An alarmingly large majority of the 97 million Americans who participate in online multiplayer games continue to encounter hate and harassment, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s third annual report on experiences in online games (Hate is No Game: Harassment and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games 2021). The somewhat good news is that out of the eight main groups that suffer harassment based on their identity during gaming, only 22% of Jews have encountered this experience – although this figure is higher than the year 2020’s reported 18%.
According to the ADL survey, published on Wednesday, women were the most harassed group in online gaming – 49% in 2021, up from 41% in 2020. African Americans: 42%, up from 31%; Asian Americans 38%, up from 26%; LGBTQ+ 38%, up from 37%; Muslims 26%, up from 25%.
Two groups suffered less abuse in online gaming than the year before: Latinx 25%, down from 30%; and the disabled 24%, down from 25%.
The discrepancy between the two years may have been influenced by the fact that the 2021 survey of a nationally representative sample of the close to 100 million adult online multiplayer gamers in the United States included young gamers, ages 13-17.
According to the ADL survey, over the past six months:
- Five out of six adults (83%) ages 18-45 experienced harassment in online multiplayer games—representing over 80 million adult gamers.
- Three out of five young people (60%) ages 13-17 experienced harassment in online multiplayer games—representing nearly 14 million young gamers.
- 8% of adults ages 18-45 and 10% of young people ages 13-17 reported being exposed to discussions in online multiplayer games around white supremacist ideology, the belief that “white people are superior to people of other races and that white people should be in charge.”
- 7% of adult online multiplayer gamers were exposed to Holocaust denial while playing.
71% of adult online multiplayer gamers experienced severe abuse, including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment3, representing no significant change from our 2020 survey (68%) and six points higher than in 2019 (65%).
- The largest increases in identity-based harassment occurred among adult respondents who identified as women (49% in 2021, compared to 41% in 2020), Black or African American (42% in 2021, compared to 31% in 2020), and Asian American (38% in 2021, compared to 26% in 2020). It is worth noting that although there was no statistically significant change in identity-based harassment of adult LGBTQ+ players (38% in 2021 versus 37% in 2020), the number is still of concern.
- 59% of adult gamers believe that laws need to be created to increase transparency around how game companies address hate, harassment, and extremism.
- 99% of online multiplayer gamers experienced some form of the positive social behaviors asked about in our survey.