Just because they’re common, it doesn’t mean insults during online gaming sessions need to be tolerated.
“It’s a big problem in certain genres and games,” says Johannes Breuer, a media researcher at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany.
Of course, there’s always going to be harmless trash talk. “Expressions like ‘Next time I’m going to wipe you out’ are part of the challenge,” says the gaming expert. “You get that in football too. You can even hear it in tennis.”
But it turns into a problem when insults focus on the gender of the competitor or the verbal attacks take on sexual connotations.
That becomes even truer as the number of female gamers grows within a world of shooting and sports games that is still dominated by teenage boys and men. They’re also the players most responsible for the insults, says Breuer.
“It has to do with masculine identity establishment. Men like to fence off outsiders from their group in their hobby.”
Meanwhile, youths often have problems relating to people from the opposite gender. It’s also easier to throw out curse words when protected by the anonymity of a gaming identity than it is when talking face to face.
Females are safer from trash talk in casual and social games. But that does not mean they should avoid other forms of entertainment. They simply need to know how to react to the insults.
“In general, it’s best just not to react,” says Breuer. If there is any reaction, it should be short and to-the-point. One should never get involved in a discussion.
There are also technical methods for avoiding verbal attacks. Games can be set so communication is only allowed between friends.
Female players can also report insults. Platforms like XBox Live and Playstation Network have dedicated services for such complaints. Larger PC games tend to have community managers who can even ban troublemakers.
“How a host might react to a complaint varies from case to case,” says Breuer. “But I would always take advantage of this service.”