Racism in the gaming community has become a formidable problem for people of color looking to just relax and have fun playing their favorite online games. In many cases, people of color are either pushed out of gaming communities or refuse to go near them for fear of being exposed to a near-irreparable trauma. I chose the latter.
It didn’t take long in my time as a gamer to realize that most of these spaces were not created with me in mind. As a quiet, slightly overweight Indian girl with a proclivity for shyness, the gaming community posed a serious threat to my already vulnerable demeanor. I was not about to give up all my years of hard work healing mental health issues caused by racist experiences only for a few hours of online gaming.
This is by far the easier decision and relies heavily on the kind of games you love. I was lucky in that I had always preferred single-player games rather than online gaming, which can require heavy interaction with your fellow teammates. But for people of color who love to game online, there are not many options for kind spaces.
People of color face violent forms of discrimination in these communities, from being called a variety of racial slurs, to being undermined for their abilities in the field. Expectations placed on them are that if they succeed, it was by accident, and if they lose, well that’s just because they’re not white. The level of patronizing that happens in these communities is also damaging, with white players acting surprised when people of color are good at games or know even a small fraction of the gaming industry.
Moreover, racial slurs seem to have transcended skin color and are used for absolutely everyone and anyone that just so happens to be part of a Call of Duty match. Racial slurs against black and brown people are traded as insults between white players, equating their inadequacy as gamers with skin color. Having come into contact with this on a few regrettable instances, it feels like the floor opens up beneath you when you hear white people laughing and mocking each other using the color of skin you were born with.
In reality, gaming communities have become a breeding ground for white male aggression.
The kind of narrative that online games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield traditionally have does not help either. Too often we see the trope of the brown, most-likely Muslim villains being shot and killed by white American soldiers. We are made to feel like it is normal, innocent fun to enter into a foreign country and kill its citizens simply for looking different and having alternative cultural values.
No wonder racism has become such an issue.
The replication of anti-Muslim, anti-brown and anti-black propaganda in video games is what has aided in Trump’s presidency being so successful. It seems innocuous, but when white men are allowed to spill hateful views under the guise of fun, colorful video-gaming, they are also given license to take those views into their everyday lives, exposing people of color to violent racism that can result in tragedy.
Luckily, there are a few things that can be done in order to counteract racism in the gaming community.
1. Call each other out
The first is for white players to call each other out. If you see someone being racist in any way, shape or form, calling them out can both embarrass them and make them think twice about what they’re doing. It can be scary having to call out your ‘friends’, especially in an environment that is built on fostering aggressive white masculinity, but this is an integral first step to creating a more wholesome community that people of color can enjoy.
2. PoC, bombard spaces with your presence
Secondly, people of color can bombard spaces with their presence, unapologetically making it known that these communities are theirs too. This can be difficult as it puts people of color directly in the line of fire, but getting a group of friend’s together all with the same goal of supporting one another in creating a space free from racism can have surprising results.
3. Move the gaming industry away from narratives that promote anti-brown, anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiments
Lastly, the gaming industry can move away from narratives that promote anti-brown, anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiments. First-person shooters are incredibly popular but have the ability to be less violent and less racially and culturally-insensitive. Take Star Wars Battlefront, for instance. Although there are no current forms of communication between players, the game takes place in a fictional universe and does not feature graphic deaths. Following along these lines, gaming companies can create fictional worlds with minimal unnecessary violence, while still attending to the enjoyable aspects of first-person shooters.
Although the gaming community is currently incredibly racist and insensitive, there is room for growth. With the growing conscientization of the world around issues of race, it is my hope that this community can deal with its insecurities head-on and be reborn as a space for people of all backgrounds. Maybe even with a little bit of bravery, we can change it ourselves.