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Online gaming isn’t all fun and games.

On the contrary, toxic behavior among gamers is widespread — almost to the point of being accepted as the norm — with 70 percent experiencing or witnessing some form of harassment and abuse while playing.

This is one of the revealing takeaways of a PickFu/Utopia Analytics report, Playing games online in 2021: Toxicity, misogyny, and missing moderation.

About the report

PickFu partnered with Utopia Analytics, an AI-based moderation specialist, to look at the state of gaming culture and understand players’ experiences with toxic behavior.

Between May and June 2021, we surveyed 1,000 U.S.-based adult gamers. We collected their firsthand accounts of racism, violent threats, and other abusive behavior, and the impact on their mental health.

What we heard was stark and sobering.

PickFu report on toxicity in gaming: Man playing an online mobile game
The majority of gamers experience toxic behavior online, a PickFu/Utopia Analytics report finds. | Source: Pexels

Toxicity in gaming: Key findings

Our survey details the types of harassment that gamers encounter and the experiences of specific groups within the player community.

Here’s some of what we found:

  • Role-playing games are the most toxic game genre
  • Roughly 1 in 3 women experience toxic behavior while gaming — the majority of it misogynistic in nature
  • 49% of reported toxic behavior is related to identity-based factors such as ethnicity and gender

“When I was presenting as female, my voice was higher, and boys would pick up on the fact that I was a girl. I’ve been threatened with sexual assault, murder, and general misogynistic quips.” – Male, LGBTQ+, 25-34

Playing games online in 2021: Toxicity, misogyny, and missing moderation

Our report also looks at factors contributing to toxicity in gaming and offers ways for gaming companies to effectively moderate player communities.

Online gaming is a $200 billion industry. As it grows, so does the need to create safer spaces for the millions of Americans who play games regularly.

“People turn to gaming to escape, assuming the virtual worlds they enter will be safe and fun,” said PickFu co-founder John Li. “The reality, in gamers’ own words, is that these negative interactions significantly impact their mental health and enjoyment of games. This should be a wake-up call for the industry to make gaming a safe space for everyone.”

Read the full report, Playing games online in 2021: Toxicity, misogyny, and missing moderation.


Learn more: Create a better gaming experience by getting players’ insights on storylines and characters, and testing your icon, screenshots, UI, and more.
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Janet Rausa Fuller

Janet Rausa Fuller (she/her) is the content marketing manager at PickFu. Her editorial experience spans print and digital, newsroom and agency. She spent years at the Chicago Sun-Times as a reporter and later the food editor before shifting to marketing and content creation. She could live without dark chocolate, but she’d rather not.

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