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Cyberbullying, sexual harassment rampant in esports

Even though the esports industry is a diverse community, cyberbullying is rampant in this virtual world, and cisgender and transgender women players are disproportionately more likely to be sexually harassed than men.

Photo by Florian Gagnepain from Unsplash.com

It’s one of the fastest growing industries globally, raking in millions for the best players and attracting a huge fanbase, but a new study has revealed the dark side of professional video gaming: cyberbullying and sexual harassment.

Even though the esports industry is a diverse community, cyberbullying is rampant in this virtual world, and cisgender and transgender women players are disproportionately more likely to be sexually harassed than men.

Despite women making up 46% of the world’s three billion video gamer players, according to a paper published in Entertainment Computing, women who play professionally (16% of esports competitors and content creators) are the most vulnerable to cyberbullying and sexual harassment.

University of South Australia (UniSA) psychology PhD candidate Louise Trudgett-Klose and Dr Sarven McLinton authored the paper, surveying 145 videogame players from 14 countries, 96% of whom said they had been cyberbullied in the previous 12 months.  

Almost half of the bullying (49%) came from co-workers (other players) and the other half from the public.

“There was a definite link between the level of professional gaming and the incidence of cyber bullying, and sexual harassment for women players,” says Trudgett-Klose. “The more professional a player becomes, the more they are exposed to hostile behaviour, which affects their mental health.”

“It’s not just an isolated incident. The fact that 96% of players – professional or otherwise – experienced cyberbullying in the previous 12 months suggests that toxic behaviors are prevalent in the gaming community.”

Gaming professionals who attracted the most fame – characterized by having a large fan base and presence on platforms like Twitch and YouTube – were exposed to the worst levels of cyberbullying.

Most professional players are independent and not protected by an organisation, leaving them without a governing body to enforce safety and protection.

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“New avenues need to be explored to better support emerging professionals in this contemporary era of gaming work, protect their mental health, and create a safer virtual environment for everyone,” Dr McLinton says.

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