Despite tools and best intentions to stop online harassment in video games, it’s still an ugly reality for many women and gamers of color.
Terrence Miller, a Black professional e-sports gamer, recalled the abuse he endured when competing during a major gaming tournament in 2016, noting that it overshadowed his big moment.
“There were a lot of racist and hateful messages posted throughout the chat. I never expected it to happen at the scale that it did,” he told “Good Morning America.”
Another gamer, Natasha Zinda, told “GMA” she has “gone through a very rigorous amount of online harassment” that has made her “afraid” to reveal she is a Black woman to her fellow gamers.
According to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, roughly four out of 10 adults say they’ve been harassed online.
“Things have definitely gotten better,” Miller said, “but I do still, like, see stories of similar things happening to other people as well.”
In fact, every gamer “GMA” spoke with said they have, at some point, hidden their identities while gaming online to avoid harassment.
“Sexism or racism in those spaces has been a constant since gaming went online,” Kishonna Gray, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told “GMA.”
Kayland Denson said he went as far as only chatting with his friends in private parties to avoid experiencing the “verbal violence” so many have grown accustomed to.
Denson and others Black gamers played “Call of Duty,” a popular multiplayer game in which people are placed randomly on teams online, to show “GMA” what the experience is like, and it didn’t take long for the verbal abuse to begin. In response to a hateful comment from a player, Denson said, “I’m trying to figure out why you’re so angry.”
Denson said the criticism is often “unbearable,” and fellow gamer Kahlief Adams said that, unfortunately, it happens “every other weekend” for many.
Zinda said what her male counterparts are exposed to is “definitely super tame” when compared to what she has experienced. When trying to guess what makes people act like this, Zinda said “anonymity of a keyboard” gives some people the permission to be “absolute and complete internet thugs.”
“When folks of color are there making themselves visible within the space, they are subject to a whole host of inequalities,” Gray said.
In response to reports by Reddit and the Washington Post, Infinity Ward, the company which first developed “Call of Duty,” tweeted an apology to users in June in which it claimed it was banning thousands per day for their racist and hate-oriented player names and were implementing tools to better monitor this type of treatment as well as make it easier to report such instances.
Despite this, “GMA” has found racial slurs are still being used as player names as of this month.
“We do not tolerate racism, hatred or