The games scene has a problem: toxic behavior. Insults, threats, racism and sexism are apparently not rare occurrences when playing online games, but rather common. Anyone who looks around on social media can quickly get a picture of this: fans are at each other's throats, often for no reason, but always for the wrong reasons. And sometimes they are also cheered on by entire influencer communities, who then act against individual players with hatred and incitement in an almost coordinated act. A study by the mobile phone provider Congstar now shows how widespread toxic behavior is in the games scene.
The Cologne mobile phone provider congstar has been involved in the gaming sector since 2019 and attaches great importance to respectful cooperation within the community. In order to find out more about the background of toxic behavior in online gaming and to raise awareness in this area, congstar commissioned a representative study that revealed new and current findings on the topic of verbal violence in online gaming .
From the end of April to mid-May 2023, the opinion research institute Civey surveyed a total of 2.000 gamers online who were at least 18 years old at the time of the study. The study participants were asked about the general development of toxic behavior in online gaming, possible countermeasures and their personal experiences surrounding the topic.
Increase in toxic behavior in online gaming
32 percent of gamers believe that toxic behavior in online gaming has increased, while six percent of those surveyed say they have recently experienced fewer toxic outages in their gaming environment. This means that more than five times more gamers are convinced that toxic behavior is increasing within the gaming community than the other way around.
At the same time, the data shows that there is a slight gap in perception between the genders: While 36 percent of female gamers notice more toxic behavior in online gaming than in recent years, the figure for male gamers is around 28 percent.
Most gaming fans (42 percent) would like a permanent ban for multiple offenses, closely followed by a reliable reporting function for affected users (35 percent). At least 27 percent are in favor of a temporary ban, which also takes effect when a person is noticed for the first time with toxic behavior.
The option of introducing moderators to monitor insults is very popular among 30 to 39 year olds (49 percent), which is not reciprocated to the same extent by the 18 to 29 year old generation (38 percent). Basically, it is noticeable that female gamers attach more importance to criminal consequences than male gamers. Almost twice as many women (29 percent) as men (15 percent) are in favor of immediately forwarding the matter to the responsible police authorities. A possible real name requirement is an option for 25 percent of female and around 17 percent of male study participants.
Toxic attack: 16 percent have already quit the game
One in six gaming fans (16 percent) have abandoned a game after falling victim to toxic behavior. In this context, the difference between women (16 percent) and men (15 percent) is only marginal. What is striking, however, is that younger gamers (40 percent) in particular are increasingly inclined to abandon a game due to toxic behavior patterns of their fellow players. While 37 percent of the women surveyed said they would abandon games, the figure for men was just under 28 percent.
The question was also asked about the types of hate speech that people have already experienced or observed in online gaming. Here too, it is primarily younger gamers who are affected by toxic behavior. Around two thirds of the 18 to 29-year-old respondents said they had already been confronted with toxic behavior while gaming online. 41 percent have experienced serious threats of violence and 39 percent have experienced racist comments. 37 percent of 18 to 29 year olds have already been the victim of serious, general insults.
Respondents most often witness toxic behavior in online shooters (13 percent), followed by strategy games (10 percent) and online role-playing games (9 percent). How drastic the situation is for the 18 to 29 year old generation can also be seen here: these are the numbers for online shooters (42 percent), action games (29 percent) and sandbox and survival games (26 percent). consistently at a significantly higher level in this age range.
It turns out that toxic behavior in online gaming is a relevant problem that is increasingly affecting younger gamers in particular. There is still disagreement within the community about how to deal with verbal violence in online gaming - but it is clear that the development will have to be countered with determination. “Gaming has a high social value as a cultural asset. As in general social interactions, respect, appreciation and tolerance should always be the top priority among gamers,” says Timo Wakulat, Senior Manager PR & Press Spokesman at congstar. “With the study, we want to proactively draw attention to the fact that this is actually not always the case and help gamers reflect on their own behavior and the behavior of their fellow players.”
Mobile phone provider congstar supports the Gaming without Borders initiative as a cooperation partner, actively organizes its own gaming events and streams and maintains a long-term partnership with FC St. Pauli and the FC St. Pauli eFootball Team. Congstar is currently campaigning against toxic behavior in gaming with the social media and influencer campaign “Don’t be an NPC”. Information is available here: congstar-gaming.de.
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