Toxicity is rampant on the internet, and it has been an issue since its inception. However, toxicity in gaming is a particularly bad problem. Misogynistic behavior often passes for humor in a lot of circles. It is time that we ask the crucial questions: why toxicity exists, what causes it, and how we can try to reduce it.
Toxicity in the Gaming Community
Toxicity is a big problem in the gaming community. This toxicity gets directed towards both streamers and their viewers. Moreover, toxicity exists within communities as well as between them. Some userbases can be especially misogynistic and create unsafe spaces for women on the internet.
Devin Nash pointed out that we can view toxicity from three angles: personal, creator, and cultural.
The personal aspect refers to what an individual thinks their community should be. For example, at Healthy Gamer, we aim to create a positive environment that allows people to talk about their experiences around mental health.
The creator aspect refers to the community that content creators cultivate. This community is a reflection of the streamer’s content and personality. More often than not, a userbase starts to become toxic when a content creator starts to display toxic behavior.
The cultural aspect refers to the overall culture that pervades Twitch and other platforms. For various reasons, the gaming community is known for being toxic. While there are wholesome individuals in the mix, there are also many openly misogynistic, racist individuals that make new users feel unwelcome.
A lot of toxicity stems from a need to get attention from the streamer. Viewers make rude comments about content creators so that the viewer can get a reaction out of them. Anita pointed out that this is a symptom of loneliness. Loneliness is a problem that is quite prevalent on Twitch. It is a platform that chases away the silence in our brains with the background voices of streamers.
What Causes Toxicity in Gaming?
Communities are a reflection of the streamers. There are several communities on Twitch that are super positive. They watch out for each other. They are also supportive and welcoming towards other content creators and their communities during collaborations.
However, some streamers engage in toxic behavior towards others in the spirit of “humor.” While humor is an integral part of Twitch, content creators need to realize that they are role models for their communities. They may not have signed up for this role, but that is what being an influencer means. Modeling toxic behavior such as creating hateful content, mocking other streamers or viewers, and being rude and disrespectful in games will lead to toxic communities.
However, the issue does not start and end with content creators. Users in chat can be rude and disrespectful to the streamers and other users who do not share their viewpoints. Most of this stems from a need for attention. Most of Twitch’s viewer base consists of gamers. That means that the issues faced by gamers are very prevalent throughout the Twitch community. Self-esteem issues, loneliness, inability to process emotions, etc. are issues that gamers commonly face, and Twitch is an accurate representation of that.
Click here to learn about the relationship between video games and mental health.
As a result, users in chat seek attention from the streamers by making off-color jokes and rude comments. Since our minds are more sensitive to negativity than positivity, these attract the streamer’s attention. They call it out, which satisfies the offending user and reinforces the behavior. As Destiny put it, “any attention is attention.”
Moreover, toxicity is habitual. Online gaming culture has been set in its ways for many years now. Just like streamers model behaviors for their viewers, users can model behavior for each other. For example, since in our current culture, it is acceptable to be rude and disrespectful towards other players in competitive online games, nobody would see a problem. As a result, nobody would ever stop doing it.
Being disrespectful in the spirit of humor has become a habit on the internet. There is a place for friendly banter. However, there needs to be a familiar context for both parties involved. Friendly banter should not include calling people names because they disagree with your viewpoint. Habits take time to form, which means that they also take time to break. It will take a lot of time and effort before toxicity is not the norm on the internet.
Anonymity is also a significant contributing factor to toxicity. People are not rude to random people in real life because there are apparent consequences for doing so. However, you can get away by saying almost anything online due to the anonymous nature of the internet. It is a fundamental problem that the internet has faced since its inception, and due to the reasons mentioned above, it has boosted toxicity.
What Can We Do About Toxicity in Gaming?
Streamers are role models for the community, whether they realize it or not. A streamer’s community is going to reflect their behavior on their live streams. Moreover, the type of comments they point out in chat are usually negative. When these users get attention from the streamer, the pattern gets reinforced, and they do it more and more.
Devin Nash pointed out that one of the best ways to counter toxicity is to reinforce positive behavior instead. He found that by gifting subs to positive members in his community, he was able to weed out some of the toxicity.
Active moderation is also a great way to counter toxicity. Moderators are the front lines of every community. They are exposed to toxic behavior more than anyone else. Over time, even moderators can become jaded. It becomes harder to differentiate between banter and toxic behavior. We need to support the moderators in our communities so that they can ban toxic behavior and reinforce positivity.
Dr. K said that if a toxic person were to encounter positivity from one other person for ten games in a row, it would most likely affect this behavior. It would most likely take just 10% of a game’s community to create a lasting change in terms of toxicity. It is difficult to stand up to rude people in the middle of a game. At the same time, that is what we need to do if we want to make a change in our respective communities. The problem of toxicity needs to get tackled at an individual level for positivity to spread throughout our communities.
Toxicity is a systemic problem on platforms such as Twitch and an individual issue among viewers and streamers. If everyone in our community tried to encourage positive behavior and reinforce it, our communities would see a lot of change in a shorter time.
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