Leaders of CapU’s gaming scene share their grievances with trolls — and what they’re doing about it
Matt Shipley (he/him) // Communities Editor
Online gaming lobbies get a bad rep for a lot of reasons. The layer of anonymity they provide, where nobody is more than a faceless character on a screen, fosters an environment thick with prejudice and anger. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem significantly as people spend more and more time at home behind their screens. As tensions come to a head over multiple issues across the world, many are taking to the online medium to vent their prejudices. Ross Manara (he/him), administrator of the CapU Esports Discord server, says the effort to quash trolls is never-ending.
“It’s a big problem [around the world], and it was a pretty big problem in CapU’s esports scene as well,” said Manara. “Being an admin on the server is literally like playing Whack-A-Mole against bigots. A good few times, I’ve been on the [CapU Esports Discord] server and seen someone post something heinous, and I’ve had to be like ‘alright, time to ban this person who I thought was cool until now.’” The club’s Discord server has kept it running throughout the pandemic, but with the increased anonymity provided by the screen-to-screen separation between members, trolls and bigots have found a tightly-knit platform that they couldn’t previously leverage.
The CapU Esports Discord server is open to all students, and the entry process is simple and painless. New joiners are greeted with nothing but a welcome page outlining the rules, and a simple hamburger emoji is all that separates them from the server proper. While it’s a great vetting process for people who just want to know the rules, it doesn’t do anything to stop people who enter with malicious intentions.
“It’s been hard to keep our membership up during the pandemic,” said Manara. “All it takes is one troll saying one thing to push a lot of people off of the server. Especially since we haven’t been able to host more in-person events, a lot of people will log into the server for the first time in a while to a notification that someone has sent this horrible message. I’ll always get to it as quickly as I can and ban the troll, but it’s not like I’m doing this as a full-time job. Every troll we get, we’ll lose around five members, and that’s just not sustainable.”
It doesn’t only happen in online lobbies, either. Gaming giants such as Blizzard and Riot Games have been accused of gender-based discrimination and harassment multiple times over the years, with the latter agreeing to pay a $100 million recompensation lawsuit to over 2,000 employees and contractors on Dec. 27, 2021, in what employment and sexual harassment lawyer Genie Harrison lauded as a “great day for women at Riot Games, and for women at all gaming and tech companies.”
While the CapU Esports Club doesn’t have millions of dollars to throw around, its administrators are still doing what they can to create a welcoming environment for all. Jenny Rog (she/her), Vice-President of the club from 2019 to 2021, voiced her own concerns about sexism in the gaming industry, and outlined her contentment with the inclusivity of the community she helped to create.
“Being the only girl there most of the time, I could tell others underestimated me by my appearance,” said Rog. “Part of me feels happy when I prove others wrong, but there’s definitely a part of me that thinks it’s stupid how guys can automatically assume a girl won’t be good at the game.”
However, both Manara and Rog voice their pride in the community they’ve created. “We have never had to ban anyone in-person, mainly because our in-person events ran for about a year, until the pandemic started,” said Rog. “Sadly, there were not many women who would participate in these events. It would be myself, along with 1 or 2 others that would show up from time to time, but as far as I heard, everyone felt like the community was very welcoming, casual and fun.”
While the problem of trolls seems nigh impossible to quash — after all, the Internet is open to anyone privileged enough to have access — the CapU Esports Club is doing what they can to keep their little corner of it as safe as possible. “We’re still working on better solutions,” said Manara. “And we’re going to find one.”