Online gaming has 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 online gaming has , however, there has always been a presence of problematic gamers making awful, dehumanising remarks.
In fact, the ongoing acceptance of problematic comments and hate speech in online games has legitimised and normalised various forms of discrimination –– racism, sexism, homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism and xenophobia –– and as a result has created marginalising, oppressive platforms.
As someone who plays a lot of games, including online games like Dota 2, I've always enjoyed using these platforms to have fun and enjoy fantasy and fictional worlds.
However, recently I've been discouraged from playing as often as I would like, because there are individuals who feel that it is right to be openly discriminatory when they express their anger in the middle of a game.
Although people bring up the defence that they said those words "out of anger", this defence is futile –– because their discriminatory, hateful expression reveals their bigoted thoughts and prejudiced beliefs.
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 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 say what they want without any legal, ethical or administrative consequences.
Some say that this upholds freedom of speech. However, with every freedom comes restrictions, especially when it comes to protecting the human dignity of every individual.
Not only is the problem with the developers and owners of the game, but it is also with the gamers themselves.
The trouble with discrimination in online games is that it comes down to these individuals' positions in society, their ignorance, and the prejudicial ideas that they have been brought up with. In the U.S., these gamers are your common citizen, many of them stereotypically labelled "young white teens".
In addition, the companies that own these games don't seem to take 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.
The problem of nonintervention by developers or owners, is mirrored in the gamers themselves. When on a team with a bigot, or involved in a game with someone who is prejudicial, people fail to call them out –– 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 this is supposedly an accepted, social norm on these platforms is a major problem and needs to be taken more seriously.
It is challenging to speak out on gaming platforms, because bigotry usually takes place in the middle of games.
A more effective way is to speak to people you know who are gamers, and make them more socially aware of problematic issues –– particularly ones involving marginalised groups in 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.