The Bigoted ‘Trash Talk’ That’s Tolerated in Gaming
An anti-Semitic slur used during a Twitch livestream embodies the casual toxicity found in gaming culture
My very first experience using live voice chat while gaming was at a friend’s house playing Halo. At the time, it felt novel to talk with strangers while playing a simulated war game online. I had a mix of apprehension and curiosity. And though I enjoyed Halo a lot, I wasn’t the best at shooting games. But I gave it a shot anyway.
I put on my friend’s headset, expecting some form of trash talk. I doubt more than a couple of minutes had passed before the person on the other end asked, “Are you Black? You play like a [N-word].”
We all like to think of what we would do, what we would say, if we ever encountered racism. We paint heroic visions in our head, the fiery energy we’d have to tell the person off and make them feel bad about their bigotry. But I didn’t know what to do. I tried to keep my face unfazed, but emotionally I had sunk inward. I don’t think I told my friend what happened. I just lost and told him I didn’t want to play anymore.
That was my first and last experience with live chatting while gaming. Since then, I have had no intention of gaming online with anyone I don’t know personally. It’s also why I wasn’t surprised to hear that the NBA suspended and fined the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard last week for using an anti-Semitic slur while playing Call of Duty on his Twitch channel. A video surfaced where he says, “F — ing cowards. Don’t f — ing snipe me, you f — ing k — b — .”
Since then, the NBA and the Miami Heat have condemned Leonard’s comments, while his coach and teammate and other professional athletes have spoken out, saying they expected better from him. Leonard himself sent out an apology via Instagram, stating that he was “deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur,” and that he didn’t know what the word meant at the time. “My ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong,” he wrote.
Leonard’s comments are indicative of the wider swath of young people growing up in gaming subcultures…