It is no more a secret that online gaming harbors toxic and abusive behavior. But according to a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as many as two-thirds of online gamers from the US have experienced severe harassment.
More than half of the respondents said that they’ve been targeted based on their race, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Nearly 30 percent claimed that they had been doxed in an online game, and nearly a quarter of respondents said that they had been exposed to white supremacist ideology.
Studies from the past have suggested that online harassment is getting worse, and a similar ADL survey conducted earlier this year reported that 37 percent of Americans have experienced “severe” harassment online. It seems to be even more of an issue in online gaming, though, given that the present ADL survey found 65 percent of players experienced “severe” harassment.
While the survey findings are not definitive — ADL sampled about 1,000 people, the gaming community is aware that online gaming can lead to toxic behavior. Phil Spencer, Xbox head, recently laid out some measures to combat abuse, and Overwatch claims that an addition of an endorsement feature reduced toxic behavior by 40 percent. Of course, while more can be done by individual companies, root causes also need to be considered.
“Large-scale commercial games have these aspects of their platform that are unmoderated spaces,” said Daniel Kelley, the associate director of ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, to Kotaku. “We know from places like 4chan or 8chan that unmoderated spaces become toxic.”
About a third of LGBTQ players believed that they were harassed because of their sexual orientation while playing online. A third of black or African-American people surveyed, along with a quarter of Latinx and Asian-American people, say they think they were harassed because of their ethnicity. The most-harassed demographic were women, probably because women’s voices can be identified in games’ voice chats—with nearly 40 percent having reported gender-based harassment.