The Virtual Locker Room: Perceptions of Hate Speech in Online Gaming

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2012

Publication Title

The Journal of New Media & Culture


This exploratory study examines how gamers using the Microsoft Xbox online gaming feature, Xbox Live, perceive the use of hate speech in their online gaming community. The popular press has noted that hate speech against women, homosexuality and race is prevalent in online gaming (Good, 2011; Meunier, 2010). To explore this under-researched phenomenon, this study examines Xbox Live gamers’ perceptions of the regularity of hate speech in online gaming, the nature of hate speech in online gaming and the context in which it occurs. To address these topics, in-depth interviews with online gamers were conducted via headset using the Xbox Live feature on the Xbox 360 console. Online gaming is typically understood as video game players logging onto the Internet via a personal computer or a video game console (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, etc.). Players experience game content by playing together (competitively or cooperatively) and they can usually interact with one another through text chat via keyboard or voice-based chat via headset. Considering the ubiquity and growth of online gaming, it is as important as ever to understand new media such as online games. In this study, the researcher focuses on players using Xbox Live. In addition to gamers indicating the presence of hate speech in online gaming, data shows four main findings: 1. the mediated nature of video games leads gamers to feel distanced from hate speech in the online gaming community, 2. mediation encourages gamers to describe online gaming experiences distinct from in-person or “real” experiences, 3. the act of playing online games and the content encountered makes gamers feel more accepting of hate speech, and 4. gamers indicated that specific aspects of a video game’s design encourage or discourage certain types of interactions.