Bullying is a hard topic for many people. Those who are bullies often times hide behind the charade that they’re just poking fun, having a good time, and if you don’t like what they’re doing then you just don’t get the “joke” and you should leave. However, there is a distinct difference between poking fun and being a bully – and it’s called context. Poking fun between friends, snarky banter,
The biggest issue that is happening in schools is referred to as exclusionary bullying. Exclusionary bullying happens when people are made to feel outcast, alienated, and separate from the group (in contrast when snarky banter happens between friends it creates a bond). By spreading rumors, mocking someone for the way they look or dress, or poking fun at the things that people feel insecure about, the person who is targeted is made to feel too inadequate to be a part of the group and they become excluded and alienated from everyone else. This leads to things like depression in youth and has been documented.
What does this have to do with gaming? Online gaming culture is rife with this sort of behavior. When someone is mocked for low skill, a poor k/d spread, or an “inability” to perform well in online gaming they are being bullied by people, and often by people who are no better than they are. Personally, when I encounter this sort of behavior I put down my controller and turn my system off. I don’t want to be subjected to this sort of behavior because someone thinks that I’m not good enough to play with them.
But even more importantly is when someone doesn’t take the action that I take – removing myself from such abuse – and they continue to subject themselves to this behavior online. When you continue to subject yourself to such behavior you end up accepting it and it becomes the standard. It then becomes a widely accepted behavior and others begin to do it as well. It’s the “Jones” effect. When you see someone doing something you want to be a part of it, and when people aren’t encouraging online the only people you hear are those who are bullying online. It seems even more common in the younger generation than the older generation now. What was once trolling is now becoming an intention to hurt another to make one’s self feel better.
This creates a culture of bullying in online gaming. When you see someone who performs poorly it should be standard to encourage them, not make them feel bad about themselves. If we want gaming to be successful and a truly accepted form of entertainment, which I argue it still is not, then we should be encouraging people to game more and create a powerful and uplifting environment online for people to game in.
We need to check ourselves at the controller and remember that, just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean that your actions are meaningless.