In what has been described as a “heated gaming moment,” Felix Kjellberg, better known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie, used the N-word to insult a fellow gamer while live streaming himself playing the popular video game Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. He has released a public apology in light of the criticism he has received over his use of the racial slur, but some believe this event says more about the gaming community than it does Mr. Kjellberg.
Online gaming has gained a reputation as an unwelcome and toxic environment for the average player. The behavior of toxic gamers usually takes the shape of making provocative statements to agitate other players in the round. Games like League of Legends and Call of Duty have been known to have difficulty with such players. For some, it has turned them away from the idea of gaming in general.
Jalen Carter, a junior at Da Vinci Communications, has promised to never play online games. While he occasionally enjoys multiplayer games with friends, Carter thinks that the behavior online is too much to handle.
“Toxic gamers are talking mad mess to try and get you to quit and make the game less fun,” he said. “They’re just trolls.”
“Internet Trolls,” which is internet slang for someone who provokes others for their own amusement, use gaming as one of their many platforms and can expose individuals to an unhealthy environment. Some have even been labeled as “right-wing” for their use racist rhetoric. Trolls that behave as such have appeared more frequently in recent months since the election of Donald Trump as president.
This online hate can negatively impact the brand that produced the game and prevent game developers from using their resources to improve games. Blizzard Entertainment reportedly hasn’t been able to update its hit game Overwatch because they have been too busy implementing report systems to deal with gamers that negatively affect a match for others.
“We’ve been put in this weird position where we’re spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better,” Jeff Kaplan, director of Overwatch, stated in a recent video post. “I wish we could take the time we put into putting reporting on a console and have put them towards a match history system or a replay system instead.”
This leads us to the question that more and more developers are asking themselves: how can toxic gaming come to an end? Paul Jun is a notable author and former self-proclaimed troll. He uses his past experiences as a member of the gaming community to answer this question in a piece that educates readers on how to “defeat” a troll.
“When I trolled other gamers with words—harsh words—many times they would ignore me. Because hindsight is 20/20, I remember being bothered by that. ‘Why won’t they defend themselves? Entertain me!” he wrote. “The ones who ignored me, and even better, put me on their ‘Ignore List’ so that they couldn’t receive my messages, were the ones who understood this principle.”
Lots of gamers have learned to avoid trolls by muting their microphone. This tactic is effective against trolls as the emotional reaction they crave is no longer present and deters them from harassing that individual in the future. The principle that Mr. Jun alludes to is swiftly becoming more understood as gamers learn that feeding the troll is never a good idea.
Game developers, while hindered by toxicity as a whole, have been quick to implement the necessary systems to stop trolls from acting out against others. Toxic gaming has been successfully limited because of these updates and developers are hopeful that gaming will become a healthier environment that players wish for it to be.