Toxic Gaming - Rachael Ryan

Toxic masculinity is a problematic issue within society that impacts everyone. Toxic masculinity can be active in any aspect of society - from real life to the digital world. The gaming community in particular can be home to rampant forms of toxic masculinity - this can be present within online forums such as Twitter or Reddit, or online gaming itself. How toxic masculine behaviour occurs with these environments is often through abhorrent forms of trolling - which is directed towards other men and women.


Toxic masculinity is the establishment of a socially dominant masculinity that is made up of many characteristics. These characteristics are based on: aggression, competitiveness, suppressing emotions, dominance, misogyny and homophobia. Dominant or traditional masculinities will have power over lesser forms of masculinity (masculinities that do not fit into the ideal type of masculinity) alongside femininity. The patriarchal society (a society in which men hold social power which grants them political power and privilege) normalises these characteristics and behaviours through the socialisation of boys for example, “boys will be boys”. Conforming to these toxic masculine traits can be harmful for men, women and society in general. Highlighting these traits is not to condemn men but instead demonstrates the impact of living up to these male gender roles.


Issues regarding toxic masculinity can be identified within gaming communities - an industry that is viewed to be heavily dominated by men. Video games can share the qualities found within toxic masculinity - the competitiveness and gaining more power and status over other players via ranking to the top of leaderboards. These traits can be commonly identified within internet and gaming communities through trolling - posting inflammatory language such as calling people ‘bitch’ or ‘fag’ in public internet forums (such as Reddit and Twitter) to provoke an emotional response. This shows how online gaming communities fuel toxic masculine behaviours. These behaviours are problematic because they are so accepted in this environment that it's expected to encounter such trolling; this could be due to the competitive nature within online gaming that often fuels these behaviours.


Trolling in internet communities stems from what could be considered a ‘geek masculinity’. Geek masculinity refers to nerd and geek males who were rejected from a physical traditional masculinity (for example, athleticism and body strength - attributes associated with jocks or gym lads) and are considered to be part of a lesser or weaker form of masculinity. In both the gaming and the digital world, trolling functions as a way to perform a dominant masculinity that is built around ‘intelligence’ as opposed to athleticism. ‘Geek masculinity’ highlights a cycle regarding toxic masculinity - the ‘lesser’ perceived masculinity becomes the dominating form of masculinity within the digital world. This shows how toxic masculinity can be present and evolves in any aspect of society. Trolling in the digital world allows nerdy men to become something they were rejected from. It could be argued that the act of trolling provides geek men with a form of power they assert over others in order to be dominant.


This kind of masculinity within gaming and online environments can impact many kinds of people. As gaming is mainly dominated by men, this often influences women to remain anonymous. This is due to women feeling unsafe with the aggressive misogynistic trolling and harassment that they encounter online. It is not uncommon for women to be threatened with derogatory language such as being called a slut, ugly or even be threatened with rape. In 2014 #GamerGate was a movement which centred around the harassment of high status women within the gaming industry in which they were doxed, faced rape and death threats. Gamergate was organised through online platforms such as 4chan, Reddit and Twitter in order to fight against progressiveness in gaming. This highlights the issues surrounding toxic masculinity as many men find it acceptable to throw such misogynistic language to the point they are doxing women and creating a movement which attacks women in a masculine dominated industry.


To conclude, toxic masculinity is an issue within online gaming communities. Gaming can fuel toxic behaviours associated with masculinity such as competitiveness, aggression, dominance and misogyny. These behaviours are demonstrated through trolling in which men will post derogatory comments in order to provoke an emotional response. ‘Geek masculinities’ highlight the cycle of toxic masculine behaviours in which ‘lesser’ types of masculinity become dominant in a digital environment. Additionally, women are victims to this form of toxic masculinity in which they’ll face misogynistic trolling and harassment.