PAX East: How to End Bile and Hate Online? Engage the Trolls

Coverage of the "What You Can Do to End Bile and Hatred in Games Culture" Panel at PAX East 2014
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Something popular to add to gaming conventions recently has been panels on diversity. GDC added an entire “advocacy” track of panels to their 2014 schedule. Pax East continues this trend with their “What You Can Do to End Bile and Hatred in Games Culture ” panel that aired Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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The panel consisted of Greg Tito [Editor in Chief, The Escapist], Bob Chipman [Video Contributor, The Escapist], Evan Narcisse [Editor, Kotaku], Janelle Bonanno [Editor in Chief, GameFront], Andrew Yoon [Editor in Chief, Shack News], Andrea Rene [Escapist News Now, The Escapist], Andre Meadows [Black Nerd] talking about some of the negative and positive experiences they’ve dealt with online. 

Andrea Rene from Escapist News Now opened the panel off:

“Being a woman online, and uh being a woman in the gamer community online is a very volatile place as any woman in the audience will probably tell you. [Raise your hand if you’re a woman] First off you have to deal with the “Oh are you really a gamer? You actually play” questions which I’m so I’m just so tired of them. I’m sure all the ladies out there can attest”

Amen to that sister. While other panelists talked about some of their most positive and negative experiences (and Andre of the Black Nerd sang “Let it go, let it go, we don’t need your comments no mooore”) one of the more powerful messages coming out of the panel emerged after this image of common negative comments was shared. 

Andrew Yoon spoke up next, explaining how the “Just deal with it” comment is not helpful in an online setting. In fact Yoon went as far as saying “we’ve done a disservice to the community” by encouraging others to “just deal with it” and ignore online criticism. 

Once you start ignoring you’re not really coming up with a solution. It’s like saying like that’s hard to do ya know. It’s not a viable solution. There are proactive solutions. .

One proactive solution suggested by Andrea Rene was to “be a leader online” be a positive influence on the websites you visit to counteract that negativity online. For many, this advice lies in direct contention with the general “don’t feed the trolls” motto many gamers follow online. 

Of course there are positive and negative ways to engage people online, and Greg Tito had a few suggestions for how to engage others in a more positive experience. 

Acknowledge someone. Be like, “I hear what you’re saying, I disagree with it” When I have done that 9 times out of 10 the person is actually just amazed I’m responding to them. 

Many people are surprised when someone engages them online, thinking “Oh this will never get back to me”. Active engagement can counter those negative comment, Yoon explains, because: 

“When you respond to people and acknowledge them, people realize ‘oh there are real people on the internet'”

 Ignoring the trolls may seem like the best way to handle the situation, but by engaging them in calm, rational (and even personable) debate it is possible to show them that 

  1. You’re a real person
  2. They are accountable for things they say online
  3. Civil debate is possible

While I’m still not too keen on engaging, this panel makes a great argument for how engagement can make a large impact on the gaming community. Who knows, civility and engagement may just be the magic needed to turn trolls back to people. 

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