Last week, a reader emailed us in frustration over in-game harassment going on in Elder Scrolls Online during Pride month. The reader’s guild is an LGBT+ group being harassed with hate speech by other players when they advertise for new members – “sometimes for hours completely unchecked” as their reports go unheeded. If you play an MMO, you’ve probably seen this sort of thing happening more frequently in the last few months and years, unfortunately, and some major MMOs don’t have a great history on this topic in spite of all the rainbow avatars flying right now.
To make matters worse, one member was apparently even given a warning from ZeniMax for cursing at these toxic players, while the homophobes continued seemingly undaunted. It’s sort of the classic bully situation, whereby nobody intervenes to stop the bully and the only person who gets in trouble is you when you inevitably react to defend yourself.
I’m sympathetic. It’s happened to me too. It’s probably happened to anyone who’s spent enough time in video games, online chat, or social media. The reality is that the customer support staff are doing their best not to get emotionally involved; your report is just another ticket they need to clear before they can clock out. And the company people who do care about the health of the community – i.e., the community team – aren’t the ones monitoring chat. Most of these games have nobody proactively monitoring chat at all, just reports after the fact. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen social media sites, for example, declare that death threats and racist epithets violate no policies, but people quoting the threats and racism to complain about them do – never mind the many times I’ve reported sexist and racist guild names in MMOs only to see them still running around years later. Between underpaid and understaffed support teams, subjective policies, inconsistent application, and the high speed of online chat, justice in-game can be as slow as molasses, if it ever comes at all. And in the meantime, toxic players drive decent humans out of MMO communities.
Let’s try to put this in question form. Do you expect MMO studios to moderate in-game chat? Which games do the best job cleaning up their in-game channels?