Online Game Racism Is Getting Worse

Editor’s note: Tony’s a bit disheartened over all the racism he’s finding online, but he points out a bigger problem: its infectiousness. Why can’t white and black (and Bitmob green) play nice together? -Shoe

I’m a white guy. A white guy who grew up in a town that had KKK rallies in the Gazebo and had David Duke speak at the local library when he was a kid.

I grew up embarrassed of my town and like to think the era I grew up in was filled with more racism than present day. I say this because of my confidence in society and its way of educating the public over time. A society that has learned and can learn from its mistakes.

Yes, I know that there is and always will be racism in our society, but as an adult, I’ve felt good about feeling that it’s getting better. Hell, we’ve voted in our first black president, right?


In the past few years, I’ve been drawn back into gaming and found myself refreshed to the vast capabilities it has to offer. Games are still games, but they’ve molded into something different: its own social network.

Hours of my life are now taken through the cable wires and modems around the world, linking me together with hundreds of thousands of other players. I was amazed — not only to take part in this first hand but at the unbelievable amount of ignorant racism strewn throughout these very same wires and modems.

360 power lightsFirst off, let me just say that I am in no way advocating a ban against online gaming. I love it and have had more positive experiences than anything else. But the fact is, when it’s not positive, it’s turned its ugly head at me in a way that’s hard to forget, long after the green light on my 360 has turned gray. Let me also say, I think Major Nelson’s acknowledgement and forthrightness in taking on this subject matter is great.

My surprise may come from my overconfidence in today’s modernizing world, along with whom I tend to surround myself with in my life. I simply don’t see racism often. It’s possible I’m living in a bubble, but yet, I refuse to completely believe that. If I see a fight or an argument in life, there’s no link to degrading someone’s race or dropping the N-bomb in normal conversation as an insult.

Yet, I was recently invited to a party in a Gears of War 2 game, only to immediately be asked by the team members if I was black. I left the match, but something stuck with me afterward.

They weren’t hiding the racism.

I’ve never experienced this before in any other aspect of my life. I mentioned earlier that we had just elected our first black president — but could this have lit the fire? Is this the straw that broke the backs of all of the closet bigots in our scope? It’s as though they’re uniting within certain aspects of my game activity. A whole team of racists in a room on a random multiplayer game just seems out of whack.

This is a system that’s supposed to check all of these troublesome issues at log in, so anyone can meet and have an enjoyable time together — a way to unite people into one common thread we all have: We love to play. Also, we can’t “see” anybody in live matches (aside from a few camera exceptions with games like Uno) which astonished me even more when I saw the prevailing ignorant insults.


Instead, I’m finding more and more that racist slang is becoming common and I worry. I worry because, yes, there are young kids that look up to adult players and may listen to this jargon. I also worry it’s contagious. It’s opening up a new pot to the masses that might not know the true meaning behind such racist terms.

The history surrounding these metaphors and beliefs are filled with a hatred many don’t understand. Let’s say li’l Johnny is called to the dinner table after a heated online match and throws out an N-bomb to his brother like it’s no big deal. Who do you think is going to get the blame? Yes, gamers, Microsoft, Sony…but not the actual culprit. The culprit has moved on to infect others.

I don’t pose to have an answer here on how to fix this. I simply want to offer up an acknowledgement of this beast’s increasing activity. Of course, I know race is an overwhelming issue in our society as well, but it’s supposed to be getting better isn’t it?

It’s not supposed to find new outlets to breed itself into a larger more hateful monster than it already is. I know how impossible it is to filter this out over a live connection, considering how many people are integrated together at any given moment.

And let me say this again, now that you’ve heard my rant: I love online play. I’m just feeling a bit disappointed and disheartened in a community whom I feel so close to can have such a rotten element, sidled with some of the best times I’ve had in the last few years. Or maybe I’m just naïve.

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