When racism and harrasement are tolerated in a video game community

For the first time in 25 years of gaming I am ashamed to be a gamer. When you are called a social justice warrior for pointing out racism, harassment and hate speech in the in-game chat of your favorite video game something is very wrong.

The game I am talking about is Dirty Bomb and it is developed by London-based developer Splash Damage. It is a free-to-play multiplayer shooter with a small but dedicated player base. I have been playing Dirty Bomb for the past 2 years and never had any real trouble with the community. In every online game there is the occasional troll that trash talks in chat or voice chat. But in recent months there have more and more people that moved from trash talk to harassment and straight out racism or hate speech.

I am used to people who want to put things into multiple body openings of their opponents mother. I don’t care about allahu akbar jokes or how often they can cum over their keyboard. I don’t care about called a nazi because I am a German and used to it. But when people use the n-word in chat and in voice-chat multiple times I cannot look away. When people call their opponent a jew that should be gassed it is not funny. And if the turkish guy in my team is called a camel-f***er it is also far from funny. And dont ask how many times in the past week someone was called a fag or gay and that needs to be shot on sight (IRL).

But to my surprise when I pointed this out on the official Dirty Bomb subreddit that is monitored by Splash Damage people were fully okay with all this. They said “But it’s the Internet. Grow Thicker Skin™.”, “Where I come from n-word is a expression of endearment” or “just mute them”. I was just starring at the screen and tried to comprehend what people were saying. They said racism, harassment and hate speech are just part of the internet and I should look the other way. When it comes to racism and harrasment being a coward does not solve the underlying issues.

I cannot image that any of those people would go into a public building in the US and greet the first Afro-American they see with the n-word. I cannot image that any of those people would go into an Israeli embassy and tell the officials that jews should be gassed. And I cannot image that you would go into Turkish store and call the staff camel-f***ers. 

To make things even worse there seems to be a consensus that it is allowed to say all those things in a video game because it is just the internet. How can something that is not right (or even not allowed) to be said aloud in a bar be okay when you type it on your keyboard in your living room. It is still a real person that has these thoughts but instead of saying them aloud in a bar it gets screamed into a microphone or typed on a keyboard. There is still a human being responsible for this.  

That the community defends this behaviour is wrong on so many levels that I honestly don’t know what to say. And when I asked Splash Damage the developer about this I got a standardized answer that said they are happy about my feedback about the game. – They didn’t even read the email because it had nothing to do with their game.

I decided to leave this community, to uninstall Dirty Bomb and write this short blog entry. I have not looked away and I will no longer support a company that tolerates racism and harassment in their game.


Update 2017-08-17: Someone sent me these post from the steam forums: Toxic community? And a steam forum post similar to this blog entry  where people that dont want racsicm ingame are called “crybabies”.

Update 2017-08-18: I changed the name of this post to make it less offensive against Dirty Bomb as a game.
And another recent reddit post complaining about the constant use of the n-word.
And another reddit post where someone was called the n-word.

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20 years of coding and working as software engineer but I am still eager to learn more. I am very passionate when it comes to open source, Linux and Java. But I made my peace with Windows long ago to fully enjoy my PC gaming hobby. I have a soft spot for 90s electronic music and Babylon 5. In the evenings you will find me roaming the endless space in Warframe (IGN k05h).

5 thoughts on “When racism and harrasement are tolerated in a video game community

  1. Matt (Tiosy MacScotchSlurpen)

    I used to be one of the “higher-ups” in a Team Fortress 2 gaming community (Brothers of Chaos, no longer around as far as I know). We ran 4 or so TF2 servers and another member and I modified existing and developed new game mods/plugins for our servers. One of our mods communicated with an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) bot and forwarded all in-game text chat to our IRC channel so we could monitor chat for complaints of hackers and stuff like that.

    We eventually decided that manually banning people for using the n-word was too much trouble and had the bot permanently auto-ban anyone who used it. Our servers almost instantly had less trouble from griefers and toxic members of the player base, because the types of people who are there to ruin everyone else’s fun are also the most likely to use “hate speech.”

    Now, our community was very “conservative.” Almost every member lived in the USA (we had one or two Canadians because our servers were based in Chicago), so by “conservative” I am referring to the political stance opposite of “liberal.” No one I know, liberal or conservative, social justice warrior or free speech advocate, wants to see people being derided for their skin color, nationality, or political beliefs. Sadly, today’s youth have been raised on the internet, and the more 13-year-olds I run into, the more I am worried that our society is headed for the downfall of Rome. I haven’t run into a teenager lately that doesn’t spew solid strings of cuss-laden, n-word-filled trash talk. If I was able to run my own free-to-play game servers, I would, and I would, again, ban all of that shit on sight (and what of it I could have a bot do I would have auto-perm-banned).

    P.S. – I bumped into your blog looking for a way to make the Carrier’s Looter mod more efficient (sadly, no one seems to know how to do that) in Warframe. They at least automatically kick players for using that sort of language, and in some cases they ban them from all in-game text chat.

    1. Lars Händler

      I never considered a demographic connection with this issue. And it is good to see that there are more ppl out there that do not like how online interaction is going at the moment.

      Today I also updated the Carrier Prime build in my old post. Some mods changed in Warframe since I wrote the post.

  2. PallieNak

    You think with all the cyber bulling that makes it into the headlines a company would want to be on the right foot. I really think Dev’s should make an AI that can catch this in game and either fine them per incident (and have the money go to a fund making the gaming community better) or ban their acct (a long with their IP and email. I favor the fines, people wake up faster if you go for the wallet.

  3. Isey

    Nice post and more people need to rally against this. Digital communities need to be treated like real communities, as you rightly point out in your real world examples.

    It’s why I quit Overwatch.

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