Opinion: Create a Real PSA Against Online Hate Speech
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
The controversy surrounding the video is that the acronym for the fake organization spells out, “F.A.G.S.” The word fag used against gays is a hateful, offensive and disparaging word. Another word in the same category, but usually accompanied with more extreme vitriol is the word nigger.
Robert Bowling said in a recent interview, “We are responsible for what we say and what we do, and we can be held accountable for our successes and failures.”
They damn well ought to be held accountable. There has been a lot of debate about whether that word is offensive or not and whether Infinity Ward did anything wrong. Most of the people who don’t think the word fag is offensive either lack experience or knowledge of how offensive and dangerous the word is.
The word nigger comes with a history of violent oppression and murder of African Americans in the US. The word fag also has a similar history, remember Mathew Sheppard? He was brutally murdered for being gay. Anti-gay churches picketed Shepard's funeral as well as the trial of his assailants, displaying signs with slogans such as "Matt Shepard rots in Hell", "AIDS Kills Fags Dead" and "God Hates Fags". Like the word nigger, fag also is closely associated with violence and oppression towards a particular group of people, in this case, gays.
There is absolutely no reason for Infinity Ward to be condoning use of that word or making jokes out of it. It’s appalling. Their Modern Warfare series is very popular online and during online matches a lot of trash talking occurs. Some in good fun, some not so much. The word fag is often used, hurled by one stranger to another. Infinity Ward knows their audience very well, but that doesn’t make it OK for them to stoop down to their audience’s level.
They ought to act as a role model. Players respect their games and the work they do. It’s obvious to me that we, the gaming industry have a serious problem on our hands. The problem of hate speech during online multiplayer gaming is so pervasive that we have grown to accept it as people being “asshats”. Shockingly, it seems Infinity Ward embraced it in their ad because they think it’s funny.
In my opinion, we as an industry need to recognize hate speech is a problem and make a concerted effort to eliminate it, the sooner the better. I call on Infinity Ward, all major developers and publishers such as Valve Software, EA, Ubisoft, Activision, Eidos, Bungie, Microsoft and others to release a real PSA about combating online hate speech, respecting one another and good sportsmanship. They could collaborate to release a PSA featuring popular characters from their games or release them individually per game.
They have the power and the responsibility that comes with it to educate their audience that certain words hold more power than virtual guns. If we neglect to act on this pervasive problem, we’re taking a big risk that nothing tragic will happen in the future. We can’t wait for an incident like what happened to Mathew Sheppard to inspire us to action. We need to start now and Infinity Ward has an opportunity to lead the way.
Also posted on my personal blog, Reiding...