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Surely there’s something wrong here? Did something seem odd to you during the game? That’s right, the characters aren’t like the ones we normally see in computer games – strong, muscular heroes and beautiful damsels in distress.

Watch out – autopilot!

Enormous quantities of information are stored in our brains, and this helps us navigate our everyday lives. That’s why we don’t have to think too hard about brushing our teeth or riding a bike. Our brains automatically take control without us realizing it – everything runs automatically. Our brain also automatically makes associations. For example, the word “Italian” makes many people imme­di­ately think of pizza or spa­ghet­ti. But we need to be careful, because these subconscious associations shape our image of the world and how we perceive the people around us.

But what does all this have to do with computer games? A great deal, as it turns out, because these games have characters that often correspond to the usual clichés, such as a muscular, central European male hero or a beau­tiful, helpless young white wo­man. We readily accept these ste­reo­types in the game – after all, it’s just a game – but we learn through repetition.

Images of what we consider “normal” are thus rein­forced in our sub­con­scious and our con­scious­ness is tricked. The values games impart to us have the same effect. They can influence our perceptions of right and wrong and what we find morally acceptable or reprehensible.

Consequently, games could also be the perfect medium for breaking down prejudices and preconceived role mo­dels, and for imparting positive and democratic values. After all, avatars enable players to try out various roles, which provides a change of perspective.

Heroines wanted

43 %

43 percent of all players in Germany would generally like more diversity in video and computer games in terms of how different population groups are represented.

Playing creates a bond

No species plays as intensively as humans. Although a clear play instinct is observed in animals, too, it is par­ti­cularly strong in humans. Games bring people together. This also ap­plies to computer games. Over three billion people worldwide play on computers, games consoles, or smartphones.

48 % Almost half of gamers in Germany are female*

Protecting the climate in a game

Learning by playing

People don’t only play for pleasure, though. When playing, we find out about the world, explore our own limits, experience challenges, and surpass ourselves. Playing computer games teaches us teamwork and creativity. We learn how to think strategically and deal with complexity, and we take an interest in technology and history. Playing is liberating and relaxing. It provides an outlet for everyday frustrations, prevents us from getting bored, and enables us to discover new things. Last but not least, playing makes learning easier. In addition to being fun, “serious games” provide us with knowledge about subjects such as history or politics. Examples include learning games developed specifically for school lessons or training courses. There are also games that teach us about the latest social issues, such as climate change.

Are games good or bad?

Harsh words

So what can be done?

It appears to be a minority – but a particularly vocal one – that is spoiling other gamers’ fun with their abusive language. What can be done about this? One problem is that the existing legislation does not sufficiently cover online gaming platforms The German Network Enforcement Act (Netz­werk­durch­setzungs­gesetz – NetzDG), for example, does not as yet apply to these platforms, because the communication function in games is only secondary. There are also loopholes in Germany’s Protection of Young Persons Act (Jugend­schutz­gesetz – JuSchG). The legislation is currently under review. Naturally, games providers also have a role to play. Many chats are still inadequately moderated, but promising approaches already exist. In the popular “League of Legends” game, for example, players can report negative and positive behavior after the game. The conse­quences of inappropriate behavior range from chat restrictions to a permanent ban.

“Gaming – where the fun stops”

As Deutsche Telekom sees it, digital partici­pation also means social partici­pation. As a company that is driving and shaping digitali­zation, we regard it as our mission to encour­age democratic rules on the web. This includes areas where hate, marginali­zation, and mani­pu­lation aren’t necessarily expected – if mis­an­thropic remarks made openly during gaming increasingly push the boundaries of what can be said, for instance. In our “No hate speech” campaign, we are therefore working with our partners to combat hate in gaming, too.

Magenta Moon talk from 2020
Magenta Moon talk from 2020

#TAKEPART stories – interactive workshops on gaming

SCROLLER: The media magazine for children

Giving hate no chance

More and more people are speaking out against the toxic minority that is harming the gaming culture. Here are a number of initiatives that aim to ensure fair play:

1“Good Gaming – Well Played Democracy“

For a number of years now, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has been taking a stand against right-wing media strategies. In its project “Good Gaming – Well Played Democracy” the foundation is analyzing how alt-right activists are attempting to fuel misanthropic sentiment on gaming platforms. The project is developing campaigns in collaboration with users.

2“Keinen Pixel den Faschisten!“

The “Keinen Pixel den Faschisten!” (Not a single pixel for fascists!) initiative is fighting right-wing groups that use computer games as a communication platform. Websites, media professionals, research collectives, and developer studios involved in gaming are all taking part.

3“Hier spielt Vielfalt”

In late 2019, Germany’s games sector launched the “Hier spielt Vielfalt”” (Diversity at play) initiative. It campaigns for a sector free of prejudice and discrimination that treats everyone with polite respect – regardless of their (ethnic) background, ideology, or lifestyle. Numerous companies, institutions, and gamers have signed the initiative’s joint declaration, including Deutsche Telekom.

Supporting e-sports and using top gamers as role models

Toxicity in GamesToxicity in Games

For a strong community

What can players themselves do if they are confronted with abuse or hate messages while gaming? Here are a few tips for dealing with hate speech in online games:

1Hit the mute button and report the incident

Haters repeatedly cause upset with their provocations and abuse. You don’t have to accept this – mute your chat and silence them. On a large number of platforms, you can also report hate comments.

2Stand up for others

If you become aware of someone being abused during a chat, be brave and get involved. If you support someone, you’ll see that others may feel confident enough to follow suit.

3Strike the right tone

You should, however, guard against becoming aggressive and abusive yourself. Try to remain level-headed and objective. Don’t let yourself become embroiled in a heated exchange. Use few and clear words.

4Anonymity – protect yourself and others!

In addition to creating an identity for yourself in the gaming world, using a nickname also lets you protect yourself. Make sure you never reveal too much information, such as your real name, your address, or your phone number.