Video Games has always been one of my favorite hobbies at a very young age. I don’t quite remember what my first game was, but I remember playing a lot of Pokémon for most of my childhood. Later on in life, I visited tons of forums dedicated to the medium and had enjoyed conversing among various people sharing the same interests.

Media is now becoming more and more diverse, creating stories about many women, minorities, people within the LGBT community and more; it’s a great time to be a fan of gaming because now we’re embracing groups once marginalized (and who still are!). We should all be happy and accepting right? Unfortunately, that’s not how most see it.

Let’s say a big studio like Ubisoft creates a protagonist who is a black woman who identifies as a lesbian. When the title is announced, the vocal minority chimes in saying things like, “Ubisoft is pandering yet again”, the “SJWs won” (for those not in the loop, Social Justice Warrior is a pejorative term for an individual who promotes socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, and multiculturalism, and identity politics) or “keep your politics out of our games!”

Okay, now there are several things wrong here. Whenever we have a straight white male character, it’s seen as something normal, but let it be anything else and all hell breaks loose. We should want people to feel included. We should allow others to share their tales. People who call out the vocal minority gets labeled as an “SJW”, “cuck”, “NPC”, or a “beta”. Yes, it seems they love their labels. Also, why is wanting diversity a political affair??

This past April Fools was a great example of the toxicity in gamer culture. On the website, Reddit, the mods decided to shut down the subreddit, r/Games with a message:

Not April Fool’s.
This April Fool’s, we decided to take things a little more seriously and shed some light on a growing, pervasive issue that has affected the community of r/Games and gaming communities as a whole. In recent times, it’s come to our attention that what has been intended to be a forum for the potential spread of knowledge and involvement in video games has instead become a battleground of conflicting ideas. Ordinarily, this isn’t an issue; discussion by its very nature is certain to bring argument, but when that argument descends into vitriolic attacks between individuals on a regular basis with no chance at deescalation, that’s when, put simply, something’s got to give.

Though certain memes (such as “gamers rise up”) surrounding gaming are largely viewed as a humorous interpretation of a mindset, at the core of the humor is a set of very serious issues that affect all gaming enthusiasts. By showing disdain or outright rejecting minority and marginalized communities, we become more insular. In this, we lose out on the chance to not only show compassion to these people, but also the chance to grow our own community and diversify the demographics of those involved in it. Whether it’s misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism or a host of other discriminatory practices, now is the time to stymie the flow of regressive ideas and prevent them from ever becoming the norm.

At r/Games, our community is becoming increasingly responsible for perpetuating a significant amount of these combative and derogatory schools of thought. We remove those comments, we ban the perpetrators, but the issue still persists at a fundamental level: the notion that it’s okay or acceptable to ridicule and demonize traditionally disenfranchised and marginalized members in the gaming community. This is not just an issue in r/Games or on Reddit alone; this is an issue deeply embedded in the ranging depths of the internet, frequently in communities that center around the discussion of games.

What We See
Unfortunately, this inflammatory content is not an infrequent occurrence. The condescending, dismissive, vindictive and pessimistic attitudes we see in our day to day activity is troubling, especially when those interactions involve harassing or outright targeting regularly discriminated communities. It’s not uncommon for us to see the real issues surrounding these communities be trivialized, derided out of ignorance, or worse, for the sake of entertainment.

To that end, we want to show you, the community, what we mean by “what we see”. These are some of the more awful comments we see regarding transphobia, homophobia, islamophobia, racism, misogyny, pro-pedophilia/pro-rape, and vitriolic personal attacks against other users. These kinds of comments occur on a daily basis. We’ve compiled an entire album of examples of the horrible things people say on this subreddit. From bigotry to vitriol, this album merely scratches the surface of the magnitude of the problem.

In the interest of providing examples, we elected to remove the usernames from these comments; instead, our intent is to show the stark reality that we face on a daily basis in the overall effort to provide a welcoming and responsive community. Preventing the cultivation of bigotry means giving it no ground to go to, and as a whole leave only space for those who would respectfully participate. We must closely examine our own communities, in an effort to encourage acceptance and inclusion, to foster a healthy community in which we value empathy and respect.

Do Better; Be Better
Despite the strife that’s both within and caused by our community, there are a multitude of opportunities to prove that we can come together and be a more wholesome, accepting community that exists on a single core idea: enjoying and discussing video games together. Though the industry as a whole has suffered a great deal of trials and tribulations, we also are fortunate enough to be at a point in time in which there seem to be a glut of fantastic games, from major AAA titles down to near-anonymous indie projects that come out of nowhere.

So let’s revel in what’s available to us, and also appreciate the myriad of backgrounds that we as gamers come from. Our differences in experiences comprise the diversity in the content that we consume, and by allowing ourselves to appreciate those differences, we change our perspectives and interpretations; this applies not only in games, but life as a whole.

Let’s not let the good eggs go unnoticed, though: There are plenty of you who, as members of the community, want to take care of one another. Sometimes this means identifying when conversation becomes confrontation, when discussion gets out of hand and turns to name-calling, slurs or other degrading language. To you, we say thank you. You’re what keep us going, you’re who we want to see more of, and you’re everything that is the potential for a strong, open community for those who love and enjoy video games the way we do.

It’s also important to recognize the opportunities not afforded to everyone, as well as the resources available to give them a helping hand. So this April Fool’s, we’re also asking you to take into consideration the idea of helping these organizations out. These folks have made it their mission to represent and benefit those who still face their own challenges, obstacles and prejudices, and any assistance they can get is another step forward for their cause

The response to this message was not pretty to say the least. (Warning: some obscene language is used here) The shutdown of r/Games is what inspired this post and I honestly wish I could have gotten it out faster for everyone.

So that leaves me here. While I do love video games, I believe more sites like reddit to crack down harder on these sorts of groups. It has so much potential, but the vocal minority is what truly ruin the hobby for me. I haven’t even gone into the topic of gamers doxxing people who they do not like. I’ll still be playing fan favorite titles like Pokémon, but I believe I need a break.

I just want to say to everyone, please consider the feelings of those around you. We should all strive to be kind and courteous to one another.

Thank you for reading.