I talked a lot about E3 this past week or so, and that’s exciting and all, but there’s something more near and dear to my heart that actually happened before E3. I feel as though if I don’t talk about it, I am not doing my part.
We often joke about EA and its greedy and often sub-par reputation, but they’ve gone and done something that kinda matters, and for that my respect for them has grown. During EA Play 2019 held on June 8th, EA held a meeting called the Building Healthy Communities Summit. Here, they gathered around 230 of their video game influencers (Game Changers) and and other huge members and teams of the gaming community to hold an open and honest discussion about online bullying and harassment.
When asked whether any of these influencers and members had experienced bullying or harassment online, practically everyone’s hands went up.
To many of us, especially female gamers and minorities, this probably isn’t surprising. In fact, gaming research reports that 57% of players (that’s at least 1 in every 2) have been bullied in games. Data has also shown that 1 in 10 of these victims have considered suicide, and 1 in 5 have quit a game because of how they’ve been treated. It’s a real and awful thing no matter who you are, and can truly ruin a gamer’s experience despite how “normalized” it seems to have become.
My Experience With Online Bullying and Harassment
As a female gamer, I’ve had tons of run-ins with online bullying and harassment, as I’m sure you all have too. Lots of boys tossing their overused insults and comments my way, trying to sound like some alpha male in front of their friends; even fellow lady gamers dishing out insults and negativity. Over the years I’ve built a pretty decent “ignore and just play” strategy. I thought I had grown a pretty tough skin. But all it takes is one bad day.
I love streaming video games, and last summer I streamed every night for a long time. I had a Twitch channel called Starlatrix and usually played Roblox or sang karaoke with my kids and other kids who would join my stream. Usually there were enough people in chat being kind that trolls and bullies didn’t feel comfortable enough to be mean (I’ve noticed they prefer to do it when there’s almost no one there because, quite frankly, they’re cowards).
One day, I was bored while we were moving furniture, and went live from my phone just to chat. Someone came in just to bully me, and refused to move on. They said everything from “you’re ugly” to “you’re fat” to “your kids have Downs” and then some. For half an hour he stayed there, and because I had experienced nothing but good for the past few weeks and began to have major anxiety over his behavior, I was struck like a deer in the headlights and just… didn’t do anything. I just took this abuse for thirty minutes, unable to figure out how to block someone on Twitch from my phone because my mind wasn’t working at that point.
That was the very last time I streamed from that account.
EA’s Efforts Against Toxic Online Behavior
During the Building Healthy Communities Summit, it was made very clear that game influencers and game players alike are ready for things to change. The video game industry is larger than ever at this point, and if steps aren’t made to prevent these toxic and abusive behaviors, it has the potential to become a much larger problem in the same vein as social media.
EA has already taken steps forward. In a partnership with Ditch the Label (which provides support and mentoring for young people), EA has spread word through a campaign called Gamers Unite For Equal Play in the U.S. and U.K. for individuals to stand up against bullying. By using the hashtag #GamersUnite and putting a stop to bullying when you see it, you can show your support to the betterment of the gaming community.
Many of the hundreds of Game Changers present at the summit offered their support and intend to work alongside EA on their Building Healthy Communities Initiatives. The summit continued on to open up conversations surrounding different aspects of the community and EA’s own tools.
- Toxicity Detection and Technology
EA looked at their player feedback and research to find the most problematic types of behaviors experienced in their community. Game Changers provided their own communities’ experiences and discussed possible solutions.
- EA’s Inclusion Framework
Attendees of the summit discussed the Inclusion Toolkit which was introduced by EA a couple of years back to assist the development of games for representing more diverse communities. Game Changers and influencers offered input on improvements that could be made, and steps in the right direction.
- EA’s Safe and Fair Play Protect
Environments and factors that allow or even encourage bullying and harassment were discussed, and many agreed with the idea that toxicity breeds toxicity. For many players, implementing a zero-tolerance policy may be the only way to combat the problem in the gaming industry.
EA’s Promise Moving Forward
Representatives of EA were especially pleased with the feedback and information they received from the summit, and they’re freshly motivated to push forward. They have stated that they are committed to working with players to create a Building Healthy Communities Player Council, which will work directly with EA to provide feedback on programs and policies in place and in development. They also plan on implementing better ways for communities to get in touch with them regarding problems surrounding in-game harassment and bullying, and want to keep the community informed about progress and new initiatives that are being put into action by releasing Community Health Reports.
Overall, they’re dead serious, and I hope it only gets better from here.
Other Companies Striving for fair play
EA certainly isn’t the only company who is beginning to focus on taking strict anti-bullying measures. Microsoft and Ubisoft have both spoken out on their own plans to take action towards building a positive gaming environment, and YouTube announced recently that it would start taking away advertising from channels who seem to encourage or cultivate these toxic behaviors.
It’s going to take more than a handful of communities and companies to combat the ongoing growth of online bullying, but this is a great start. No longer will we be expected to handle it on our own, and hopefully we will begin to see results in the near future. Never be afraid to speak up against bullying, or ask for backup if it ever finds you 💪 We’re in this together.
Until next time, happy gaming, loves ❤