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Opinion: Is showing empathy really that hard?

Recently the world of gaming has been in turmoil, starting from the Me Too Movement finally arriving in the scene to the tragedy of Reckful’s suicide. However a common thread linking those instances and many more together has been the simple question: What sort of community do we want to be?

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Reading through news throughout the last month you could be excused for thinking the entire gaming scene was a cesspool of degenerates, harrassers, toxic trolls and hateful discrimination. The majority of our community is far removed from those and just as disgusted and repelled by the revelations that have come to light. However that does not absolve us from responsibility.

At this point in time there are deeply systemic issues in our community that we indirectly fostered by not speaking up. “He is just a troll”, “Don’t mind the raging kiddie” or “Man, look at that edgelord go” are just some of the many variations by which many of us ignored the issue and preferred to look the other way.

I am by no means exempt from that criticism. The amount of times I have heard hateful slurs or harrassment of teammates over voice and text chat, while not doing anything is beyond counting.

But it is not just limited to in-game communication. Just take a look at streaming platforms, social media and the comment sections of the internet. The amount of hate that gets spewed by so many behind the veil of anonymity is disgusting. Which leads us to another uncomfortable truth:

Toxicity is a widespread issue and has been for a long time.

Of course I am not privy to how much hateful comments contributed to Reckful’s struggle with depression, but it certainly did not help. While Reckful’s passing has been the most prominent one in recent times, it was neither the first nor the last. Or have you already forgotten about Etika? Following Reckful’s suicide another streamer, Ohlana, also tragically took her own life.

Acknowledging the problem is only the first step. What can we do to make our scene better place? For many of us gaming is a place to escape, to live out fantasies and relax from the cruel realities of life. How can we make sure that it remains a place of comfort for those in need of a break?

It starts with every single one of us calling out behaviour that is not okay.
It starts with every one of us actually reporting hateful users.
It starts with every one of us remembering, that on the other side of the screen there sits a real breathing human being that will be affected by what we write or say.

To simplify it even further, it starts with showing empathy for others. Why is it that people show so little understanding for others on the internet? Is it too hard? It really is not.

Read more:

All it takes is a little empathy

Regardless of how “tough” a person is, faced with a constant barrage of negativity and hate you will be affected one way or the other. But it does not have to be that way. All it takes is a concerted effort by all of us to show that our scene is not that “hive of scum and villainy” so many accuse us of now.

But in order to make our community a better place, we need to all take action. Gaming is a wonderful hobby that offers refuge and relief to so many of us.

Only if we step up to defend this place from hate, discrimination and toxicity can we protect our place to be for others in the future.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who might, and you need to talk to someone, please reach out and call Suicide Prevention 1-800-273-8255 (USA). Other countries also offer suicide crisis lines, please reach out in times of need:

List of suicide crisis lines

How do you deal with toxicity in your games? Share your experiences with us on Social Media or our Discord!

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Image Credit: Dan Meyers via Unsplash