At PAX East this weekend, we will be introducing an art project led by some of our staff and students regarding their observations of hate speech in online game communities. We have put together a video that examines forum posts and in-game chats that marginalize different groups: Muslims, African Americans, gays, and women.
Some of the interactions we noted were outright hateful and confrontational, some were much more subtle and insidious, and some were positive. Our aim is not to demonize the individuals spouting examples of hate speech; none of the content reveals any personal information. Our goal is to show how commonplace it is.
It should come as no surprise that this project was motivated by the recent Dickwolves debacle in the Penny Arcade community. We felt that the vicious harassment directed at rape survivors was an example of an enduring atmosphere surrounding online interactions between game-players, where hate speech is tolerated, accepted, and barely recognized in day-to-day play. Some writers argue that the use of such language is commonplace among gamers. We agree that it is all too common.
Many of our staff and colleagues will not be presenting their work at PAX East this weekend because they feel uncomfortable attending the expo this year. However, as a research lab in a university, we felt it was also important to seize a teachable moment.
The video will be presented in our booth in the PAX East exhibit hall along with some of our latest research-based games. Because the video contains offensive material, we will provide headphones for anyone interested in viewing the 12-minute piece at the back of our booth. The GAMBIT staff who have put together our art project will be present to discuss the piece.
We believe that the pervasive reality of exclusionary speech in online game communities stands directly against the inclusive ideals of PAX. We need to recognize this and work together to build a shared culture in which anybody who loves games can feel part of a community that plays together. We hope that our small project will encourage discussion about how we can make online game communities a more welcoming and sensitive environment for players of every stripe.