A Webster’s Guide to Harassment

The online gaming community is a large one. With over seventeen percent of the entire human population logging on it creates one of the most collectively diverse environments in the world. With the average online gamer playing up to forty minutes a day the opportunities to meet players from all walks of life are endless.

Along with these opportunities comes a very serious issue, online in-game harassment. With features in-game such as live chat, through a headset or messenger, it opens the door for anything to be said or received. Although there are moderating systems and muting options the harassment players receive has only been getting worse and the systems in place are not evolving to combat this level of aggressive persistence.




One large challenge gamers face today when addressing harassment is its definition. A few figures in particular, in the gaming industry, have blurred the lines as to what constitutes true in-game harassment. The definition as described in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows:

Harassment: To annoy persistently / to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. To annoy or bother someone in a constant or repeated way/ to make repeated attacks against.

Clearly the definition needs a little tweaking when it comes to online harassment; or does it? Looking deeper, harassment happens online when the moderating systems fail at deterring this kind of behavior from continuing. By flagging, muting, and blocking players whose actions have no real consequence it allows these kinds of behaviors to continue to flourish. Badgering over a chat mic and sending hate filled messages has become almost a social norm for gamers who have been at it for more than a couple of years, “Grow a thicker skin” they suggest to the newer influx of online gamers. Many people have turned away from online gaming as a whole due to the lack of enforced policies by the in-game moderators and the somewhat ineffective mic muting.




Let’s look into the phrase “trash talk” that some gamers are using to defend their right to harass other players. Here is the definition and break down of “trash talk” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Trash Talk: disparaging, taunting, or boastful comments especially between opponents trying to intimidate each other

Disparaging: to lower in rank or_reputation

Boasting: a statement in which you express too much pride in yourself or in something you have, have done, or are connected to in some way

Taunting: a sarcastic challenge or insult

Insult: to behave with pride or arrogance




Neither in the breakdown or the definition does it allow for persistent aggressive threats, stalking, or intimidation. In-game harassment doesn’t mean you have to be followed from server to server; it simply means that the behaviors listed, as defined by the English dictionary, are factually crossing the line into harassment.

In the future when you’re dealing with persistent campers, noob screw ups, or trolls just keep in mind that there are other ways to annihilate them without crossing that line into harassment. Remember that your actions and words can quickly change from trash talking another player on the gaming field, to personally harassing a player and turning them away from the community as a whole. Gaming is meant to be fun for everyone, pushing people out is only going to hurt us in the long run.