A little friendly smack talk during a bout of fierce, friendly online competition is one thing, but the prevalence of vile and hurtful homophobic sentiments in online play is all too commonplace. This week gay gamers speak out against homophobia in the online gaming community.
In an insightful video feature on Current.com titled "Gaymers," Flynn DeMarco, founder of Gaygamer.net, says the web is a great place to congregate and share ideas, but it can also be used as tool to harass and deal out considerable harm.
"Anonymity on the web can be a really good thing in some ways, but I think by and large it really creates an atmosphere where those people who feel like they can be really, really hateful, they have the veil of the internet to protect them," said DeMarco.
The short films' intro features real recorded audio from online multiplayer gameplay from Halo, Team Fortress 2, and other titles that's particularly telling. "I hope gay marriage never gets passed," notes one player, while several others quickly fire off a barrage of profanity deriding homosexual acts. Then there's the disturbing statement made by yet another gamer: "I want to shoot you right now. I want to hang you because you're gay. It's not nice but it's true." Ask yourself how many times you've heard similar comments during an online match.
DeMarco and others agree with freedom of expression, but they feel folks who feel the need to fire off offensive homophobic slurs and other anti-gay comments should do so in their own private spaces rather than in the public gaming forum. Last year, GayGamer.net was hacked and flooded with hate speech and threatening e-mails. It had to be shut down temporarily as a result.
Speaking in the video about issues with anonymity on the internet, Stanford University psychology professor Benoit Monin adds the web is a double-edged sword that can be used for different aims. "We can hope in a perfect world the internet would break down some barriers by enabling people to address head-on some of the prejudices people may or may not have," he said. "There's an aspect of hurting that's easier to do online, but it's possible to also do a lot of helping."