N-I-G-G-E-R — the letters flowed down my chat like a waterfall of hate. My heart fell to the bottom of my stomach. I had only been streaming for a few months when this incident happened.
A random person took time out of their day to hit me with a racial slur, with the sole intent of ruining my day. It was just another reminder that as a Black person, not even video games are a safe space.
Unfortunately, this is all too common in the world of video game streaming. Black people in the Average Gamer Community have endured relentless, unwarranted disrespect for years.
I was playing Overwatch and tried to make effective call outs to help my team win the match. Someone on my team proceeded to imitate my voice, then called me a “ghetto, broke nigger who sucks at the game.”
In this arena, your audience is largely watching your stream to see how you react to the game. That’s why it’s essential for streamers to show their face via webcam if they hope to grow their following.
As video game streaming has grown in popularity, so too has the frequency of online hate speech. We’re now at a point where it’s a good stream if you don’t receive or encounter multiple variants of the N-word in your chat.
Current State Of Streaming
There are some safeguards in place:
- Prohibit words that get blurred out
- Utilize moderators to help manage your stream
- Ban users from your stream for inappropriate behavior
The real issue is the widely accepted culture where internet trolls can type ridiculous insults to other humans online without any real consequences. In most cases, these keyboard warriors are spewing nonsense digitally that they would never speak out loud to your face.
Thus, a cycle of toxicity, flaming, and anger fuels itself in an environment that is meant to be, at minimum, safe and enjoyable.
How Streaming Can Become Safer For Black Gamers
We live in an age where having meaningful conversations is necessary for our well-being and strong relationships can have a positive impact on your health. A streamer’s chat is the difference between enjoying a video game by yourself and sharing the experience with a community.
The experience can be magical when things go as they should, but other times can be a heart-wrenching reminder of how divided the world is. This rings true even louder for Black streamers.
If we know better, we must do better.
To start, streaming platforms need to be loud and consistent in their stance against the blatant racism that resides in their respective domains. We’ve already seen how consumer pressure can force large companies to be vocal about equality, and we need to hold the gaming world to this same standard.
There’s hope in seeing how Facebook has formed a Black Gaming Creator Program to elevate diverse and underrepresented voices. As the leader in the streaming space, Twitch should create its own organization that uplifts the Black community.
Secondly, technology must play a larger part in proactively moderating the online world. Elon Musk is sending cars to Mars, but we still have a need for AI-based text filters that catch any and all permutations of hate speech. There has to be an enforced limit on “free speech” when it is being used to bring down others.
Lastly, gaming is supposed to be fun. To take a form of entertainment and use it as an outlet to attack people based on the color of their skin is abhorrent. What if a new platform was created on the basis of building gamers up instead of tearing each other down?
While it sounds idealistic and utopian, we believe it’s possible if equity and equality are at the core of the system. Action against injustice must be swift and consistent. When it’s clear that racism won’t be tolerated, there’s a higher chance that the space can become safer for Black streamers.