As someone who was gifted as being awesomely different and quirky, I spent most of my childhood feeling like an outcast. I tried so hard to understand Barbies, to care about pop music and to have crushes on TV actors and movie stars, just so I could fit in with others. But to be honest, I was much happier playing video games with my dad, reading comic books until the late hours of the morning, and wondering how to best defend my house from a zombie attack. I thought I was doomed to a lifetime of being misunderstood and alone. That is, until one day my house finally got the internet. Within a few hours, I found out that other people like me, people who showed love to their family and friends by kicking their butts at video games. I started to dive into these communities, playing games for hours with people I never met. It gave me the feeling like I belonged and that I didn't have to change who I wanted to be.
It was a powerful movement for me. But I was a lucky one. Unlike many gamers of today, I was not the target of "trolls". People who live on the internet who spread hatred, bullying and death threats, like it's funny or cute. Like telling people to go kill themselves is the best joke they ever thought of. You don't have to go far to find them, but you do have to go through great measures to lose them. Recently, an indie game developer named Zoe Quinn (developer of Depression Quest
, check it out) was the subject of such trolling. Her ex wrote a 10,000+ word document on their failed relationship and the internet exploded. Sending her death and rape threats at every turn, hacking her personal accounts and those of her friends and posting their personal financial information online. So much so, that one indie gamer Phil FIsh, removed himself and his games from the internet completely (if you are interested, read more here
). Another gamer, Anita Sarkeesian put on a video critical of how women were protrayed in games, and ended up being forced out of her house by death threats
. On top of all of this, we have all heard of people like Amanda Todd, who were bullied for no reason, and played a big role in her suicide.
In many communities, this kind of behaviour is considered "what you get" when you engage in the gaming community. Why are we so accepting of this? While the behaviour I have listed is extreme, people experience some level of trolling, of uncalled for hatred and anger online every day. To see this happen to someone that has done so much good in the world pains me. So when I heard "Troll" by Shane Koyczan, it really hit home for me. It shows the pain and real loss that this "joking" has caused. I am not saying we should have an internet without disagreements; disagreements are healthy and can be educational. I am saying that we need an internet that treats everyone as a human being, has educational arguments instead of rape / death threats, and that can reclaim the gaming community so that people will feel that same sense of loving community that has helped so many people.
If you are being bullied, reach out and get help. Here are some places you can call: