Friday, December 9

‘Toxicity’, a slow poison for the gaming profession :0

toxicity in gaming

Home to 10% of the total gaming population throughout the globe, India is the most sought-after location for upcoming eSports and streaming destinations. The viewership for almost every game is innumerable when it comes to mobile gaming. The Rise of BGMI previously PUBG mobile, has led to the introduction of mobile gamers to the gaming community which was previously limited to a small number of pc gamers as people did not have access to good peripherals and internet connections. With cheaper internet tariffs and affordable smartphones, mobile games like Free Fire and BGMI became an overnight sensation among children and youth. 

In the initial phase, people couldn’t make heads or tails of the games. Hence, they started watching YouTube streams, the most prominent figures even today for streaming would be Naman Mathur aka Mortal, Aaditya Sawant aka Dynamo Gaming, and Youtubers like Carryminati to name a few. All of these streamers streamed to entertain their audience and had fun side by side, soon they beat the clock and crossed a surreal number of subscribers. 

Their YouTube chats were flooded with love, support, and even donations to the channel. When MortaL won the PMCO with ‘Team Soul’ he became even more popular among the fans as he was a content creator and an eSports athlete at the same time making a lot of money and thus the era of eSports started emerging in India.  Boasting around more than 100k concurrent viewers on some occasions backed by regular brand deals and sponsorships.

Support comes from teamwork and helps us chase our goals with passion, focus, and discipline. In the due course of time, new streamers have emerged and created their communities. People have been idolizing and obsessing over streamers since the era of streaming started. Once a young fan was moved to tears on Livestream when he met Dynamo Gaming in a classic match. But like everything fame also is a two-sided coin. Nowadays competition has been cut-throat so much so that eSports has become very unpredictable with every team being equally skilled and confident by grinding for countless hours. 

When players don’t perform as per expectations, the viewers judge them and get abusive in most cases. For example, in any YouTube Livestream during competitions, if someone gets eliminated the whole chat gets toxic and starts having negative exchanges which spread like wildfire, In some cases if there aren’t moderators in the chat this goes on until the Livestream ends. During streams when the players lose aim duels or whiff the chat tends to demoralize the streamer and even super chatting and harass them which leads to cyberbullying. To add fuel to the fire the viewers even demean them on their social media through hate comments on their posts and even sending threats in their DMs. Fan pages make defamatory memes and circulate them on social media platforms to defame and sometimes even target the families of the eSports athletes and spread hate in the community which has led to gamers taking legal action.

Gaming streamers are no strangers to hate and spite.

These days gaining fame by streaming on platforms comes with a price, it leads your personal life to become public. The viewers are no help either, there were many instances where famous streamers fell victim to online harassment and bullying. Long-time Twitch streamers like “Pokimane” and “Sweet Anita” have been experiencing twitch harassment from their twitch chat for years. 

In an interview, Sweet Anita said that she may quit Twitch because the “mental toll of being at the mercy” of strangers sexualizing her is not “survivable”. Anita is a British streamer with over 1.7 million followers on Twitch. She has a form of Tourette’s Syndrome with coprolalia (Tourettes syndrome is a condition of the nervous system. TS causes people to have “tics”. Tics are sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly). Anita has been objectified and sexually harassed on multiple occasions by her fans through various online mediums. Anita’s condition was also being pointed out and objectified on various subreddits. 

Youtube streamer Desmond Daniel Amofah (better known by his online persona “Etika”) was also a victim of online harassment and cyberbullying, which deeply affected his mental health. Sadly Etika ended his own life on 19 June 2019. All this toxicity is also being channeled into “Hate Speech” in some communities. In a recent stream of Popular streamer and co-owner of 100 Thieves, Rachel Hofstetter better known as Valkyrie, was disappointed in her chat as they were poking fun at the “The Black Lives Matter” movement. This unpleasant experience led her to end the stream early.

Instances like these keep on happening daily on the streams of twitch and youtube streamers. Harassment and cyberbullying of people online take a heavy mental toll, which leads to dangerous things. Some streamers have turned to substance abuse to cope up with the anxiety caused due to cyberbullying. It also disrupts their will to the stream which leads to them cutting down on their streaming, Which eventually leads them to lose their audience. Online harassment also affects the confidence of pro league players which might lead them to underperforming.

How to solve the problem of Cyberbullying and Toxicity in the Gaming Community

This problem is being taken seriously on many platforms and the people behind the screens are being held accountable for their actions. Twitch moderators and staff are on the lookout for these culprits, these people are banned from these platforms after a certain number of warnings. 

Some new things could be implemented such as giving streamers a monthly check-up about their mental health and emotional well-being. Streamers could also be provided with counselors (if they need them). The players in a pro-league team could also benefit from hiring a private counselor for their team. Streamers and players should also be suggested to take a breather once in a while and just take a vacation. 

The problem of cyberbullying and online harassment and its effect on the mental health and well-being of people should have a light shone upon it and taken seriously.

-Prajwal

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