One in two people have been bullied by other players during an online gaming session.
That's according to a new survey conducted by Ditch The Label, a leading anti-bullying charity, and game-like social platform Habbo. The two firms questioned 2,515 people last week, mostly between the ages of 12 and 25, with a relatively balanced gender split: 48% female, 46% male, 3% transgender, 3% other.
The study found that 57% of participants had been bullied during an online game, while another 64% had been trolled (defined as "behaviour used to deliberately annoy other users").
Another 57% had been subjected to hate speech, while 47% had received threats from other users, and 34% had seen their personal information shared via an online game.
One in five respondents have actually quit an online game because of this bullying. One participant is quoted as saying: "I had to leave a game since I was bullied by a group of [six or seven guys] and it was really terrible. I've been depressed for a long time, and I couldn't really play without being insulted."
In a video piece for the BBC, young online gamer Bailey Mitchell said: "You can't just go around calling people whatever you want in real life so why's that not the same rule when you're playing online?
"If I'm playing a game and I score a goal, I've literally been told to kill myself... You report somebody for saying something abusive to you and, nine times out of ten, they're not going to have anything happen to them."
Later in the video, Ditch the Label CEO Liam Hackett added: "We're finding kids are telling us it's giving them depression. It's made them feel anxious, it's affected how they see themselves. We're find that kids, as a result of being bullied in games are actively going to bully other users as well, as a way of trying to deal with that trauma."
Sure enough, the report shows 20% of participants have resorted to bullying other players themselves.
While 72% reported incidents of bullying to the company's running the games they played, multiple respondents agree with Mitchell: that doing so never results in punishment for the perpetrators. In fact, 74% believe bullying in online games needs to be taken more seriously.
More than half of those surveyed believe extra human moderation is the answer. Just under half point to better anti-bullying advice in-game, more reporting and blocking features, and rewards for those taking a stand against the bullies. Only 21% believe automatic moderation will solve the issue.
Almost every major blockbuster game today centres around an online multiplayer function with the inherent voice chat, it's becoming increasingly important to manage these communities more effectively. The cost and resource required for human moderation is no doubt something publishers have trouble sourcing in order to meet the expectations of those surveyed.
Nevertheless, there is clearly an issue here that needs to be solved.
GamesIndustry.biz would like to know what developers and publishers are currently doing to improve the way they handle bullying within their communities, as well as how the industry can better support these efforts. Got something to say? Email firstname.lastname@example.org