Video game

From Fortnite to Alt-Right – The New York Times

Planting the seeds of this narrative is the first step toward cultivating an “us versus them” mentality. According to Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist recruiter and a co-founder of the nonprofit organization Life After Hate, this type of rhetoric can help create a politics of entitlement and resentment organized around race. So, if a young white man can be convinced that gaming “belongs” to him and that it is on the verge of being taken away, he might be more easily persuaded to accept similarly structured arguments about, say, the dangers of allowing nonwhite immigrants to take over the country under the noses of “real” Americans.

In posts in the “Gaming” section of the explicitly white nationalist message board Stormfront, participants debate among themselves about which mainstream game releases are the most amenable to white power ideology. They exchange links to servers on free chat platforms like Discord for “whites only” and to groups dedicated to white nationalism on Steam, an online gaming store. (In the wake of scathing news coverage, Steam and Discord have made efforts to try to get rid of this content.)

People with this type of ideology have also taken to creating white supremacist games of their own, either by creating explicitly neo-Nazi-themed modifications of popular titles like Doom, Counter-Strike and Stellaris or developing their own indie titles. A few standouts in the indie category include titles like Ethnic Cleansing, which allows gamers to play as a skinhead or a Klansman while participating in a “race war,” and Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide, which encouraged players to “take control of the American hero and wipe out the Muslim race.”

So if we know gaming culture is being exploited by white supremacist recruiters, where do we go from here? It can be tempting to write off video games as toxic hotbeds of hate, too tainted for the uninitiated to engage with. But this would be exactly what extremists like the New Zealand shooter want.

Despite the enormous popularity and profitability of the video game industry, gaming culture still operates in the shadows. Most media pay almost no attention to it, even though the global market for video games is currently larger than those for movies and music combined.

This inattention signals that gaming is a special place, outside the mainstream, that could indeed, with enough outright hostility, be made to “belong” to a particular group.

But this signaling is compounded, because our unwillingness to pay attention to this influential medium means that the video game industry has next to no incentive to take responsibility for the social spaces that it fosters. Our failure to take games seriously provides the companies in the games industry an excuse not to invest the time, effort and money that would be required to moderate their communities properly.

There will always be dark corners of the internet for neo-Nazis to hide in and recruit from. There will always be those who claim that gaming isn’t for everyone. But we can insist that the companies that control gaming spaces recognize that this community comes with extremism dangers and that gaming is large enough that these companies need to behave as responsible actors. We can only help to reshape and reform these communities from within. And if we turn away, we risk abandoning one of the world’s largest entertainment and communication machines to those who would use it for evil ends.

Megan Condis is an assistant professor of game studies at Texas Tech University and the author of “Gaming Masculinity: Trolls, Fake Geeks, and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.