65% Of Online Gamers Have Experienced Severe Harassment

A staggering 74% of adults who have played video games online have experienced harassment, and we aren't just talking about harmless trolling.

The report published by the US Civil Rights nonprofit organisation, Anti-Defamation League after surveying over 1000 gamers, has revealed that for many gamers, the harassment is severe and sometimes even threatening. 65 percent of the players surveyed experienced “severe harassment,” which includes “physical threats, stalking and sustained harassment” while gaming online. 29 per cent said that at some point, they had been “doxed” as a result of a game, which the study defines as a stranger publishing private information about them.

The sheer number of users accessing the major online platforms and the lack of accountability by the owners makes moderating them almost impossible: “Large-scale commercial games have these aspects of their platform that are totally unmoderated spaces,” said Daniel Kelley, the associate director of ADL’s center for Technology and Society, to Kotaku. “We know from places like 4chan or 8chan that unmoderated spaces become toxic.”

People aren't just being bullied about the way the play the game either. About a third of LGBTQ players in the study stated they felt harassed because of their sexual orientation, while a third of black or African-American people surveyed, as well as a quarter of Latinx and Asian-American people, say they think they were harassed because of their ethnicity.

Women were the most frequently targeted demographic, with nearly 40 per cent having reported harassment based on gender.

Kelly said that some online gaming platforms had become so toxic that many in the survey stated that they could no longer play the game because of its online community. Among the top games that the ADL found to foster harassment were Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and League of Legends. Dota 2 was the top game players said they had stopped playing because they didn’t want to deal with others’ rude antics.

The number of people that are doing the harassing was also found to be remarkably high, with 35% of people admitting to doing the wrong thing online. Even more shockingly the study found that, “Almost a quarter of online multiplayer gamers (23 per cent) have been invited to discuss or have heard others discussing the ‘superiority of whites and inferiority of non-whites’ and/or ‘white identity/a home for the white race."

Of course, this doesn't mean 21% of gamers are white supremacists, but it does allude to another problem: “While this result does not necessarily imply that players were being recruited to join a white supremacist organisation in any online game, the prevalence of expressions of white supremacy in online games suggests that this hateful ideology may be normalised in some game subcultures.”

To begin to tackle the problem, Kelley said the world needs to change its view on gaming: “Games are mainstream,” he said. “It’s important to call that out, that it is not normal. It is not acceptable to tell someone to kill yourself. There’s a value in reflecting back to folks who may say this is normal. But as part of broader society, is that a part of the values we want to enshrine in this growing medium?”