The behavior of people in online games does not appear to be improving for the better. According to national survey results from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), people are experiencing an uptick in hateful and harassing behavior in their online multiplayer gaming day-to-day.
The survey took responses from a nationally representative segment of American players aged 18-45 in coordination with Newzoo, a data analytics firm focused on games and esports. The survey followed a similar methodology from one in 2019, allowing the data to look at year-over-year metrics, though in some cases the methodology was refined and so last year’s data were not able to be compared.
In summary, harassment in online games is up to 81% compared to 74% last year, with 68% of players experiencing elevated abuse including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment. An apparent 53% of people say they experienced harassment based on their identity, ethnicity, or their Muslim or Jewish faith, and there’s been an overall uptick in misinformation and hateful topics related to COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Holocaust.
The survey even named names of games experiencing increasingly hateful and harassing behavior: DOTA 2, Valorant, Rocket League, Hearthstone, and CS:GO are all pointed out as games that have the greatest number of harassing incidents.
So why not report offenses? According to survey respondents, 36% didn’t use in-game reporting tools believing that their reports weren’t enough, that the harassment wasn’t disruptive enough, or that harassment was a part of the game experience. That said, respondents found more effective means of curbing harassment, with 60% using team blocking features, 58% muting others, and another 58% playing games with people they trust.
It’s not all bad news, however, as the survey did find that there has been an increase in almost universally positive experiences such as making friends and helping others. That said, the ADL is still calling on the games industry to curb hate, and also suggests that civil society organizations should expand their work to include online games experiences and calls on federal and state legislators and agencies to strengthen and enforce laws that protect targets of online hate and harassment.
You can read the full results, along with survey methodology and other notes, on the ADL’s website.