals’ positions in society, their ignorance and the prejudicial thoughts and ideas that they have been brought up with. These gamers are your common citizen, and many of them are stereotypically labelled as “young white teens”. In addition to this, the businesses and companies who own these games don’t seem to take communication abuse, hate speech and discrimination seriously on their platforms. They may have an option for people to report bigots and hateful gamers, but the chances of something being done are extremely small.

Not only is the problem with the developers and owners of the game, but it is also with the gamers themselves. When you’re on the team with a bigot or problematic person, or you’re involved in a game with someone who is prejudicial, people fail to speak out against the person and it is rare for anyone to say anything at all. Instead, it seems that racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination are included in gaming jargon. The fact that it is supposedly an accepted, social norm on these platforms is a major problem and needs to be taken more seriously.

To solve this problem is once again the exact same challenge that we face in society today. It would be challenging to speak out on the gaming platforms because the bigotry usually takes place in the middle of games. Thus, an effective way is to speak to people who you know, who are gamers, and make them more socially aware about issues, particularly ones involving marginalized groups in our society. The first step to changing the mindset of these individuals begins with you. You can initiate the change and it can have a domino effect. I encourage all gamers and decent human beings reading this to begin conversations and lead the way to make online games a more accepting, inclusive and equal place for all.

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Luke Waltham is a BA Law Graduate. He is a BA Honours student and has been an activist for transformation, social justice and human rights. #BTSARMY

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