Connected Yet Alone: The Enemy Online
**WARNING: The following contains strong language and references real-world acts of violence and bigotry. Discretion advised.**
When it comes to social media and the internet at large, the gaming community has become a fetid cesspool of toxicity and hatred.
Now, I could simply give you all the above sentence and stop there. I could leave it at one statement, and let the comments section explode with a bunch of “Well, actually” statements and Straw Man fallacies. That, however, would be irresponsible of me as a blogger, a gamer, and a human being. So, I’m going to sit here and write about it.
Strap in, dear readers. It’s going to get funky from here.
Over the past few years or so, I have seen a lot of truly awful things from the gaming community across the old interwebs. Let me give you all a few examples, just from the past few months:
- Getting banned from a gaming group on Facebook for calling out one of the group’s admins because they made an anti-Semitic post.
- Slogging through a thread in another gaming group where a few whining man-babies couldn’t wrap their bigoted minds around why GamerGate was, is, and continues to be a negative thing (while they tried to justify it by saying that it was about “journalistic integrity”).
- Watching other complain about their favorite franchise getting bad reviews because the most recent game was a flawed and glitch-ridden pile of garbage.
- Someone having to be told why an ad hominem attack was not an effective debate strategy.
Instances like these (among others) have often left me wondering why I am still a member of this community, and how I haven’t completely lost my shit at other gamers.
There are even more instance of this type of reprehensible behavior all over the web. Earlier in March, alleged fans of YouTube’s most popular gaming channel (yes, that one) defaced a World War II monument with the now-memed “Subscribe to [channel name]”. That same meme was also noted in the recent Islamophobic shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. One of the shooters yelled the phrase as they live-streamed the massacre of 49 individuals a the houses of worship, pushing the meme even further into the obscene.
Sure, I could go on & on about this YouTuber all day, but we’ve addressed his behavior in the past, so I won’t re-hash that too much. Sufficed to say, there are children who subscribe to his channel, and his constant bigoted actions (regardless of whether they’re serious or “shit-posting”) simply serve to encourage and normalize these types of actions by others. I even talked to some other gamers on various social media platforms, in an attempt to understand the motivation behind this sort of behavior. The response was baffling: the person attempted to tell me that these are “just gamer words”. Yeah, I wonder where I’ve heard that before…
There’s something else in the gaming environment that seemingly spurs on this type of behavior, and it could be seen as even more unsettling. Back in November of 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that right-wing hate groups, like neo-Nazism, have been using video games to recruit impressionable individuals. The venomous rhetoric spewed by gamers’ peers numbs them to any recognizable humanity, priming them for detachment, apathy, and an “us versus them” mentality. Enterprising hate groups have thus found an eager niche. Moreover, these hate groups’ vitriolic ideologies are intrinsically woven into higher-caliber games that entice today’s selective gamers.
Apart from targeting the gamers themselves, the tactics employed by these extremist movements collectively bring the socio-political climate to a boil, re-igniting the old (and tired) controversy of video games inciting violent behavior (Spoiler: they don’t).
As you can probably tell, the amount of hate & negativity that seems to be inherently lodged in the current gaming community has really gotten to me of late. This is one of the main reasons that I have refrained from gaming online with anyone — be they friend or stranger. For the last decade or so, I’ve only played single-player titles, and refrained from multiplayer and/or online games. Am I depriving myself? Probably. However, I am doing so consciously, in order to preserve my sanity, blood pressure, and whatever semblance of faith in humanity I might have left in my cynical little heart.
Thank you for indulging me by reading this, my friends. I will now leave you with this one thought: Years ago, Mahatma Ghandi said, “If we could chance ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do”. This statement is something that we can all carry with us. It essentially tells us that we are responsible for our own actions and reactions toward the world around us. If we were to change for the better, the world as a whole would as well. We shouldn’t wait for others to lead us to a kinder and more welcoming future, but rather take strides within ourselves and our own lives to encourage those changes.
Informative read. I feel it on the competitive gaming front, confrontational games breed confrontational almost tribal attitudes, there’s a tranquility in playing alone to enjoy the experience in its purest form.
It’s a cliched point but always worth making the most toxic elements, the loudest voices will always be heard first on these issues and both the ‘alt right’ and ‘hard left’ should be derided in equal measures to find civil discourse somewhere in the middle.
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