“I am slowly backing away from this game I love.”
July 15, 2017 7:41 AM   Subscribe

If You Hear Someone Getting Harassed In An Online Game, Don't Stay Silent by Cecilia D'Anastasio [Kotaku]
“I think we’d do better with a healer,” I suggested to my Overwatch team earlier this week. We were in the spawn room defending the Temple of Anubis and, without a healer, we would quickly forfeit the objective. Not even the slightest pause passed before a teammate told me that, instead, “What we need is another man.”
This frustrating incident was sandwiched between two other matches, and in each, a teammate had snarked on my gender after I had attempted to strategize through voice chat. Earlier, I was referred to as “that fuckin’ bitch” when I asked whether we felt good about our team composition. And, in the spawn room of Horizon Lunar Colony later that night, after wishing my team good luck, I was asked: “Can you play? I just want to know. I’m so curious. Do you know how to play Overwatch?” On no occasion did any other player on these six-person teams say anything about it.
posted by Fizz (55 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just yesterday I was excited to read that Overwatch has twice as many female players as other FPS games. Then I actually read the article to discover that only around 16% of players are women, which is sad for Overwatch and actually disgusting for the competition. I'm going to have to actually hook a mic up to my computer to counter-harass these dicks that are ruining this.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 7:57 AM on July 15 [15 favorites]


I met my wife on WoW because she was the only healer in our guild that could both offensively dispel and interrupt spells and I needed that for a relatively smooth ToC10 run. Women not being able to play video games is a bullshit lie.

Maybe I should play more Overwatch.
posted by Talez at 8:04 AM on July 15 [6 favorites]


Women not being able to play video games is a bullshit lie.

You're either good at a game or you're not. Who gives a shit what gender/race/sexuality you are. Fuck these fools.
posted by Fizz at 8:08 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


It's something I've come to notice about games (and perhaps other activities/communities, like internet forums). When someone is an asshole, the victims and normal people are the ones that leave. So you gradually end up with a player base of assholes, and then that gets interpreted as "normal" and a part of the "culture."

What's even worse is people will then claim that if a game tries to take steps to curb online abuse (like banning abusive players), it will hurt revenue by deliberately ejecting their playerbase--but what about all the revenue from the normal players who left because of assholes?

It's within Overwatch's best interest to kick out assholes. Is there really no system that can handle this? I bet people would be willing to pay several extra bucks for match moderators who look out for this crap.
posted by picklenickle at 8:17 AM on July 15 [72 favorites]


(Just as a disclaimer--haven't played overwatch, I'm drawing more from my experiences with other FPS games, particularly TF2.)
posted by picklenickle at 8:19 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


picklenickle, you're coming to the same conclusion Paul Riddell came to back in the day about comic shop patrons: The Wrath of Cat Piss Man
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:20 AM on July 15 [12 favorites]


I've avoided the worst of this by only doing voice chat with friends or friends of friends - or when I have the power to boot sexist assholes from the team.

My friends don't do this, and they don't invite people to play with us who actively harass (or they wouldn't be my friends). But some of my male friends really don't get it. I sometimes get the impression that they think they're humoring me by being decent towards women.

Like, they'll invite a new person into chat and say he can be a little "abrasive" only for me to find out that means screams "get raped" at people when he kills them. They won't call the guy on it. They don't understand why it bothers me. They think it's like not likely spicy foods - you know, there's nothing really wrong with spicy foods, but some people just can't handle it. Kutsu's kind of sensitive, you know.

And I want to scream, "Actually, I feel a lot stronger now that I have the courage to say that this is bullshit, instead of keeping quiet because I didn't want to deal with the fallout. This is not me being weak or sensitive - that was before, when I shut up because I was afraid. This is you being privileged fucking idiots."

But I don't because I kind of like them anyway. Sigh. Maybe next time.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:29 AM on July 15 [35 favorites]


It's within Overwatch's best interest to kick out assholes. Is there really no system that can handle this? I bet people would be willing to pay several extra bucks for match moderators who look out for this crap.

They could assign invisible moderators on a random basis, negatively weighted by how recently the players have been in a moderated match but positively weighted by how recently the players received negative moderator feedback. That way the moderators aren't seeing the same super frequent players over and over again, but problematic players get more attention.

Bad behavior gets warnings, then increasing timeouts, then a lifetime ban.

This could also be combined with an X second record loop so that players that observe bad behavior could hit a button that sent the last X seconds of chat to moderators for review. That would need to have a 'player who cried wolf' feature to avoid abuse.
posted by jedicus at 8:39 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


Online games are SOOOO MUCH BETTER when you can't hear a word anyone is saying. It's terrible, but there it is. Too many adenoidal assholes ranting about everyone's mom.

Standard emotes only, no human speech, life is great. I fucking hate it when I try to play a game that doesn't let me easily mute players.
posted by aramaic at 8:47 AM on July 15 [8 favorites]


Online games are SOOOO MUCH BETTER when you can't hear a word anyone is saying.

Agreed. I'm not naive enough to think that online harassment doesn't happen in a larger online community like an MMORPG, there are always going to be ways for assholes to be abusive but in my own experience, it seems to be better. You don't get as much racism or sexism, or maybe its just not as visible as in a game like Overwatch.
posted by Fizz at 9:15 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


It's something I've come to notice about games (and perhaps other activities/communities, like internet forums). When someone is an asshole, the victims and normal people are the ones that leave. So you gradually end up with a player base of assholes, and then that gets interpreted as "normal" and a part of the "culture."

Basically this is what happened to Occupy's governance, so it definitely applies more broadly.

An MMO I played had a unique feature: any officers in a large enough guild were given the ability to mute players for everyone. It was fairly niche, so it didn't run the risk of pre-existing communities bringing their norms over, but what it meant was that the most committed players had tools to moderate public spaces, keeping them pleasant for all. I thought it was a great feature, and I have never found anyone in another MMO that agreed once I tell them about it.
posted by Merus at 9:21 AM on July 15 [11 favorites]


Game developers need to understand that they aren't just losing existing players because of abusive online behaviour, they're failing to gain potential players because of the reputation that online multi-player games have (especially ones with voice interaction).

I have been playing PC games as a hobby since childhood (and I'm old enough that at the time that marked me out as a bit of a weirdo). Despite that, I have played in precisely ONE online multiplayer game (Dofus). The day I finally registered for a P2P account and ventured out of the F2P beginner player zone, the first two players I encountered attacked me - something I hadn't even realized was possible without opting-in to one of the two PvP sides (I was Neutral). Those players were verbally abusive, using gendered slurs, making rape jokes and talking about how they liked hearing my character scream (female avatar, female player-name). I took screen shots and tried to use the in-game interface to message a moderator. What I didn't know was that the developers hadn't bothered hiring moderators for the English-language server (French game). I'd never experienced real-time online abuse like that before and I was taken by surprise at how much it affected me, right down to a physical stress-reaction. I continued playing the game (for several years actually), but I might not have if I hadn't had my best friend as a playing companion.

That's one experience I had in a game with text based communication. I heard rumblings of what it was like for female players in multiplayer games with voice-chat and I noped the heck out of that.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:03 AM on July 15 [16 favorites]


Online games are SOOOO MUCH BETTER when you can't hear a word anyone is saying.

I disagree.

I mean, no voice chat is better than voice chat full of abusive assholes - but why is that the choice? I really enjoy games that have a strong social aspect. There are also many games where not being able to coordinate with your team puts you at a strong disadvantage.

Sure, some people just don't want to talk to anyone anyway, because apart from being abusive sometimes people are just tiresome. Maybe that's where you are. But for me, saying no voice chat is better is kind of like saying D&D would be better if everyone just submitted their character's actions through text and never saw each other. There's room for that kind of game, but it's also nice to have more social play - just not with immature dicks.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:05 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


Every time I read something like this, my heart just aches and sinks, knowing that women are being treated like this.
I haven't played a video game since Pong, but I've been playing tabletop RPG's for about 40 years, and I sometimes wonder if my group is better, worse or the same than the video gamers.

I always pray for the former, but also get a sinking feeling that it might be the latter.
Events like Contessa give me hope for us.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:06 AM on July 15


Fuck "gamer culture."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:12 AM on July 15 [27 favorites]


why is that the choice?

Because, and I am not joking when I say this, a substantial percentage (plurality, even) of game developers are themselves raging assholes. What's the point of playing a game if you can't threaten to rape the opposing team? That's, like, part of the "meta" and you can't take that away from them, can you?

No, of course you can't. Don't be silly. Go play solitaire or something if you can't handle a Real Game.

You'll know this is starting to stop being the case when you see moderators being paid substantial salaries, rather than either being outsourced underpaid drones, volunteers or (my favorite) poorly hacked-together word filters that they pretend are fancy algorithms.
posted by aramaic at 10:17 AM on July 15 [17 favorites]


Fuck "gamer culture."

That's the page I'm on too. The nerd industrial complex produces far too many shitheads.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:23 AM on July 15 [9 favorites]


> Game developers need to understand that they aren't just losing existing players because of abusive online behaviour, they're failing to gain potential players because of the reputation that online multi-player games have (especially ones with voice interaction).

This is absolutely 100% the reason why I've never tried any multi-player games.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:30 AM on July 15 [15 favorites]


I stay away from games with much of a social component for exactly this reason: I don't really want to spend my free time getting harassed about my immutable characteristics or coping with guys saying horrible things.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 10:32 AM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Thirding this is why I've never done multiplayer.

It's fun shooting virtual characters, less fun being inspired to rip the n*ds off real-life dipweeds.
posted by fraula at 11:55 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Game developers need to understand that they aren't just losing existing players because of abusive online behaviour, they're failing to gain potential players because of the reputation that online multi-player games have (especially ones with voice interaction).

Yep. I don't play scenarios that require voice chat very often - I am a less and less social gamer in general as I get older and crankier - but my girlfriend loves to talk to people. A dear friend of ours warned her off of buying Overwatch over exactly this when she was talking about buying it - he'd already left the place in disgust.

They'd do better if they took this more seriously.

I thought it was a great feature, and I have never found anyone in another MMO that agreed once I tell them about it.

I'm not sure about that feature in particular, but the overall notion of 'join a good guild' is helpful. Back when my social circle was all about Guild Wars 2, we joined an LGBTQA guild as allies, and that was a very positive experience. (Bad stuff still happened, but it was a lot rarer, and it was dealt with in a much better fashion.)

Lately, my girlfriend is involved in a cross-platform guild, which I think is a good innovation in the face of the Cat Piss Man problem: rather than trying to figure out who is okay to game with in a new environment, they just bring a large part of their whole membership to whatever game looks fun to play. (Obligatory plug for mefightclub there, too.) I think clubs like this are at least part of the future of solving this problem: like, create a less toxic environment and just bring it with you when there's some hot new property.
posted by mordax at 11:56 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]


Overwatch had a block user feature but removed it because they said it was being abused. Apparently players would block players that were good so they didn't have to play them again.

There is a report player feature but honestly, in my experience it doesn't do anything. I don't get asked about the incidents and often I get stuck in other matches with the people I've reported even after requeuing. I think the reporting system just gets abused too. For example, in one match I had an entire team typing repeatedly that they were all reporting me because they didn't like that I chose Bastion and shot them a lot. I don't know if they actually reported me as I've never gotten any ban or inquiry from Blizzard.

I like voice chat and keep it on, sometimes to offer tactics or make some silly voices in the lobby but mostly I'm quiet. I've found a bunch of friends through voice chat in Overwatch and other games so it can be positive. I think, for me at least, I've been lucky enough to find a group of players that I can consistently to play with and chat through Discord.

In terms of people being abusive in the game, to me or anyone else, I snark back if it's a direct comment. If it's the usual 'damn my team sucks" or "we threw" or "why do I get these bad teams" type stuff then I don't get into it because I don't feel anyone is going to take offense for anything longer than to think 'because you did so great too'.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 12:18 PM on July 15


It bums me out that this is a problem in Overwatch in particular, just because the whole vibe of the game is so saturated in fun and positivity.

I can't tell you how much I miss dedicated servers. This is one of the major strengths of Team Fortress 2. If you can find a moderated server run by somebody active and cool, and know you'll be playing with roughly the same people next round that you did this round, you have to worry about toxicity WAY less. You even get to recognize and know people who play on the same servers as you. This was a regular feature in PC games up until Ranked Matchmaking became the standard, and gave over-competitive sociopaths yet another gate to keep.

Clearly, the problem neither starts nor ends there. But I've found since I started playing games that just gathered up a bunch of randos into a match rather than letting me pick the server where I played, I see a lot more shitty behavior, and haven't made a single worthwhile social connection with another player.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:43 PM on July 15 [9 favorites]


In general developers can't be trusted, but in some games it's possible for player organizations to self-regulate. My corporation in EVE Online has an articulated, enforced antidiscrimination policy and an ombuds officer responsible for making sure it's working. Rather a lot of people have the power to mute, and I feel confident that the horrorshow behaviour described in this thread would get a person banned immediately and without warning. Those policies don't have to be used often because the corp culture from leadership to membership is hostile to harrassers. If I didn't have that I'd need to quit the game.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:55 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Apparently players would block players that were good so they didn't have to play them again.

Why is that a problem? Is it because they want to have some kind of global ranking system without making even a half-assed effort at building a proper ELO or setting up a way for me to only play people at my own skill level?

I mean, I've never played Overwatch, but that's my guess.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:05 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


Why is that a problem?

Good point. Devs shouldn't be policing why people choose to block each other.
posted by mordax at 1:14 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


mordax: "...the overall notion of 'join a good guild' is helpful. ... (Bad stuff still happened, but it was a lot rarer, and it was dealt with in a much better fashion.)"

This can definitely have a big impact on your game experience. I held off on joining a guild for a long time because a lot of the ones I encountered seemed to be power-leveling, abusive, in-game equivalents to street gangs. But, I ended up being invited to join a guild that was founded on the principles of "politeness, respect, and friendship" - and they were serious about it and about maintaining their reputation (just peeked and the guild still exists more than 10 years later, with roughly the same professed values ).

Joining that guild gave me a pre-screened pool of people to play with who I could count on to behave well, and having the guild logo above my head in-game attracted other players who knew the guild's reputation and knew they could count on me to behave well towards them. As the guild gained influence (in-game and on the only English-language forum) I think membership also protected me from ill-treatment because other players didn't want to get a bad reputation with the guild.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:07 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


I mean, no voice chat is better than voice chat full of abusive assholes - but why is that the choice? I really enjoy games that have a strong social aspect.

This really comes across as "well, I'm not a woman who's been threatened with raped in excruciating details by a bunch of guy gamers over and over and over just because they tell it's a female voice, so I don't think it's a big deal".

I hope that wasn't the intended meaning.
posted by kariebookish at 2:19 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


nthing that I'm totally put off ever playing a multiplayer game because of shit like this. I actively avoid any game that has a major multiplayer component. I finally stopped playing Dark Souls because I got tired of being invaded by assholes, and that's mostly a single-player game.

I don't know how much of this is gamer culture or nerd culture, rather than just the fact that largely anonymous interactions make it very easy to casually be a jerk to someone. Almost none of these assholes would ever say this shit to your face, but they'll say it to you online because they can. Calling it out can make a difference, and stronger mod tools in-game might help, but I don't think shit talking will go away. People will work out how to go right up to the line without crossing it. Misogynistic, racist assholes aren't going to disappear, they'll just find a different way to be shitty.

My brother in law got me to play Rocket League with him when I was visiting, and it was fun, but even with their extremely rudimentary chat system (you can send messages like "sorry!" or "nice shot!"), people still found a way to be dicks. People still threw matches, people still said "nice shot!" when you missed the ball.

I might have an overly pessimistic view of things, and I'm not saying things can't improve. Having a way to call out awful behavior would change a lot. I guess I just think people are jerks, overall, and those are the people we'll have to play with no matter what.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:34 PM on July 15


This is why I tell folks that video gaming for me is a solo-activity.
posted by triage_lazarus at 2:36 PM on July 15


I feel like the future of inclusive online tactical shooty gaming right now belongs to the company that can come up with some way completely eliminate direct player-to-player voice and text chat and instead come up with some innovative way to enable timely, easy, and tactically specific communications between players, even if it's just some sort of glorified canned-messages system. Blizzard seems like they'd be a great candidate to be that company but their community management with Overwatch suggests that they're either not interested, or not able to pull off such a feat.

I admit that's probably a heavy-handed way of addressing the symptoms instead of the disease, but if allows all people who want to play such games to do so free of harassment, then at least that's something, and we can play that for a few years while we work on the other, deeper issues.
posted by glonous keming at 2:42 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


...so I don't think it's a big deal"

kariebookish, I think that's the opposite of Kutsuwamushi's point, which I took it was more like "the social part of gaming is important and fun, and women shouldn't have to give it up." The companies can't use the excuse of 'it's too hard'; they need to figure out how to get the assholes under control.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:43 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


No voice chat, moderated chat, canned text chat, bare bones emoji systems, context specific tactical information sharing, silent player model emotes, Jesus, do you ever stop and wonder how much more time and energy we'd have as a society if men and boys were expected to control themselves or be responsible for their choices in any way whatsoever? What cool games and game systems could this imagination and problem solving go towards if they didn't have to work on the problem of men and boys shamelessly acting like total pieces of shit? How many colonies would we have on Mars by now if we didn't have to constantly cope with vicious, insecure, shitheel males fucking things up for everyone?
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:49 PM on July 15 [63 favorites]


I hope that wasn't the intended meaning.

Huh? See my previous comment above: I'm a woman who limits how I use voice chat in order to avoid abusive assholes. You also quoted me directly saying that no voice chat is better than abusive assholes, so I'm having trouble seeing where you're getting the reading that women are overreacting or something.

What I mean is that the choice between dealing with abusive assholes and no voice chat isn't inevitable. There is a third option, which is actually giving a shit and designing systems to control the abuse.

I pointed out the positives of voice chat because sometimes people who don't like voice chat don't see the big deal in being shut out of it. People are annoying, etc. But for me it's an important part of the experience.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:52 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


I feel like the future of inclusive online tactical shooty gaming right now belongs to the company that can come up with some way completely eliminate direct player-to-player voice and text chat and instead come up with some innovative way to enable timely, easy, and tactically specific communications between players, even if it's just some sort of glorified canned-messages system.

This is unworkable, of course, for the competitive ladders in games like Overwatch, CS, TF2, CoD, or any other game which has a team mode. But it could work for casual ladders/modes/rooms. I expect most games are played on those ladders anyway.
posted by Justinian at 3:23 PM on July 15


I don't know how much of this is gamer culture or nerd culture, rather than just the fact that largely anonymous interactions make it very easy to casually be a jerk to someone.

It's totally a cultural problem and it is totally a problem with nerd culture - specifically male-dominated nerd culture.

I've been a member of female-dominated nerd spaces for about two decades now, where the majority of people are pseudonymous and there are no real consequences to being a jerk. And in those spaces I'm not afraid to interact with strangers.

Sure, there are some female nerds who are jerks, and some who cross the line into being abusive. It's never been perfect - especially for women of color. But abuse is much less tolerated, and people abuse less - and because a large percentage of people in these communities are concerned about preventing abuse, systems are designed to prevent it.

Then there is also the fact that women have been noting for a while now that the problem with gaming culture is getting worse. Anonymity might embolden some, but it's not the cause. The cause is a growing tolerance of misogyny and abusive one-upmanship.

I feel like the future of inclusive online tactical shooty gaming right now belongs to the company that can come up with some way completely eliminate direct player-to-player voice and text chat and instead come up with some innovative way to enable timely, easy, and tactically specific communications between players, even if it's just some sort of glorified canned-messages system.

Unfortunately, apart from it being a shame to miss out on the social aspect, you would still only have a few safe islands in a sea of abuse. There's no way games are all going to change to this model, which means as soon as you leave them, SPLAT. Here comes the bullshit again.

That's not to say I'd be against a game designed this way. I just don't think it's a solution, in the same way I don't think that Wonder Woman is a solution to sexism in superhero movies. It's nice, but an inclusive future really needs to change the culture
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:26 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


Overwatch is the first online shooter type game I've let the 14 year old play, and while the insults and group dynamics are not, in his case, gender based, it does seem to be a free for all of teenage id run amok. I've been part of a guild in wow for 15 years, or how ever long it's been out, and I've not experienced gender based harassment in years, even in pick up groups, but I don't do voice chat outside my guild, and tons of men play female characters, so gender based insults are rare, in my experience, for that particular game.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:51 PM on July 15


Going along with SecretAgentSockpuppet's comment: I feel like one problem with "gamer culture" is that it's a culture of teenagers, whose brains have literally not yet developed the capability for empathy yet.

I would pay good money to have some kind of Verified Adult feature, where you'd only be matched with other people who had uploaded a copy of their drivers' licenses to Blizzard proving they were least 20.

That's not to say that adults are necessarily going to be great people, but I bet it would cut down on the incidence of antisocial behavior by a huge amount.
posted by JDHarper at 4:07 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I would pay good money to have some kind of Verified Adult feature, where you'd only be matched with other people who had uploaded a copy of their drivers' licenses to Blizzard proving they were least 20.

Make the lower bound 25 instead of 20 then shut up and take my money / state issued proof of age!!!
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:37 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


I feel like one problem with "gamer culture" is that it's a culture of teenagers, whose brains have literally not yet developed the capability for empathy yet.

I think you're underestimating just how many adult men are doing this. It's comforting to think it's just teenagers, and it's due to a biological limitation that they'll grow out of - but this has really not been my experience. I also think attributing it to undeveloped brains downplays the role that culture plays in a problematic way.

There are other reasons it might be nice not to play with teenagers, but I'm pretty sure that most of the people screaming "GET RAPED" in my ear have been over 20.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:18 PM on July 15 [26 favorites]


[Couple deleted. Someone once being mildly rude to you in game, especially if you are a male person, is not the same as idiots abusively shrieking "GET RAPED!" at you because you are female, and complaining that your derails into "sometimes people are mildly rude to men too!" are being deleted is not on. Thanks.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:38 PM on July 15 [30 favorites]


One advantage of the proposed Verified Adult thing up above -- we could potentially name & shame repeat offenders, all the way up to getting folks in trouble with the Law*. It'd be really great to get some fucker fired from his job for being a huge dick in games.

Yes, really, I would like to see people suffer real-world penalties.

*(Of course, that assumes the Law gives a shit, which naturally they do not.)
posted by aramaic at 6:39 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


aramaic: simply preventing sock puppets would be a healthy improvement. If they risked burning a real life identity it'd add some actual cost to what is generally a risk-free activity.
posted by adamsc at 7:35 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


If this was just a matter of "teenagers, whose brains have literally not yet developed the capability for empathy yet" I don't think we'd be seeing the enormous gender imbalance that we're seeing. So far as I've heard there's no epidemic of teenage girls harassing male players to the point that boys and men are avoiding entire genres of games.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:48 PM on July 15 [20 favorites]


Yeah, until they can do mandatory anonymizing masks that actually sound good, and find some AI-driven way to boot rude players, voice chat is the worst part of every single online game that allows it.

Even if you're "lucky" enough to be a man in one of these games, and are blissfully unaware of the special abuse women get... don't worry, there are so many other kinds of rude, vile, vulgar jerks online that you'll leave eventually, too.

(Try playing any sports game online with a stranger and voice chat. As a fun side bet, count the number of minutes until someone calls you a faggot. Okay, that's not fair. Count the number of seconds.)

It's a problem with the anonymous, no ramifications culture that these games nurture. It seems that it brings out the absolute worst in everyone, especially the young.
posted by rokusan at 8:39 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


My only experience with voice chat was with a City of Heroes/Villains group that met weekly to run missions, and that was a group that ran its own private voice chat server, and if anyone was even slightly abusive or obnoxious and refused to get a clue, they were gone like a cool breeze.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:42 PM on July 15


I think you're underestimating just how many adult men are doing this. It's comforting to think it's just teenagers, and it's due to a biological limitation that they'll grow out of

I think it's more that adults who did this as teen gamers never saw a reason to grow out of it, not least because the environment. It takes time for them to work out that they're not kids interacting with kids any more and many never do, even the famous ones. We saw the Penny Arcade guys have their Adulthood Moment in public with the whole dickwolves thing, and even now with kids and multiple businesses and decades of comics, they're still slow to grow the hell up and stop catering to their teenage selves.

Another example was the recent discussion about OMM, a site which uncomfortably straddled teenager humour with adult perspectives on games. I remember being caught off-guard out by one calling the other "jewey jewenstein" in the time to-crate article - their first I read - because that's the way children speak to each other. They managed to grow out of it without any public meltdowns, but there's still plenty of adults doing similar things of varying quality, so current teenagers continue to think this is how adult gamers behave and see no reason to adapt.
posted by vanar sena at 11:29 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


It's totally a cultural problem and it is totally a problem with nerd culture - specifically male-dominated nerd culture.

I can't really argue with that. I guess my way of thinking was that Reddit is not as heavily male-dominated as online gaming, but it's still pretty toxic sometimes. I think I was underestimating how much it still is male-dominated. In other words, I think I assumed every online space will continue to look like the ones we have now, which I feel dumb about. If we can arrest the shitty behavior, maybe the demographics will change. Right, now I get it.

I've seen Reddit get a lot better about some things, and I think it's gone in hand with there being more women and people of color on the site.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:56 AM on July 16


Sticking up for other people online is viewed as pathetic and "white knighting" so not even my male game friends will do it. Of course they will tell me later, in private, that they feel really bad that I have to put up with abuse all the time. Cowards.
posted by Stonkle at 8:46 AM on July 16 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure about that feature in particular, but the overall notion of 'join a good guild' is helpful. Back when my social circle was all about Guild Wars 2, we joined an LGBTQA guild as allies, and that was a very positive experience. (Bad stuff still happened, but it was a lot rarer, and it was dealt with in a much better fashion.)

Guild Wars 2 is an interesting case in that right from the word go, you're able to revive other players if they die, saving them a run back. You get a tiny reward from it but mostly you get a person who is not dead. I think this has a big effect on the game's culture: you can be an abusive dick, but if you do that then you're driving off people who will revive you if you die.

I've found that MMOs where players can't attack or do much more than minorly inconvenience one another, unless they go to a specific PvP area, tend to have much friendlier public spaces (GW2 and FFXIV in particular). I can't speak to the experience of people who are not white dudes, but I know several of these games were built with the Bartle player types in mind, and Bartle specifically predicts that PvP players* will drive off community-builders.

* Bartle predicts that PvP-focused games have two player types: those who specifically like to fight other humans, and those who want to win and see beating other players as ultimate proof of mastery. It's the former I refer to as PvP players, because 'Killers' is a little too on-the-nose for this comment's purposes.
posted by Merus at 8:50 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I guess my way of thinking was that Reddit is not as heavily male-dominated as online gaming, but it's still pretty toxic sometimes.

No kidding. But I actually think Reddit is a good example of the role moderation has in determining the culture and the madness of thinking you can have a decent player community without it.

I'm a heavy user of Reddit, which is very male-dominated. Every active subreddit without an effective moderation team that cares about preventing abuse or bigotry is a cesspool where I won't comment. On the other hand, there are many good subreddits.

I help moderate a fairly large community over there. In general, we don't keep it free of abuse or bigotry by deleting and banning people - we do it by setting the expectation that they'll be banned. The expectation does a lot of the work for us. We still need to be actively involved, but even bigots can read the room. They'll either behave while they're with us, or they'll leave because they know that they're not welcome ("fucking SJW fascists").

I still think it's a cultural problem with men and not a lack of moderation per se that is the cause of the problem; this type abuse and heavy-handed moderation isn't as necessary in female-dominated spaces. But it's a cultural problem moderation can be really effective against, I think.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:25 AM on July 16 [7 favorites]


Because, and I am not joking when I say this, a substantial percentage (plurality, even) of game developers are themselves raging assholes.

And again, the reason for this is that the industry itself selects for asshole, with the horrific work/life balance issues endemic in it. When you have workplaces that push out the people who want to have a life outside of work, this will naturally select for the antisocial.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:01 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi, everything you said makes a lot of sense. I don't think there's anything I can add that wouldn't just be a rephrasing of what you and other people have said, especially the point that if users end up leaving because the community is more heavily moderated, other, nicer users will be more inclined to join. I do think Reddit is a useful comparison, because every time the site moderation policies have changed (banning /r/fatpeoplehate, etc.), a bunch of people throw a shitfit about how they'll leave this site, blah blah, and yet it's continued to grow. And the culture is changing there. I used to know that if I ever posted a comment that even resembled a feminist or anti-racist sentiment, it would be totally downvoted, and that's not so much the case anymore, even in the places where it can get really toxic. A bunch of assholes left to go to Voat or whatever, or they learned to shut up (or finished puberty), and rather than killing the site, it made people like me more willing to contribute, and more willing to speak out about the rampant racism and sexism there. It's only been in the last year or two, and obviously it hasn't solved the racism and sexism there, but I don't think I'm imagining that the overall feel is changing for the better, however slowly.

Of course, that said, I still have to walk away from a bunch of threads saying "oh yeah, this site can be horrible." I still vastly prefer the heavily moderated subreddits.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:37 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Going along with SecretAgentSockpuppet's comment: I feel like one problem with "gamer culture" is that it's a culture of teenagers, whose brains have literally not yet developed the capability for empathy yet.

No it isn't. Go see the Old Man Murray thread - these 'teenagers' are thirty-something plus and they are men. You cannot stats and demographics your way around the male-dominated abusiveness of gamer 'culture'.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:37 PM on July 16 [14 favorites]


I do not turn voice chat on in Overwatch. Sometimes I turn off the text chat too, but mostly I play Mystery Heroes so I don't have to deal with the team's three snipers telling everyone else to switch because we need a healer.
posted by Foosnark at 5:33 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


« Older Maryam Mirzakhani, 1977-2017   |   "AI Is Inventing Languages Humans Can't Understand... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments