Toxic Gamer Culture
Hardcore "gamer" culture has garnered a reputation as particularly vitriolic, especially within seemingly-anonymous online spaces. While these attitudes have been accepted wearily in the past as a consequence of a connected culture, the increasingly blurred line between online and offline life in recent years has brought increased attention and criticism towards the negative aspects of gamer culture. The following page documents articles concerning fanboys, trolling, sexism and racism within gaming communities and other elements of an, at times, toxic enthusiast culture.
An in-depth introduction to this topic is available courtesy of Brian Crecente on Polygon from Aug. 15, 2013: Plague of game dev harassment erodes industry, spurs support group. Crecente revisited this idea a year later, only to find that improvements had not been made: Aug. 19, 2014: Game dev harassment remains as bad as it was a year ago.
In the wake of the Anita Sarkeesian controversy and the virality of the #1ReasonWhy campaign on Twitter, there were a number of stories about sexism among gamers and game developers. Many of them are archived under the specific posts on those two topics, but some articles are broader in scope and not tied to specific episodes or events. They are documented here.
Resources for Victims of Online Harassment:
- Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment
- A DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity
Open Letter to the Gaming Community
In September 2014, Andreas Zecher on Medium released an open letter to the gaming community against harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability. It calls for people who see threats of violence or harm in comments in places such as Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or Reddit to report them to the respective sites. It was signed first by Zecher of Spaces of Play, and it was hitherto signed by a large number of game developers and others from across the industry. The full statement and list of signatures can be found here.
Sexism in Game Culture
- Regina Buenaobra on Acid for Blood: June 18, 2008: Vexation
- Nicole Leffel on Team Valkyrie FTW: Oct. 13, 2011: No flat girls: How allies are born
- Marianne Cassidy on The Good Men Project: Oct. 22, 2011: I am a female nerd. Apparently
- Darius Kazemi on Terrible Magazine: Nov. 13, 2011: The three least powerful women in gaming
- Ethan Gilsdorf on Cognoscenti: Aug. 8, 2013: In video game culture, it's still "no girls allowed"
- Ben Payne on Femusings: Aug. 29, 2013: Videogames: Internet sexism
- Tracey Lien on Polygon: Dec. 2, 2013: No girls allowed
- Rachel Ediden on Kotaku: Jan. 28, 2014: She was harassed by a games reporter. Now she's speaking out.
- Laralyn McWilliams on Gamasutra: Oct. 30, 2014: She's not playing it wrong
- Carolyn Petit on Tumblr: Jan. 20, 2015: A note on the use of rape in video games
- Patrick Garratt on VG24/7: Feb. 17, 2015: Developers shooting the messenger: stop blaming the press for sexist extremism in games
- Patrick Klepek on Kotaku: Feb. 20, 2015: Indie dev cancels PAX East booth over security concerns
- Brendan Sinclair on GamesIndustry.biz: Mar. 5, 2015: Dealing with harassment
- Nathan Grayson on Kotaku: Mar. 20, 2015: Why people are arguing about women streamers showing skin
- Caster, Scarletrose wrote this piece in response to criticisms over how some women choose to dress while streaming (Mar 20, 2015).
- Jeff Grubb on GamesBeast: Mar. 23, 2015: Girls get kiddie tablets, boys get game consoles - researchers say tech gender bias starts with parents
- Charlie Hall on Polygon: May 15, 2015: Inside the research that could change the perception of kids, gaming, and gender
- Dean Takahashi on Venture Beat: May 14, 2015: IDGA's Kate Edwards confronts Gamergate and diversity in gaming head-on
- Steve Dent on Engadget: May 22, 2014: Lizard Squad member pleads guilty to harassing women gamers
- Mike Snider on USA Today: Aug 18, 2015: A year after 'gamergate' women say online abuse is still a big deal
- Kaley LaQuea on CU Independent: Oct 1, 2015: Opinion: Misogyny in online gaming culture takes a toll
Penny Arcade Controversy and Rape Culture
Foz Meadows tackled the topic of rape culture on her blog shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows:
- June 2, 2012: Penny Arcade vs. rape culture
The referenced comic strips are here:
In response to criticism of her post on the page itself and on Reddit, Meadows wrote a follow-up post defining rape culture in relation to video games on June 11, 2012: Rape culture in gaming
- And continued the discussion on June 14, 2012: Rape culture in gaming: Redux
An anonymous poster created a Tumblr devoted to the controversy and its ensuing discussion, originally created on January 31, 2011: The pratfall of Penny Arcade - A timeline
GTFO: A Film on Sexism in Gaming
In this documentary director Shannon Sun-Higginson highlights the experience of abuse and discrimination of female gamers and industry professionals. The website for the documentary can be found here. Reviews and commentary will be compiled here.
- Nicole Tanner on Pixelkin: Aug 25, 2015: 'GTFO' film documents the hurdles faced by women in games
- Chelsea Stark on Mashable: Jul 30, 2015: Mashflix presents 'GTFO', a documentary on women in gaming
- Charline Jao on The Mary Sue: June 19, 2015: GTFO: The movie gives voice to women in gaming
- Dennis Harvey on Variety: Mar 23, 2015: SXSW film review: 'GTFO: Get the f&#% out'
- Monica Castillo on International Business Times: Mar 20, 2015: 'GTFO' movie: 3 ways you can help women in the gaming industry
- Robert Ito on New York Times: Mar 6, 2015: In the documentary 'GTFO' female video gamers fight back
Indie Wire also published an interview with director, Shannon Sun-Higginson.
- Laura Berger on Indie Wire:Mar 12, 2015: SXSW women directors: Meet Shannon Sun-Higginson - 'GTFO - Get the F#$% Out'
Fat, Ugly or Slutty
A group of gamers created a website called Fat, Ugly or Slutty, which attempts to collate the vast amount of misogynistic comments made over online services such as Xbox Live. While the website takes a mocking tone, it also serves as a shocking reminder of the abuse that some groups - especially women - face in these spaces.
The blog can be found at fatuglyorslutty.com.
Phil Fish Quits the Industry
On July 27, 2013, Phil Fish, the somewhat controversial creator of indie darling Fez, announced in a short post on his company Polytron's website that he was cancelling the previously-announced Fez II and quitting the games industry. He cited continued abuse from gamers as the reason for his departure. As of June 7, 2014, he appears to be keeping his word, and has not returned to the industry since. Discussion of the incident can be found in the articles below.
- Sharif Sakr on Engadget: July 29, 2013: Phil Fish cancels Fez II, tells haters 'you win'
- Ben Kuchera on The Penny Arcade Report: July 29, 2013: Swimming in a sea of shit: Phil Fish and the Internet's war against creatives
- Tom Phillips on Eurogamer: July 30, 2013: CliffyB appeals to Phil Fish for games industry return
- Michael Rougeau: July 30, 2013: The rise, and completely predictable fall of game developer Phil Fish
Swatting is the practice of calling in a fake violent crime (hostages, shooting, etc) that would force the local law enforcement to send a SWAT team to an individual's home. While cases of this are widely reported outside of video games, there is a fair share of victims involved in gaming, some of whom are developers.
- Owen S. Good on Polygon: Aug 27, 2015: SWAT threat locks down school, gets Counter-Strike player slammed to the ground
- Brian Crecente on Polygon: Nov 7, 2014: Destiny developer startled awake by police, sheriff's helicopter after faked 911 call
- Patrick Klepek on Kotaku: Jan 13, 2015: Call of Duty couple recounts scary night when SWAT raided their home
- Owen S. Good on Polygon: Feb 8, 2015: Video game SWATter faces five years in prison, additional charges
- Sam Louwagie on USA Today: Feb 9, 2015: Dangerous 'swatting' prank terrorizes gamer's family
- Owen S. Good on Polygon: Feb 9, 2015: 'Swatting' victim to harassers: ten cops pointed guns at my little brother
- Sam Sarkar on Polygon: Mar 27, 2015: Teenage Mincraft player admits to orchestrating three swattings
- James Fudge on GamePolitics.com: Mar 27, 2015: Calif. teen arrested for swatting attempts in two states
- James Fudge on GamePolitics.com: Apr 22, 2015: Sore loser swats Long Island home after losing a round of 'Call of Duty'
- James Fudge on GamePolitics.com: Apr 23, 2015: Mass. swatting bill gets attention after uptick incidents this week
- Brian Crecente on Polygon: May 22, 2015: Teen pleads guilty to nearly two dozen charges in connection to nationwide swatting spree
- Dan Van Winkle on The Mary Sue: May 25, 2015: Teen gamer pleads guilty to "swatting" female gamers who turned down his advances
For another perspective, Patrick Kelpek of Kotaku interviews a teenager who claims to be a swatter.
eSports, or competitive live gaming, is a growing trend in the industry, but it is not always just games for players as things get serious in light of millions of dollars in prizes and winnings. This can lead to controversies and disagreements among players.
- Yannick LeJaq on Kotaku: Feb. 9, 2015: League of Legends player tries to quit team, manager freaks out
- Wesley Yin-Poole on EuroGamer: Feb. 9, 2015: Valve issues warning to Counter-Strike Offensive eSports community
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotaku: Mar. 3, 2015: League of Legends is now rewarding people for playing nice on teams
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotaku: Mar. 5, 2015: How Blizzard is taking aim at toxic players in Heroes of the Storm
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotaku: Mar. 18, 2015: Tell us your best toxic MOBA player stories
- Luke Plunkett on Kotaku: Mar, 19, 2015: "Thug" League of Legends team keeps getting big suspensions
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotaku: Mar. 25, 2015: How League of Legends enables toxicity
- Keith Burgun on Gamasutra: Apr. 23, 2015: Beyond the Pentakill: 21st Century Competition
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotalu: June 10, 2015: League of Legends team booted from challenger series for shady activity
Companies and Devs Against Toxicity
- Tom Senior on PC Gamer: Feb. 2, 2011: Treyarch dev says "negative" gamers the biggest problem facing the games industry
- Keith Stuart on The Guardian: Jan. 10, 2013: Bioware writer laments toxicity of gamer forums
- Joe Skrebels on PCGamer: Feb. 22, 2015: How devs are battling bad behaviour online
- From GamePolitics.com: Mar. 5, 2015: GDC award show hosts deliver message about internet hate
- Michael McWhertor on Polygon: Apr. 2, 2015: Bungie bans "toxic" players from Destiny matchmaking, making some strikes easier
- Charlie Hall on Polygon: Apr. 20, 2015: Curse Voice says it can help prevent someone from sending a SWAT team after you
- Nathan Grayson on Steamed: Apr. 23, 2015: PC Game wants to ban jerks and bullies, but some think it's gone too far
- Samit Sarkar on Polygon: Apr. 30, 2015: Valve now lets developers permanently ban Steam users from a game
- Jon Fingas on Engadget: May 7, 2015: Guild Wars 2 cheater faces public humiliation before ban
- Gergo Vas on Kotaku: May 14, 2015: Massive ban hopefully fixes World of Warcraft PVP
- Christian Nutt on Gamasutra: May 21, 2015: League of Legends begins testing automated 'player reform' system
- Ben Kuchera on Polygon: May 25, 2015: League of Legends introducing near-instant punishments for verbal harassment
- Patricia Hernandez on Kotaku: May 28, 2015: Bungie says they're punishing Destiny Trials of Osiris cheaters
Often, people on the internet behind the mask of anonymity will purposefully do things to annoy or harm other internet users. This is called "trolling." The following articles document purposeful attempts of trolling related to the gaming industry.
- Ben Kuchera on Polygon: May 14, 2015: How a 'perfect' troll got through Kickstarter's defenses and sunk a game's campaign
- GamePolitics: Apr. 9, 2015: New research using video games explores how people justify violent acts
- GamePolitics: Apr. 16, 2015: University of Missouri researchers find that violent video games do not cause aggression in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Luke Plunkett on Kotaku: Mar. 10, 2015: Cop fired for making racist threats on XBox live
- GamePolitics: Apr. 8, 2015: Minneapolis man steals 8-year-old's video games, gets caught on camera
- Matthew Handraham on GamesIndutry.biz: Apr. 14, 2015: Maximum sentence for internet trolls raised to 2 years in the UK
- GamePolitics: May 8, 2015: Research - cooperative play leads to pro-social behavior
- Kyle Kulyk on #AltDevBlog: May 17, 2012: The devolution of gaming culture
- Mia Consalvo on ADA: Nov. 2012: Confronting toxic gamer culture: A challenge for feminist game studies scholars
- A response to Consalvo by "vishesh2013" on the CHC Game Studies 2013 blog: Feb. 17, 2013: Blog post 4: Ways to combat the contemporary "toxic gamer culture"
- Jeff on HolyGrenade: Mar. 13, 2013: I was a bully once, on Xbox Live
- Kim Correa on her personal blog: Apr. 14, 2014: Cyberspace, the future, and words, words, words
- Keza MacDonald on Kotaku: Apr. 15, 2014: Why fanboys act like jerks
- Jonathan McIntosh on Polygon: Apr. 23, 2014: Playing with privilege: the invisible benefits of gaming while male
- Science Daily: Aug. 4, 2013: Video games boost visual attention but reduce impulse control
- Emily Gera on Polygon: Aug. 12, 2014: Who are the outsiders of the games industry?
- Amy Gray on The King's Tribune: Sept. 5, 2014: Lewis' Law and online misogyny
- Owen S. Good on Polygon: Jan. 21, 2015: Hooliganism leads Philippine neighborhood to ban Dota 2 from internet cafes
- Patricia Hernandez on Kotaku: Feb. 4, 2015: There's a rift at the heart of the Smash Bros scene
- Brian Ashcraft on Kotaku: Feb. 4, 2015: Teen stabbed while gaming with friends later at night
- Ardilla Negra on Kotaku: Feb. 4, 2015: Are online video games kind making us sociopaths?
- Colin Campbell on Polygon: Feb. 10, 2015: Turkish authorities raise concerns about Minecraft violence
- Charlie Hall on Polygon: Feb. 18, 2015: The thin line between profiting from online harassment, and preventing it
- Claire Hosking on Polygon: Feb. 19, 2015: Want to improve the reputation of gaming and gamers? This is how you start
- Colin Campbell on Polygon: Mar. 2, 2015: Video games, culture wars and the death of community
- Charlie Hall on Polygon: Apr. 21, 2015: Domestic violence task force calls GamerGate a 'hate' group at congressional briefing
- Colin Campbell on Polygon: Apr. 21, 2015: Former White House adviser says games are seen as a positive force by government
- Yannick LeJacq on Kotaku: Apr, 23, 2015: The League of Legends subreddit is having a rough month
- Nathan Grayson on Steamed: Apr. 29, 2015: Steam 'Review Bombing' is a problem
- Danielle Riendeau on Polygon: May 14, 2015: Video games really can prevent violence
- Brendan Sinclair on GamesIndustry.biz: June 3, 2015: Conflict minerals the real link between games and violence