Online gaming, particularly through massive multi-player online role-playing games or MMPORGs, has been a growing trend for the last ten years. Both adults, teens and even kids have been exposed to and incorporated within such systems as general Internet access, especially broadband, has grown faster and better. And, just like regular, real-life communities, the online worlds have their good and bad sides. For the most part, the majority of players online respect each other and the rules of the game, but bullying in online games occurs just as it does in real life. However, because it’s within the environment of a game, and players names are often obscured, the ability to be a bully is sometimes far easier to get away with online.
Types of Online Gaming Bullying
Virtual reality bullying often starts with low-level communication in the form of trash-talking. This can be insults, slurs, calling other players out for challenges and so on.
Since many of the games involve some kind of a combat environment, players often gain fame and added benefits by fighting each other. In fact, many online games include a component of player vs. player, providing greater rewards for those who actively defeat other players. These features are voluntary, and most games include a opt-out feature for those who don’t want to participate. However, those that do can find themselves exposed to being repeatedly hunted by the same players as form of insult.
Ganking, or gang attacks by coordinated players, can involve some of the most aggressive and insulting types of bullying. This approach frequently involves a gang that will target smaller groups or individual players, attacking viciously and using extremely foul language where possible. Victims are often taunted with being defeated or killed repeatedly. If the game allows looting, victims are often stripped of anything of value as well. The experience can be demoralizing to the point that it ruins any enjoyment in the game at all. Those who complain are then labeled as whiners or crybabies who just can play the game successfully.
Efforts of Game Companies to battle Online Gaming Bullying
The businesses that operate online games are in a bit of conflict of interests when it comes to policing their players. On the one hand, the company has to show some kind of effort at policing its players. There are plenty of rules that players are expected to follow, and game stewards do monitor complaints for the more egregious situations. Some accounts are suspended and some can be outright cancelled. However, the majority of issues are simply warned and the game goes on.
Online companies are also cognizant of where there revenue comes from. If they make their game world too restrictive, they lose customers. The subscription revenue flow has to be maintained and growing to keep the company in profit. As a result, those issues that only affect a few tend to respond to lightly so as not to cancel a significant number of customer accounts unnecessarily. As a result, users and parents can’t expect the online gaming company to perform effective policing of users.
Effective Protection from Online Gaming Bullying
Cyberbullying can happen online in games as well as any other environment where there is socialization. While adults can simply decide to play the game differently or turn it off, children need guidance from their parents to protect them. Being attacked verbally or virtually in an online game can be upsetting and emotional for a young teen, especially given how addictive some of the games can be on players.
Parents need to set game time limits and regularly monitor what their kids are doing inside the games or being exposed to. In some cases, playing the game with the children or teens may be a far more illuminating approach than just hearing the situations second-hand from a child. Where the game seems to be upsetting or causing anxiety from behavior of other players, a parent needs to step in and give a child a break from the exposure. There’s little point trying to change the game company, but a parent can definitely control access to an online game and reduce its effect on a teen.