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Beyond the battle: Why do we need to create a safe game environment

Why can players be toxic, is it possible to play without offense, and why place new filters for finding online gamer friends?

Dana Sydorenko, Blogger

April 24, 2024

5 Min Read

Why can players be toxic, is it possible to play without offense, and why place new filters for finding online gamer friends? This is gaming from technological heyday to moral decline.

During the period spanning from the global economic recession of 2008 to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, the online gaming industry experienced rapid growth, solidifying its position as a remarkably stable and profitable sector. With the continuous increase in the user base, games have evolved beyond being merely sources of income for development companies or artistic expressions for designers and writers. They have transformed into complete alternative realities, susceptible to the social dynamics that mirror, if not amplify, the complexities of offline life.

Anonymity or inclusiveness?

In game reality, you can create a new, self. But this "I" can do anything. 

In the realm of gaming, one can forge a new, entirely customizable identity. This virtual "self" is unrestrained and can engage in a myriad of activities. Since their inception, online games have attracted a diverse audience, spanning age, gender, and background. The allure of assuming an alternative persona within the gaming universe not only enables anonymity but also facilitates the creation of fictional lives. The barriers that typically segregate individuals based on factors such as gender, age, social status, geography, beliefs, or origin are conspicuously absent in video games. A fantastical creature named 34grrr with a yellow mouth might be a teenager battling an autoimmune disease in a Delhi hospital room (actual case with the name changed), or it could be a retired grandmother residing in Berlin. This unique absence of boundaries is unparalleled in any other societal construct.

However, this anonymity, while liberating, also possesses the potential to elicit negative behavior due to the absence of immediate consequences and accountability. Furthermore, not all games prioritize communication or the social well-being of users, contributing to a fragmented gaming ecosystem. Various games support distinct systems that do not seamlessly interact, often resulting in division and isolation among gamers instead of fostering unity. Adding to the complexity, statistics reveal that 12% of internet users have been stalked or harassed online, while 6% of internet users have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online

Ironically, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic marked a crucial juncture in the trajectory of online games. As these virtual worlds gained increased significance for humanity confined to their homes, they garnered more attention and, consequently, adopted the demands and expectations that users naturally transposed from their daily lives into the virtual sphere. Rather than reality influencing games, individuals began to "live" within games, projecting their personalities through avatars and VPNs.

The period of COVID-19, particularly the quarantine restrictions implemented from 2019 to 2021, correlated with a rise in reports of toxic behavior, escalating from 68% to 72%. This surge in negativity led to a substantial exodus of gamers, with over 67% attributing their departure to the prevalence of toxicity. A staggering 68% of gamers reported encountering physical threats, harassment, or stalking.

Toxic environment

Game creators close online chats, gamers create verification platforms.The toxicity issue within online gaming communities has reached critical levels, prompting significant responses from game developers and players alike. In an attempt to address this toxic environment, some game creators have taken the drastic measure of shutting down online chat functions. Concurrently, gamers have initiated the development of verification platforms to ensure safer interactions among players. However, despite these efforts, the prevalence of toxic behavior remains a pressing concern.

As a female gamer, I have personally encountered instances of toxicity, and the situation appears to be worsening as gaming continues to gain popularity. Alarming statistics reveal that 71% of female gamers refrain from using voice chat due to the fear of facing humiliation or expulsion from the game. This pervasive toxicity not only alienates players but also tarnishes the gaming industry's reputation as a whole.

Notably, games like League of Legends, notorious for their toxic environments, have deactivated in-game chat features in response to escalating issues. However, the effectiveness of such measures in addressing the underlying problem remains questionable.

The urgent need for a safe gaming environment has led to the emergence of platforms advocating for identity verification and the enforcement of ethical standards upon entry. These measures aim to shield players from unethical behaviors, fostering a community built on mutual respect and sportsmanship.

Teammates forever

How to find the best partners for the game

At GameTree, our extensive research involving approximately ten thousand gamers revealed a consistent demand for playing in a supportive atmosphere free from toxicity. We have developed an AI-based algorithm analyzing over 100 criteria to address this need, including psychological type, gaming style, value system, and in-game behavior. Our platform strives to connect gamers, irrespective of age, gender, language, or orientation, allowing them to find like-minded friends and communities where they can feel secure. We do not limit the search for matches to the standard S.A.L. (sex-age-location) protocol because it cannot evaluate more complex aspects of human communication.

However, it's essential to acknowledge that toxicity extends beyond the gaming community and affects individuals online and offline. Therefore, fostering a supportive environment is about more than just enhancing the gaming experience and promoting healthier interactions in all aspects of life. With innovative approaches and technological solutions, the gaming landscape can evolve into a more enjoyable and inclusive ecosystem that prioritizes camaraderie and mutual respect.

In conclusion, the importance of creating a safe and supportive gaming environment cannot be overstated. The rise of online gaming has brought people from diverse backgrounds together in virtual worlds, offering opportunities for connection and camaraderie. However, this environment also presents challenges, such as toxicity and negative behavior, which can undermine the overall gaming experience.

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including measures like identity verification, ethical standards, and community support. Game developers, platform creators, and gamers themselves all have a role to play in fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity within the gaming community.

By recognizing the impact of toxicity and taking proactive steps to promote positive interactions, we can create a gaming environment where players feel safe, supported, and able to enjoy the immersive worlds they inhabit fully. Building a healthier gaming ecosystem benefits everyone involved, leading to more fulfilling gaming experiences and stronger connections between players worldwide.

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