“Gamers’ Chat Rooms: Breeding Ground for Extremism”

Unloved, a private discussion group on Discord, the messaging service popular among video game players, has a rule that reads “Do not respect women.” The group, comprising about 150 people, is part of a misogynistic subculture known as “incels”, or those who identify as involuntarily celibate. While members of the group share harmless memes, they also joke about school shootings and debate the attractiveness of women of different races within the group, which uses smaller rooms for voice and text-based chats, including one room that refers to rape. Similar views have become easy to come across in the vast gaming world, on social media services, and sites like Discord and Steam, which are used by many gamers. The leak of a trove of classified Pentagon documents on Discord by an Air National Guardsman who harbored extremist views has prompted revived attention to the fringes of the $184 billion gaming industry, inciting discussions of how such views can manifest themselves in the physical world.
A report released by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights on Thursday underscores how misogyny, racism, and other extreme ideologies have become rootedin some video game chat rooms, with insight into why people playing video games or socialising online seem particularly susceptible. These bad actors have built virtual communities to spread their noxious views and have comparatively little public pressure compared to social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. A survey by the center’s researchers in five of the world’s major gaming markets — the United States, Britain, South Korea, France and Germany — found that 51% of those who played online reported encountering extremist statements in games that featured multiple players during the past year. Given that the gaming industry is historically male-dominated, the industry has struggled with problematic behaviour in recent years, such as the GamerGate campaign that long ago targeted women in the industry. Gaming platforms and adjacent social media sites are particularly vulnerable to extremist groups’ outreach due to the many impressionable young people who use them and the relative lack of moderation on some sites, according to the report.