Now I’m no stranger to a little online abuse, having been playing online since I was very young. When Xbox Live first kicked off on the original Xbox back in 2002, the community was so small that you’d end up coming across the same people again and again in matchmaking whether they were friends with you or not. Inevitably this led to some wicked rivalries, and with wicked rivalries comes wicked Bantz. It was friendly enough, and the unified competitive spirit meant that we treated each other with enough respect to balance out the spicy insults and tasty retorts.

The Original Xbox Party Chat 2002

As the community began to increase, particularly with the introduction of Halo 2 which launched Xbox Live into popularity, so did a new generation of gamer; much more inflammatory than before. The age of player seemed to get younger and younger, but they worked so hard to appear older and older, and the respect that everyone once held for each other was being replaced by high pitched squealing and swear words that I certainly wasn’t aware existed at the age of 11. Not to put all the blame on them though, there are gamers of all ages that should be banned for life for some of the comments they make, if only it were so easy.

Unfortunately this trend has done nothing but develop, and the multi-faceted hate (Yes, by that I mean misogyny, racism, xenophobia and homophobia just to name a few) that flies around the voice chat channels has grown so exponentially that I don’t even bother to utilise voice communications anymore. What was once a brilliant social community has turned into a shouting platform for those with the most hatred to spread, and some of the things I’ve heard over the years have made me sick to my core.

It’s then of no surprise to me that a recent survey carried out by an anti-bullying charity has found that 57% of the young people it surveyed had experienced bullying online when playing games, and additionally 22% said they had stopped playing games as a result…

Isn’t that just so fucking sad? 

This is a media platform that has been a lifeline for me throughout my entire youth, and continues to be so. Video games have picked me up and given me inspiration. They’ve shown me that I can do something when I thought myself the most useless, and the online communities of like-minded individuals have been communities of support and friendship through very hard times. And it breaks my heart to think that children are being forced away from this because of some jumped up little shits on Call of Duty using words they don’t even understand.

Call of Duty: A Hater’s Paradise

Ditch the Label surveyed around 2,500 young members of the virtual hotel platform Habbo, aged between 12 and 25.

One 16-year-old gamer, Bailey Mitchell, told the BBC he had experienced bullying while playing online games since the age of 10.

“If you’re going to school every day and you’re being bullied in school you want to go home to your computer to escape,” he said.

“So if you’re getting more abuse thrown at you it’s going to put you off doing anything social – it has for a lot of people I know, me included.

“It’s regular, every other game you’re in, there’s always someone who has a mic or types in chat. They’ll call you some random abusive thing they can think of.”

This is bad enough, but Bailey also goes on to explain that he’s received Death threats online, and although now as a 16 year old he’s able to shrug this sort of behaviour off, at 10 years old these things can have an incredible effect on how you grow up as a person.

Ditch the Label chief executive Liam Hackett said his charity was launching a global campaign to try to tackle the problem.

“Bullying within online gaming environments is a real issue,”

“We are standing for acceptance and tolerance within our games and making the internet a better place.”

Well, I hope so, Mr Hackett, and well done to your organisation for working on tackling such a momentous task. We wouldn’t allow this sort of behaviour in any other public forum, so efforts need to be made to tackle it in the most public forum of all, the online one.

Moderation is Key – A typical Habbo chat room

The report also found:

  • 47% of those surveyed said they had been threatened in an online game
  • 38% said they had been hacked within a game
  • 74% said they would like the issue to be taken more seriously
  • 29% said bullying and trolling did not affect their enjoyment of online games

Dr Jo Twist, a representative from The Association for UK interactive Entertainment issued the following statement based on the report:

“We note the concerns highlighted in the survey of Habbo users, but the survey relates to a Habbo audience alone which is not indicative of the games industry as a whole.”

Well yes and no, although only a community of Habbo Users, many will play other kinds of online game just as Bailey did. And I tell you what, Jo, whatever kids are experiencing on Habbo Hotel – a primarily friendly digital chat service, you can bet your bottom bollock it’s 10 times worse in the competitive field.

Please check out the work that Ditch The Label do throughout their many anti-bullying campaigns HERE!