The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia were appalling to say the least. A woman named Heather Heyer died this weekend standing up for what is right. I’ve found it difficult returning to a normal work routine with so much anger and shock still flowing through me.
Naturally when I returned to work yesterday, my boss and I struck a conversation on how any of this could be happening, how could Nazis and white supremacists still exist? But thinking deeper into it, we knew of at least one reason prejudice and these horrendous viewpoints were able to flourish; good-intentioned people failing to speak up.
Ideas don’t solidify themselves overnight. Reinforcement of ideas ingrain them into your mind, it’s the reason why just taking notes and not reviewing them later will lead to lower grades.
Groups like the alt-right have pushed their agenda through forums and groups on the internet, constantly shoving hate speech down the throats of their misguided followers.
These neo-nazis aren’t just older men, but young people too, college students, marching in the streets chanting nazi slogans and anti semitic language. This isn’t a generation of people we can just wait to die off, this hatred has spread to multiple generations.
Thus ushers in what gamers can do to end this hatred among our friends groups and communities. While I’ve known gaming to be extremely inclusive, I’ve also seen and heard terrible racism, sexism and overall disgusting displays from people online and even some people I considered friends.
In 2012 I met one of my best gaming friends, who we’ll call David, while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. David and I would would play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto V or The Last of Us nearly every night for nearly three years.
We could joke about politics, current events and the craziness of the world while playing, but David often expressed a tainted worldview that he became more open to sharing as we became better friends. I always felt uncomfortable, but for a while I ignored many of his comments as he only seemed to jokingly allude to certain beliefs and rarely went beyond anything more than lacking political correctness.
Towards the end of 2015 David’s racist inclinations hit a peak, as we had an argument in which he tried to explain how lazy a certain race of people were compared to him. He was using confirmation bias from his work environment and expressing his hatred in the online matches we were playing and in casual conversation.
I had hit a point where I told David that I would have to stop being friends and playing online with him if he continued to be close-minded. I believe this moment truly struck a chord with him.
David and I had shared more than gaming lobbies over those three years. We told each other about our families, school, relationships, aspirations and so much more during that time. We knew each other better than many of the people who we went to school with. David knew the severity of my threat, and from that point on I can wholeheartedly say he has improved.
Our conversations have become more open and educated despite our often different political leanings. He has come to recognize the fallacious nature of his past beliefs. David isn’t perfect, but he’s someone I’m happy to have helped turn a corner.
The point of that anecdote wasn’t to make you threaten to cut ties with all of your gaming friends that exhibit certain behavior, it simply serves as a lesson that we can do better. Cutting David off completely might have led him further down that deplorable path. Continuing the conversation about why I felt uncomfortable with his thinking led to him changing.
If your gaming friends are saying racist, sexist or generally repulsive things, you need to speak up. As horrible as it is to say, this past weekend proved to everyone that Nazis, the KKK, white supremacists and hate groups still exist in large numbers. We need to do everything we can to halt the spread of those ill-founded ideas and educate those around us.
Games are full of online lobbies with people of all ages displaying Nazi flags and KKK hoods as their in-game emblems. If you see it, report it. If you hear someone conveying sexist ideas, calling someone a racial slur or threatening violence against someone else online, report them.
If you have friends engaging in these activities, talk to them. Sometimes a simple conversation can lead to change of perspective.