The problem of abuse in online gaming

Recently someone did a survey that said 1 in every 2 people that plays online games have faced abusive interactions, a report that was then headline news at BBC. That report just tells me that 50 percent of the people who took the survey blatantly lied – the 50 percent that didn’t report abuse. I have been playing online competitive games for 11 years now, and I am yet to meet a single individual who hasn’t faced online abuse. Now is it a problem? yes it is. Is it a new problem or a problem unique to online activity? to a small extent yes, but mostly no. So, why no?

Anyone who actually has had social interactions during their childhood, will tell you that children can be brutal and abusive to one another, that cannot be news to anyone. Children learn from their parents or at times from the lack of parental guidance. Regardless of why they do it, it is a problem that is yet to be solved after decades of public recognition. So how do you solve the issue online? I am yet to see a single solution offered by anyone but everyone is scandalized. I suppose it is the way some people fulfill their need to feel important. The small factor of uniqueness in this problem comes from the anonymity of the internet where a 10 year old could pretend to be a 30 year veteran as long as he/she doesn’t speak. Many game designers regularly police their communities of abusers, but it is technically impossible to police those who abuse in voice chat, since that would necessitate recording voice. At which point privacy would become an issue.

Games are for fun but online games are inherently supposed to be competitive. If there is competition, there will be hurt egos and bad blood, which is bound to generate abusive words. In the BBC report they interviewed just one boy and one ‘expert’ (think what you will from that). The boy that faced abuse, plays Rocket League and says that he has been told to go kill himself after scoring a goal. That tells me that he is either hamming it up for the interview or he has never had social interactions with other kids in real life or a combination of the two.

Isn’t this the exact reason people have been preventing children’s sports from being competitive (everyone is a winner, right?)? I detest that culture since I think it teaches children to feel entitled to win every time and discourages competition. Noble thought, but real life is competitive and teaching children to not be competitive cannot be the answer. The report complains that too many people are bad losers, but aren’t the parents the ones teaching their kids that there are no winners and losers? I think parents need to teach children to be good losers and graceful winners. Bottomline, parents need to do their damn job rather than expect someone else to solve their troubles. Too many parents think that the moment their kids are engrossed in a game or the television, they can relax and switch off, when infact that is when they need to do some parenting.

There is another kind of problem that becomes amplified in online games – that of racial and sexual abuse. Both of those however will change with time and social change, but unless parenting changes, the problem of sore losers and abusive winners WILL NOT go away. The difference is that society is already working on racial and sexual abuse issues, but all I see are more and more parents happy to stick an ipad in front of their kid’s faces while they relax.

If you are someone playing online games, then grow a thicker skin or get off the online game until such a time comes when everyone starts behaving like saints and there are unicorns running through our fields. If you choose the later then I am afraid I won’t be seeing you in my games for a VERY VERY long time.

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