Contextualizing Toxic Talk in Games

Just wrapped up another great C&W talk. Below is the synopsis of the talk and attached are the slides. 

Games provide a virtual space where ordinary people can play out their richest fantasies of saving princesses, conquering kingdoms, defeating champions or simply just relaxing in the mindless movements accompanied by organizing candy squares.  

However, news reports and first person accounts of incidents indicate a growing and malevolent toxicity infiltrating our online play spaces, giving gaming venues bad reputations and injecting an ugly, intolerant and seemingly racist and misogynistic reality into these realms. Has the heightened awareness from Gamergate (Higgins, 2015), reported hostile work environments for women in games (Johnson, 2014), and toxic moderation efforts in MMOs (Blackburn, 2014) had an effect of directing our attention toward these spaces? Or perhaps has visibility into these arenas provided us an unprecedented level of observation, enabling us to witness behaviors that up until this point were unavailable? What real evidence do we have to determine whether toxic behaviors in play is any different or distinct from other professional environments?

Suler (2004) has provided the psychology (ie., deindividuation, dissociative anonymity, or solipsistic introjection) that is likely underlying these online behaviors. However, without better data collection and further analysis, we are missing an important part of this picture.  Examining data from a recently completed study, our thesis purports that in comparison to professional environments, the occurrence of toxic speech is no worse, but simply more personalized or directed in gaming environments.

In this talk, we will examine and classify conversations in gaming and other online spaces for both the frequency and types of incivility.


Joy Robinson, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Halcyon Lawrence, Georgia Institute of Technology

Below are the slides from the talk: