Video game trash talk going too far

By Tyler Davis

The creator of the recently released “Halo 4,” 343 Industries, has decided to punish players who make sexist remarks while chatting on the game’s multiplayer mode. Anyone caught repeatedly harassing other players on the basis of gender will receive a lifetime ban from both the game and Xbox’s online service, Xbox Live.

According to a survey conducted by the video game website, 63 percent of female gamers report being harassed online because of their gender.

Women make up 47 percent of all gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Multiplayer games are played by 62 percent of all gamers, 78 percent of who play at least one hour a week. Because a significant number of women regularly play video games online, the amount of harassment is troubling. publishes lewd and sexist messages that female gamers receive on Xbox Live. They range from “can i f–k you?” to “wanna go to pound town?,” and those are the tame ones. Most are much more inappropriate and hateful.

Jenny Haniver, who runs the blog Not In the Kitchen Anymore, also posts sexist comments she receives while playing online. Many of the chat transcripts feature messages from male gamers telling her that “hot chicks” don’t play video games, and she should get back in the kitchen.

Those who aren’t regular gamers may not understand why this is such a pressing issue, but it has been an unspoken problem in the gaming community for far too long. The gaming community and mainstream media have finally started addressing harassment in online gaming.

Gaming blogs like Kotaku and Joystiq have addressed harassment, and media outlets like NPR, the New York Times and Forbes have written about the discrimination many female gamers face.

Microsoft told the New York Times in August that it is working on new ways to deal with gamers who make misogynistic comments, which may include a system that automatically mutes players who are repeatedly reported. Bungie, the original studio behind the Halo series, implemented an auto-mute system in the 2010 game “Halo: Reach.” But solving the problem involves growing as a community.

In a post written for Kotaku, gaming blogger Patricia Hernandez described the prolific use of the word “rape” online and how many in the online gaming community have become desensitized to hateful language.

Hernandez, a survivor of rape, admitted to using the word to put down players she defeated, saying things such as “I raped you” before realizing the magnitude of the word, even outside its original context.

Video game content does little to promote a positive attitude toward women. Many games—“Dead or Alive” and “Tomb Raider,” just to name a few—feature overly sexualized women with unrealistically proportioned bodies.

As a self-identified nerd, I’ve enjoyed video games for most of my life. It saddens me to think that women are made to feel unwelcome in the gaming community. Because many hardcore gamers understand what it feels like to be bullied, it is unacceptable for male gamers to be unwelcoming toward women.

Trash talking has always been a staple of gaming, but it stops being fun when it becomes discrimination. The anonymity of the Internet makes harassment easier, but it is no excuse to create a toxic environment.

Contrary to what some believe, immature teenage boys aren’t the only ones who enjoy the trolling opportunities provided by Internet anonymity. Most gamers—68 percent—are over the age of 18, according to the ESA.

This doesn’t just happen online. Miranda Pakozdi, a 25-year-old self-identified hardcore gamer, was harassed by other players at a video game tournament this year, according to the New York Times. A video of the tournament showed Pakozdi’s coach making inappropriate remarks to her and leaning in to smell her.

“Sexual harassment is part of a culture,” the coach said in another video. “If you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”

If sexual harassment is part of gaming, then something is wrong with the community. It’s great that 343 Industries and Microsoft are dealing with this, but as pointed out by female gamers who are speaking out, even male gamers who don’t engage in hateful behavior are doing very little to stop it.

Gaming is supposed to be fun, and the industry needs to police harassment so online gaming can be a welcoming community for anyone who wants to play.