A new report from civil rights organization the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that 74% of adults who play online games have experienced some form of harassment while gaming. The report offers a concerning look into the world of online gaming, and the prevalence of threats, sexism, racism, and trolls based on a survey of 1000 people.
53% of the U.S. population plays online games, meaning that over half of the country is potentially exposed to this toxic and often unmoderated environment. Online games can function as social platforms and sources of community and connection, but they can also foster unhealthy growth of discrimination in unmoderated spaces.
While 88% of respondents reported positive social experiences playing games online, like making friends and helping other users, harassment is still disturbingly frequent. 65% of players said that they experienced “severe harassment,” including physical threats, stalking, and long term harassment. Even more alarming, almost a third of online gamers reported that they had been doxed, meaning strangers had published their private information without consent.
Over half of multiplayer gamers who have been harassed believe they were targeted due to their “race/ethnicity, religion, ability, gender or sexual orientation.” Roughly a third of women and LGBTQ+ players reported that they were harassed for their gender and sexual orientation. Gamers most affected by harassment sometimes choose to avoid certain games completely rather than be targeted. About a quarter of gamers avoid games because of their reputations as hostile environments. Dota 2, Fortnite, and NBA 2K were among the worst offending games.
Harassment within the gaming space doesn’t just stay online. ADL reported that a quarter of harassed players became less social as a result of harassment, and 15% said that they feel isolated. One in ten players who have experienced harassment reported depressive or suicidal thoughts as a result.
Alongside blows to personal sense of safety, multiplayer gaming environments also exposed users to violent and harmful ideas. Nearly a quarter of players report seeing white supremacist ideology, and almost one in ten players experience conversations about Holocaust denial.
Perhaps due to these startling numbers, a majority of gamers (65%) believe that “companies should do more to make online multiplayer games safer and more inclusive for players,” and 55% think that companies should implement technology that allows for moderation of voice chat in games.