Video games have changed since Pong in the 1970s. Graphics are better and you don’t need to be in front of a TV or computer to play. Also, games now have huge communities associated with them. Unfortunately, the gaming community has gown toxic in many areas. Explore the impacts of toxic gaming culture on mental health among these communities with this post.
Expectations vs Reality About Gaming Communities
The meme showing that “gamers are never alone” is one of the more uplifting memes about gamers. This vision of other gamers on the other side of the Internet is one of the best parts of gaming. This is what we expect. When I started playing World of Warcraft in 2007, it was this supportive community that really drew me in and kept me playing.
Unfortunately, this expectation of support is not always reality. Instead, many gaming communities are plagued with toxic gamers. This toxicity can range from screaming at players to “get good” to flat out telling a gamer to “just go kill yourself.”
Differences seem to fuel toxicity in many gaming communities. Whether it is differences between using a console, a PC, or a mobile device or just differences in gender or age, these factors feed the toxic comments. Therefore, in some gaming communities, it’s not “safe” to share that you’re a “girl” or that you are gay. These alternate worlds that are meant to serve as an escape from the bullying of the real world, but sadly, they can end up being an extension of the traumas experienced.
Impacts on Gamers
As you can imagine, exposure to toxic gaming communities can have some long-lasting impacts. Gamers who experience bullying online are often told they’re too sensitive or “it’s just a game.” But in reality, these online experiences are traumatic. They can lead gamers to not share their differences with others or even to avoid the community aspects of games altogether. The gaming community tells gamers there’s something wrong with you or you’re weak if you don’t live up to their standards, which often does not leave any room for good mental health care.
What Can You Do to Help?
If you are in a game with community aspects, feel free to use the report options. These are often “taboo” among other gamers, but reports are anonymous and they do help remove toxic players. If you are a witness to toxicity directed at someone, don’t be afraid to say something. Even something as simple as a private “I saw what he said to you. Are you okay?” can be helpful.
If you’ve been the victim of bullying in a video game, it is okay to ask for help. Earthsong Counseling, PLLC offers online counseling for gamers. Click here to learn more about our therapy services for Texas gamers.