Many clients presenting with problematic gaming are likely to have been negatively impacted by online toxicity, hate and harassment. In order to provide effective treatment for gaming disorder, clinicians need to develop cultural humility to understand the darker side of the gaming world and how it operates.
This blog explains that it is not just gaming disorder that needs to be addressed by helping professionals but the traumatic toxic experiences that clients are exposed to when playing video games.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines gaming disorder as:
The WHO states that this pattern of behavior would normally occur over a period of at least 12 months in order for a gaming order diagnosis to be given. However, if the symptoms are severe enough over a shorter period, then a diagnosis can also be considered..
At INTENTA, we categorize gaming into four stages which we call the gaming continuum:
If you are a clinician or mental health professional, you may want to integrate our gaming disorder screening tools into your practice.
Although there are many positive aspects of video games – such as increased psychological well-being and enhanced cognitive skills – hate and harassment are regular occurrences. A 2020 nationally representative survey1 of US gamers aged 18-45 found that:
Players sometimes rationalize toxic gaming culture as a normal and acceptable part of gaming. Research has shown that toxic behavior is contagious2 among players and exposure in previous games increases the likelihood that a player will commit toxic acts in future games. Also, more experienced and skillful players are more likely to engage in toxic and abusive behaviors than those who are new to gaming.
Toxicity in gaming is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Here are some of the ways that players are being abused and harassed:
Players can be discriminated against because of their age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, religion or spirituality. This abuse impacts many individuals who already belong to groups and communities that have historically been oppressed and marginalized for being their authentic selves.
This occurs when someone is reported to law enforcement for a crime they did not commit in the hope that the subsequent police raid is broadcast during a live streaming game.
Doxing is the act of publicizing a person’s private personal information online. It sometimes involves posting their IP address on a public forum so that other people who engage in trolling can help to crash it.
Flaming (also known as roasting) involves insulting, swearing or using other offensive language when gaming to attack a person or group of people.
Griefing is deliberately harassing or disrupting the game of another player within a multiplayer environment. Often this anti-social behavior becomes the main goal of the game rather than winning. These players are known as griefers.
Botting involves sending robots to spam another player’s chat stream and filling it with hate messages.
Hate raids occur when people (or robots) flood the chat stream of a Twitch streamer and unleash a torrent of abusive language. It is distressing for the streamer and for others who are watching.
This is when abusive language includes racist, sexist or homophobic comments, or other hateful and discriminatory behavior.
This abuse can be used as a tactic to try to throw someone off their game. It is similar to tactics sometimes employed in athletic sport but it takes on a different level because, unlike athletic sport where there are coaches and psychologists to help deal with the consequences, when someone is gaming online there is no referee to blow the whistle.
There are several measures that players can take to avoid online toxicity, hate and harassment. These include:
The Cybersmile Foundation3 outlines other coping strategies for dealing with online abuse.
When helping professionals treat clients with gaming disorder it is important they understand the cultural context of video games. Many players presenting with problematic behaviors will have been negatively impacted by toxicity, harassment and other online abuse. This can lead to trauma which therapists should treat alongside the problematic gaming behavior.
At INTENTA, our Gaming Disorder Clinical Training equips counselors and mental health professionals with cultural humility as well as practical prevention tools and intervention strategies. The 15-hour online course will improve your quality of care and understanding of the digital generation and their virtual world.
Find out more about our internationally-accredited training today.
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