The world of gaming sometimes gets a bad rap for being exclusive and toxic. To be fair, these traits aren’t only present in gaming: exclusivity and toxicity have a tendency to crop up in any and all sorts of communities, and if the community isn’t aware and on top of it, those terrible traits can grow even worse until they are very difficult to completely weed out. The gaming community has been around for a long time now, and sadly, there are plenty of areas quite toxic and unwelcoming to outsiders. On the positive side, with the rise of gaming and the esports community, we have the opportunity to reach even more people than ever before and break down the barriers which have managed to creep into the gaming world. If you have ever felt excluded from the gaming community or if you have ever felt the toxicity that can go hand-in-hand with gaming, read along for a look at what we can all do to break down these toxic walls in gaming and what the world of gaming can be like if we all commit to being kind and welcoming to our fellow gamers.
The bad news is that toxicity and prejudice in gaming is extremely prevalent and can be hard to weed out completely. We won’t be able to get anywhere in our battle against toxic gaming culture if we don’t acknowledge it and fully understand that it is a much bigger problem than just one or two gamers. Beyond understanding and acknowledging it, it doesn’t do us much good to dwell on the bad, forgetting to focus and work on what we can do to fix it and make the gaming world a healthier, inclusive place for everyone. Today and every day we talk about making the gaming community a better place, let’s focus on what we can do, right now and in the future, so that our understanding of the toxicity present in gaming doesn’t go to waste and instead feeds our desire to make a difference.
If you’re a gamer who has been in the community for a while, one of the best things you can do is reach out to and welcome new players, never making them feel like less of a player for not knowing everything about a game or situation. You have the opportunity, as someone who knows the ins and outs of the gaming world, to actively work to help new gamers feel included whenever you are playing a game with them. Looking back, I’m sure any gamer who has been in it for a while now can remember what it was like when they first started out and imagine how it would have felt to have veteran players reaching out offering advice, encouragement, and companionship. I was lucky enough when I started gaming to have some friends who really knew what they were doing and were more than happy to help me out, and it made a world of difference in how much I liked gaming and felt included. Whenever you have the opportunity to be that friend for a new player, take it, and I guarantee it will be beneficial for both of you.
For new players, if you’re not sure where to start and how to contribute to a healthy gaming community, a good idea to start off with is to not get boxed into any gaming stereotypes purely because you feel like you don’t have a choice. Play what you are interested in and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you don’t belong. The world of gaming is for everyone, and the best thing about it is that, when it’s working properly, anyone can play any game or be a part of any group as long as they love it and are open to the experience. If you start playing a game, and an older player starts giving you a hard time, ignore them, and report them if you can. It’s easier said than done, but ideally, there is no space for toxicity in gaming, and every time you ignore a bully or report them so that they cannot hurt your feelings or anyone else’s, you are helping to take power away from the negativity and make gaming a more inclusive space. That being said, if an older player starts talking with you, unless they come across as immediately hostile, don’t assume they are going to be rude, because they (hopefully) will be one of the players who took some of the earlier advice in this article and are reaching out to offer you advice and friendship. Be open to the possibility of kindness, but be prepared to be tough and stand up to bullies to keep up the work of healing the gaming community.
Some solid advice for everyone in gaming is, to put it simply, watch your mouth. Some of the language and interactions to come out of gaming chats and online groups is absolutely foul and can only add to the negativity in the gaming world. When we’re chatting online, it can be very easy to slip into a negative mindset and let that mindset take over our communication skills, because there isn’t always a lot of accountability when it comes to online conversations. This leads to people saying really terrible things about each other, and it has to stop. The next time you get upset online and feel like cursing someone out, stop, take a breath, and remember that the change you want to see in the world can start with you and work through you every time you choose kindness over anger. I’m not saying it’s always easy, because there are definitely some people online who more than deserve to get chewed out, but stooping to that level is never the answer.
The most important takeaways from this article are that if we don’t acknowledge toxicity and exclusivity in gaming, we won’t be able to fix it, and that we all have the power to be more kind and inclusive in all of the gaming that we do. In the words of my editor and fellow writer Izzy Salant, “There’s clear toxicity in gaming. It’s there, it’s present, and to deny that would be foolish. But just because it exists doesn’t mean we have to accept that’s how it should be. People work for Syft because they’re passionate about video games and the gaming community; we care about it, and when you care about something, you want to make it better.” We at Syft are here, working in the gaming community, because it’s what we love, and we’re in a unique position to spread positivity and inclusiveness to all corners of the gaming community through our words, videos, and all of our content. If you want to be a part of a community working to break down toxic barriers in gaming, stick with us, and we will all work together to make our shared gaming space a better place.