Main stream news site MSNBC has published an article about the widespread use of hate speech in online games. It’s an introduction to what many of us have either experiences first hand, have friends who’ve experienced abuse online, or we have read stories about it. The article notes that game developers are trying to crack down on it:
Players trade racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic insults so frequently that game makers are taking steps to tone down the rhetoric.
The post also singles out certain marginalised groups that are frequently targeted by many online gamers:
One gamer told an opponent he presumed to be Jewish that he wished Hitler had succeeded in his mission. Many exchanges involve talk of rape or exult over the atomic bombing of Japan. There are frequent slurs on homosexuals, Asians, Hispanics and women.
So, pretty much the status quo in terms of random people you meet in online games: homophobes, racists, misogynists, and other bigots. The article does note that reports of abusive behaviour and hate speech is increasing, which is great, however a lot of people aren’t seeing those effects reflected in most people’s behaviour. Unfortunately, players outnumber the customer support teams trying to take action on abusive gamers.
In the article, the National Coalition Against Censorship cautioned against limiting people’s speech:
“They respond occasionally and erratically and incompletely,” she said. “Some people who are doing what everyone else is doing get caught.”
The coalition, which works to protect First Amendment rights, does not generally endorse actions to limit speech, she said.
However, as we know the First Amendment doesn’t apply to online communities. The government isn’t limiting anyone’s ability to express themselves. Game makers are trying to keep their communities welcoming to as many people as possible.
There’s no doubt that hate and abuse can only negatively impact a community. Giving hate speech a free pass gives licence for people to engage in it, and silences people who feel cultural pressure to tolerate abuse to be accepted or because they lack the institutional power to combat it. If you’re playing a game online, and everyone is being hateful and abusive, it can be very difficult to speak up against it, particularly for marginalised groups, where speaking out can make you a target for further abuse. However, if people continue to speak out against hate speech and report people engaging in abuse, perhaps it will generate cultural change. Eventually. At the very least, it could make a gaming session more tolerable, welcoming, and even (gasp!) fun.
What did you think of the article? Do you think it accurately reflects the current situation in online gaming culture?
[Thanks to Muse for submitting the link!]