Progress has been made in the fight against hate since the infamous campaign of sexist harassment known as “Gamergate” 10 years ago, experts say.

However, we could do better.

In 2014, women and video game companies were the targets of a campaign of harassment because they supported progressive ideas. In particular, they sought to attract more women to this environment traditionally dominated by men. Women had been threatened with rape and death. The addresses of some of them had even been published.

There is still a certain toxicity in communities on the Internet, recognizes Mia Consalvo of Concordia University, holder of the Canada Research Chair in the study and design of games.

“It can arise from a very banal and harmless topic of discussion whose tone rises to threats of violence,” she mentions.

The Internet is now a place that a large number of people use. “Games are a big part of this ecosystem,” says Consalvo.

Sarah Stang, an associate professor of game design at Brock University, says hate and violence are more elements of a culture, less of the medium.

“Youth content doesn’t cause violence in the real world,” she argues. There are so many studies that conclude that no matter how violent the games you play, it does not mean you are a violent person. »

Online toxicity is something that concerns society, but not necessarily governments, emphasizes Professor Consalvo.

The federal government announced funding in March for a study to examine “how community formation through games can create environments conducive to radicalization and violent extremism.” More than $317,000 was donated to the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, a U.K.-based think tank.

Funding was provided by the Canadian Center for Community Engagement and Violence Prevention, under the federal Department of Public Safety.

According to Brett Kubicek, research director at the Center, the government is especially concerned about the risks of radicalization linked to adjacent gaming platforms, such as Discord, Twitch and Steam.

“People go where people hang,” he says.

The Centre’s executive director, Robert Burley, does not believe this is a fight that Canada must fight alone.

“We need the collaboration of other governments,” he notes. Studying Canadian and international projects that will allow us to make progress is part of our commitment within the Christchurch Call to Action, with our G7 allies and the Five Eyes countries. »

Experts suggest that the Canadian government is only catching up.

“The funding for the study [announced in March] comes a little late,” says Jennifer Jenson of the University of British Columbia.

Kris Alexander, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, says it’s important to clarify which games and communities are most affected by harassment.

“If we talk to a player about Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, they will wonder what we are talking about. He will say that he only builds farms in these games, that he only picks fruits and turnips. »

Professor Stang emphasizes that the situation has nevertheless improved over the last ten years.

“I notice that my current students are very woke. They are turning their attention to issues of diversity, inclusiveness and equity. They favor discussions about representation. »

She says students want to change an industry because they love the medium.

“Things are getting better, but they’re doing it slowly. »