Playing with HateGamers Vs. Gaymers
Words by Jase Peeples
Ever since my mother brought home an Atari 2600 for my 5th birthday, I have been fascinated with video games. From quarter slinging in arcades to online adventures on my PS3, I’ve tried my hand at just about every video game I’ve ever come across. And aside from the disappointment of the occasional bad game, I’ve never found myself disenchanted with the video game industry... until now.
Trash talking has always been a part of gaming so I thought I knew what to expect a few years ago when I started playing more games through Sony’s PS3 online community. However, I was recently caught off guard by the sheer amount of anti-gay hate speech that I saw in the chat rooms of some of my favorite video games.
I’d seen hate speech in these chat rooms before, but as I began to take note, I was overwhelmed by the number of gamers using “gay” or “fag” while they were chatting. I was bombarded by the constant stream of lines such as, “All fags like you should die,” and “You’re so gay!” flowing across the screen. I also noticed that three of the gamers online had antigay hate speech as their online ID: U-R-all-Fags, URGay, and NoFagsPlease. Adding insult to injury is the act of “pwning,” which happens in first-person shooter games; basically, when you kill an opponent you teabag or hump his backside in victory— because gamers think it’s funny to emasculate another gamer.
Now, I’m aware that a majority of gamers out there are heterosexual males and I’ve grown a thick enough skin to deflect their teasing, especially from someone in a virtual environment. But such forceful anti-gay language surpassed teasing and had become full blown bullying. I was playing in a game that was hostile towards gay and lesbian gamers, kids who might be deeply affected by the constant stream of hate speech flowing freely in these chat rooms.
Was anyone moderating the conversations? And if so, why would they let such behavior run amok?
Upon closer inspection of my fellow gamers, I soon noticed that several words were censored as they appeared on the screen. I decided to test the boundaries of the chat room and, sure enough, each time I tried to type a swear word it would be replaced with asterisks. That’s when I observed something that changed my feeling of irritation into full-blown anger. I noticed that each time a gamer tried to use a racial slur it was also censored. Apparently enough forethought was put into derailing racially charged hate speech and naughty words, but when it came to filling a room with hostility towards gay gamers, well, that was just fine.
According to articles on the topic, the responsibility for policing misbehavior falls on users. They must report abuse and block offensive gamers. Eventually these abusive users can be punished, suspended, or blocked from live voice interactions and even permanently banned (players whose conduct crosses into criminal behavior are reported to law enforcement). However, all a gamer has to do is set up a fresh gaming tag (user name) and the harassment can start all over again. This is unacceptable.
The video game industry has a responsibility to the gays and lesbians who buy and play their products. Gaymers are an active part of the gaming community and deserve equal treatment and respect; they should not be forced to endure an online experience that is filled with hostility towards them. If the video game industry is going to censor hate speech in its online communities, then it needs to be consistent by censoring all hate speech. Until that happens, gay gamers are being sent a clear and undeniable message from online gaming communities: You are not welcome here.