Game Devs Petition Gamers to Curb Hate-speech and Verbal Abuse

Devs are speaking out against hate speech in the gaming community by signing Andreas Zecher's open letter to gamers.

Gaming culture is one of the fastest evolving in the world. It has changed and grown more in just a few decades than many cultures do in centuries. However, one thing that has not changed with this evolution is the prevalence of unbridled hate-speech and verbal abuse that, for many, defines the gaming community and relegates it forever to the status of "immature hobby."

Well, now hundreds of triple-A developers in the United States and Europe are calling for gamers to do something about it.

In an open letter to the gaming community at large Andreas Zecher - a designer working with Berlin-based independent developer Spaces of Play - calls on everyone in the games industry from developers to players to stop the hate. Zecher has worked on two of Spaces of Play's most popular games: Future Unfolding and Spirits.

Spaces of Play is an indie developer with a focus on surreal, artistic games that offer easy access and deceptively deep story for players. Above you can see the artistic style of "Future Unfolding."

This call for action comes on the heels of the Zoe Quinn-related controversy as well as the now-infamous harassment of Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency.

At one point, the aggressions of certain members of the gaming community were so threatening that Sarkeesian was forced to flee her home for fear of her physical safety.

Zecher's letter is a response to the way these women and many others have been treated by the gaming public. The letter has been reproduced below:

We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.

If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites.

If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in.

Thank you

- Andreas Zecher (Spaces of Play)

At this point Zecher's petition to the community has been closed with endorsements from 2,495 developers and personalities in the industry, including representatives for Naughty Dog, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie, Rockstar North, 343 Industries, and Epic Games among many others.

Published Sep. 4th 2014
View Comments
  • JalestraNiss
    Oh please. In every field there are insults and threats. It's all talk in the heat of the moment. It is RARELY acted upon. Guy calls me a b*tch, who cares..like he knows me, he's just mad. Says I 'should' die because of a game design change meh...you can't make everyone happy and some people are just jerks. The only reason gaming sees an increase of this type of thing is because kids play and they aren't exactly the poster children of self control. The reason gaming doesn't get respect is because it's a "kids" thing and considering that most of us grew up playing them we'll be in control soon and we'll change that. I don't see how telling players they can't trash talk is actually going to be beneficial to anyone.

    As far as the death threats: In various fields, particularly in sports and politics, it happens ALL the time. I mean, does the count of gamers who have actually went to the effort to harm a developer even add up the fingers of one hand? Politicians are in more danger of there actually being follow through. Is it nice? No. Neither is cutting people off in traffic, but unless there's a cop around you just gotta move on and accept some people are jerks.
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    I think the issue here is less about insults and cursing in general and more about "hate-speech" - that is, verbal or written harassment that is based solely on someone's gender, ethnicity, or race. And I think it gets the attention it does in gaming for the same reason that it gets the attention it does in all forms of social entertainment. In this day and age society has gained the appearance of having accepted that discriminating against someone based on their gender, ethnicity, or religion is bad and should be discouraged.

    I don't get the impression that the letter was to ask gamers to "stop calling one another b*tch" but rather that the author intended to appeal to gamers to stop gender-based or ethnicity-based hate speech towards one another because in a society that views these things as unacceptable we are making gaming seem apart from that society and therefore reducing our chances that it will ever be taken seriously by society.
  • Auverin Morrow
    Commissioning Editor
    I've never understood the logic behind gamers insulting the people who are responsible for making games. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I'm so glad to see that devs are finally taking a stand, and people all over the industry are coming together to respond to what's been happening.
    One of the most amazing things about gaming (I think) is the accessibility of it, the fact that we've built a gaming community full of so many different kinds of people. You'd think that would make it one of the more tolerant communities. I get more and more disgusted every time I see/hear about gamers attacking each other and industry figures. The gaming world is a massive collaboration - it relies on the community among gamers and the symbiosis between devs and consumers. Antagonizing each other and industry figures does nothing but break that collaboration down, which means the whole community suffers.
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    Very well said here. I think the realization that our community is so collaborative is what gives me the most hope that eventually we will find a way to put a stop to this sort of toxicity among ourselves.
  • topher339
    Our community is extremely collaborative. That is part of the problem. Not a problem in and of itself but rather what spawns the problem. The community is extremely diverse and so long as there is diversity there will always be conflict, even if minimal. What makes one person happy will make another upset. That's just how diversity works.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    Some of the things gamers say to dev are just stupid... they are rude, inconsiderate, hateful and immature. And then those gamers wonder why politicians look down on gaming... it drives out creativity (Phil Fish).
    I actually sometimes feel ashamed to call myself a gamer, and sometimes don't even want to play games because of this sort of thing, that passes overtime, because I just love games.
    This is a step is the right direction to helping people outside of the community to see how creative, how intelligent, and how engaging games, gamers, and the community at large can be.
    I love gaming and almost everything about it, out of business wise, there is one thing wrong with it, and that hopefully is going to be stopped.
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    Thanks for the comment, and I agree with you. Gamers do a lot of damage to ourselves by not considering how these things look to outsiders. I agree that this is a step in the right direction.

    Also something to consider: if this letter gains this kind of following and attention it's a good sign that at least gamers are becoming aware of the flaws within our community. That's the first step towards finding a solution.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    The trolls that are out trolling are probably trying to troll this right now... No matter how much I wish this would solve the problem, I just don't see it. At least it's something! I try to report the hateful people out there but it never seems to do anything. Maybe I'm just not reporting enough.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    Or the other way around, not enough are reporting. I report when I can too, I probably could do more. But I spend more time trying to educate people to be better, than simply reporting them. I think it can help more. It doesn't always, but I think we are getting there, us who are standing up for the good side of gaming. :)
    Let us keep the good fight going!
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    A valid point here. It can be very discouraging to keep seeing these behaviors and despite our best efforts they persist endlessly.

    That being said: I feel that the takeaway here is that developers - the people making the games - recognize the problem and want to do something about it. The change may be subtle, but imagine if developers start making games with this toxicity in mind and start focusing on games to encourage a different way of thinking.

    Could be good, but it will definitely take some time.
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    Here here! We can't just give up because it doesn't appear our efforts are solving the problem quickly. Knowledge of the issue and valid paths to a solution are the best weapons against blind hatred.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    Agreed. The thing I think that would make the biggest difference is all the companies need to buff their ban hammers. They need to get ruthless with it. If you are a rage quitter, BAN. If you are a 'you all suck, troll time' player, BAN. Maybe even get alliances going on between game companies where they start to share the toxic player identities and put them in their own toxic trolling world.
    Facebook, Twitter, etc, they should all get the ban hammer buffed up too.
  • Travis McGee
    Featured Correspondent
    Not sure if buffing the ban hammer is the right call, but I do agree that companies need to take a firmer stance to eliminating these socially unacceptable behaviors online.

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