Although there are many positive aspects of video games, such as greater psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities, hate and harassment are commonplace. A 2020 nationally representative1 survey of US gamers aged 18-45 found that:
- 81% of people who played online multiplayer games experienced some form of harassment, compared to 74% of gamers in the 2019 survey.
- 68% of respondents experienced more serious abuse, including physical threats, stalking and sustained harassment, up from 65% in 2019. This represents approximately 45 million online gamers in the US who reported significant harassment.
- The video games where players experienced the most harassment while playing were DOTA 2 (80%), Valorant (80%), Rocket League (76%), Grand Theft Auto (76%), Call of Duty ( 75%) and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (75%).
- 53% of gamers who experienced harassment were targeted because of their race/ethnicity, religion, skill status, gender or sexual orientation.
- 41% of female gamers and 37% of LGBTQ female gamers have been harassed for their gender and sexual orientation.
- 31% of Black gamers and 30% of Hispanic/Latino gamers have experienced harassment while gaming due to their race or ethnicity.
- 25% of Asian-American gamers have experienced harassment based on their identity.
- 25% of disabled gamers have been targeted because of their disability.
- 18% of Jewish gamers and 25% of Muslim gamers reported having been subjected to harassment.
- 28% of gamers who experienced harassment avoided certain games due to their hostile environment.
What to do if your child comes into contact with a toxic player
- Report the player. All games and platforms have a process for reporting toxic players. It is essential to signal the player to get them to stop.
- Call the player toxic for being toxic. It’s okay to tell a player “stop being toxic.”
- Don’t engage with toxicity. The more they get a reaction from you, the more they come out of being toxic. Their goal is to ruin your experience, so don’t let them.
- Anti-toxicity initiatives have been launched by gaming companies to stop toxic behavior. Educate yourself on what toxicity looks like in games and make sure you resist. It’s not just “part of the game”. It has no place in games.
Why toxicity in games matters
It should go without saying, but these things matter for a few important reasons:
- First and foremost, toxic behavior is harmful to human health and can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. That’s why it’s called toxic behavior and not just “unpleasant behavior.”
- Secondly, push players away. And not just from individual games, but from the whole damn hobby.
While Call of Duty is a casualty of popularity, it at least has the saving grace of being an M-rated game that costs $60. Fortnite, on the other hand, is a complete free-for-all and quickly fostered one of the most toxic gaming communities. Fortnite: Battle Royale’s close association with streaming, an industry where people become notorious for getting angry, and a vibrant player base has led to one of the worst reputations in gaming.
Between the high-variance nature of battle royale, average player age, and a close tie to culture, Fortnite attracts some of the most venomous players in gaming. Between angry kids on chat and angry men on Twitch, Fortnite lands just outside the top five most toxic gaming communities in the world.
What’s being done
Sadly, as toxic behaviors become more normal in gaming cultures, few people face it. But some major gaming companies have launched semi-successful “anti-toxicity campaigns” to help ease the hostile environment.
Overwatch, one of Blizzard’s cornerstone games, created an in-game police system that reduced overall bad behavior by 40% in 2019. While it may sound great at first, players can feign good behavior to get validation and resume toxicity once their ranking is fixed.