(This article is in response to a Kotaku article written by Cecilia D’Anastasio. For more on this, you can refer to my initial response here.)
Harassment during online gaming. As gamers, we’ve all experienced it, one way or another, to varying levels. Some of us have been lucky enough to experience very few cases of it, some of us experience it on a regular basis. Some of us experience minor harassment, some of us…not so fortunate. In the end, it’s a problem that has gone on since the internet really began to take off, as bullying went beyond the schoolyards, the workplace, the outside world. Bullying was now even reaching us at home when we thought we were safe.
It’s frustrating. It’s not exactly an enjoyable experience to be called names, told you’re shit at a game you like enough to play online with other people, the majority of them people you don’t even know. It’s never fun and we all wish it would go away, no one is denying that, no one is saying that harassment online is or ever will be considered okay.
What’s just as frustrating, in some cases even more frustrating than the harassment itself, is that people who are also in the lobby or party as well, they sit back in silence, sometimes in fear, sometimes in pure ignorance, instead of doing the right thing: standing up to a bully.
In all honestly, should it not be an easy thing to do? After all, bullies online do what they do because they know they’re anonymous, no one knows their real name, where they live, they can say whatever they want and get away with it scot-free. So in my head, it makes sense that I can lash back at a bully, call him/her (because both genders can be bullies, folks, in case you forgot) out on their bullshit and defend someone who is being targeted for no reason whatsoever. Will it stop the bully right then and there? 99 times out of 100, of course it won’t, but will it give this asshole something to think about the next time he/she decides to take a shot at someone for no reason other than to make themselves feel better about their miserable lives? Yes, and the more it happens to them, the more they’ll not bother to do so, because if they think they’ll be given shit every time they do it, why would they bother? It’s just more work for them, it’s so much easier if they sit in a lobby, call a guy a faggot, or tell a girl to make him a sandwich and that person gets upset.
I fully understand that there are people who don’t want to get involved. You are under no obligation to do so, if you’re not directly involved in the situation, you have no reason to jump right in, it is your right to choose to stay out of a fight you’re not in. But remember that heroes who save people in car crashes, fires, medical emergencies or any other situation where someone’s life is in danger, they had zero obligation as well to get involved and yet they chose to, because in their mind it was the right thing to do.
Let’s go with the popular victim story in online harassment. In my opinion, if you are online in a public lobby and someone is really ripping into a female gamer, telling her she needs to leave so another man can join, that she should make him a sandwich, or even worse, suck his dick, while it is not your obligation to get involved, it is certainly the right thing to do by jumping in and calling the harasser out for being an asshole. You stand to lose nothing by doing so, you only seek to gain from this, even if the entire conversation ends up being the bully turning on you. Stand your ground, stay calm and let the idiot run his mouth until the game is over. Because by jumping in and taking the bullet, you’ve gained the respect and appreciation of a total stranger that never would’ve expected anyone to come to their aid. You might even have a new friend on your friends list after that and possibly someone you end up playing games with for quite some time, you never know.
There’s no question that online harassment in gaming is a problem, it has been for a long time and will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. But if we as a community of gamers don’t stand up more often, we allow this to go on longer and spread wider. If we stand up to people and help out those who can’t defend themselves, who are too afraid to defend themselves, we can give these assholes something to think about the next time they decide to get on somebody’s case, for whatever reason.
And come on, folks. If you hear a guy telling a female gamer to make him a sandwich and you don’t call him out for being the lamest fuckwad in the world for using an old 50s stereotype of women than turned into a shitty 90s joke, you’re just as bad as the bully. It’s such a dumb fucking thing to say, call these idiots out for that shit!