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The dark side of gaming: "I've been called a curry muncher..."

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Jatinder Singh Nandra

Life online can be tough. Just navigating the nuances of social media without upsetting anyone can sometimes take serious concentration. But while the internet provides us all with a degree of anonymity, it also allows some people to speak their minds in ways they'd never dream of in person.

Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the world of online gaming, where the internet's sense of personal liberation collides with intense competitiveness. And the results can be ugly. To coincide with our new film ' Eight statements gamers are definitely tired of hearing', here's an insight into the life of one online gamer...

Just a few weeks ago, while I was playing Rocket League (an arcade football multiplayer game where you play as cars), our team was winning pretty early into the game. That clearly didn’t go down too well with a member of the other team and because I like to include 'Singh' in all of my online usernames, that gave them some ammo. They decided to call me a ‘Paki.’ I mean, some Sikhs do come from Pakistan, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t guessing where my family is from. That also isn’t the first time I’ve had something like that thrown my way. I’ve had all manner of racial insults ranging from 'Curry muncher', 'terrorist' and my personal favourite, 'Sand N*gger'. That’s all on top of the (unfortunately) usual 'Smack Talk' that consists of 'Gay' and 'Your Mum' jokes.

Dark Side of Gaming screen shotBBC

For me personally, it’s easy to shrug it off and just ignore them. These comments don’t get to me and hopefully never will. But I don’t have to experience them 24/7 like others do. In August 2014, the online movement knows as #GamerGate began. Depending on who you ask, it was either a hate group who want women out of gaming, or a movement that wanted better and ethical games press.

I’m not here to debate what #GamerGate actually is - that's something you should decide for yourself - but there is one thing that always bothered me about the media coverage of #GamerGate. It was incredibly one-sided. All of the mainstream headlines referred to the harassment women were receiving because of #GamerGate, but not once was the other side considered. Supporters of the other side of #GamerGate, many of whom were also women, were also receiving death threats, rape threats and some were even doxxed, having their personal information leaked online.

Dark Side of Gaming screen shotBBC

Enter John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit. A popular YouTuber and gaming critic, John was an online personality at the very centre of #GamerGate and to this day, he still receives harassment because of it. John had decided that he wanted better journalistic ethics in games media and voiced his support for #GamerGate, saying:

“We need to be ethical in our industry. I’ve been pro-consumer since the start, it is the platform I have made my career on.”

However, because #GamerGate coverage focused heavily on harassed women, John’s stance on ethics in games journalism left him open to, ironically, harassment.

Dark Side of Gaming quoteBBC

As a figure at the centre of the scandal he faced, “almost two years of constant day-to-day harassment, the most vicious stuff I’ve ever had in my career. I will kill you, I will rape your wife, I will kill your child. This was coming from people who were self-proclaimed “Social Justice” advocates.”

John has admitted that he has been in and out of therapy before because it can get to be too much. He has since been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. This gave the trolls another target to continue the harassment.

“Trolls look for attack vectors and since a lot of trolls are sexist, they will use someone’s gender as an attack vector. They are looking for the most personal gap in your armour. Most of the attacks I receive are based on my appearance, or my work. Cancer was something in particular that people have used to try and attack me. They go to my wife and say, 'how does it feel that your husband is going to die soon and leave you?'”

For a while he decided to take himself out of the spotlight. Announcing it on his SoundCloud in an audio blog, John said that he was disconnecting from all forms of social media.

“Social media is a misnomer, it’s anti-social media. People are just looking for attention from those that they follow. Negative attention is just as good.”

John says he wants to enjoy what’s left of his life. “I want to live my life and not feel like I’m shackled to this system that makes me so miserable on a daily basis. Demands of modern society have put a certain impetus on us to be connected all the time. I think it is fundamentally unhealthy - I don’t think the human condition was built to deal with that it. It has caused so much pain to people over the last few years - myself included,” adding, “enough is enough."

Watch our film Eight statements gamers are definitely tired of hearing here.

Originally published 17 February 2016.