It was a normal night for Maria and her husband Roberto, when they heard their 13 year old son José crying in his room. As they walked in to investigate, they noticed him playing a his favorite video game, Rocket League, on his computer. After asking José what was wrong, he pointed at his screen, and when Maria saw what her son was pointing at, immediately she felt sick.
One of the people in the game had called José a number of derogatory racial and homophobic slurs, and also had been telling him to “Enjoy your green card while you can,” and “Imagine not being a citizen.”
“How can someone justify saying something so hurtful to another person in a game doesn’t make sense to me,” Maria told Channel 34 investigative journalist Annelise Jacobs.
Annelise then took matters into her own hands. Using screenshots provided by Maria, she was able to get the username of the player responsible for the comments made. She then emailed representatives of Epic Games, the owner of Rocket League. After hearing the story, they connected her with Devin, a developer with Psyonix who helped create the game.
“It disgusts me that someone would use our game as a platform to spread hatred and racism in this manner,” he told Annelise. “We have guidelines in place to ban individual accounts that repeatedly say certain words or phrases that we deem inappropriate. Clearly some players have developed ways to get around this system.”
After looking up the account in question, Devin discovered multiple instances where this account had encouraged other people to take their own life, harm themself or others, and even called other players “school-shooters.” He assured us that this individual would be permanently banned and never play their game again.
As satisfying as it was to take down someone that was spreading hate and racism to this extent, there are countless others that still exist. Although some game developers have guidelines that discourage hate speech and racism, enforcing it is a whole new challenge.