How Games Marketing Invented Toxic Gamer Culture

"A little trash talk is an expected part of competitive multiplayer action, and that's not a bad thing. But hate has no place here, and what's not okay is when that trash talk turns into harassment." This was Microsoft's attempt to draw a line between good-natured put-downs and more toxic forms of online interaction in a May 2019 update to its Xbox community standards. The document also helpfully outlines examples of acceptable and unacceptable trash talk. For instance, "That sucked. Get good and then come back when your k/d’s over 1" receives the official Microsoft seal of approval. But you've stepped over the line if you instead suggest, "You suck. Get out of my country — maybe they’ll let you back in when your k/d’s over 1."

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I’d just like to link over one of the recent episodes of Game Studies Study Buddies which covered a book about this very topic. It was more about how arcades were engineered to be masculine-only spaces and which implies how gaming as a hobby became engendered.


This old XBox Live promo was linked in the article, but I want to highlight one aspect of it that wasn’t mentioned. The “you guys are so pathetic” player, “Oilslick,” plays a role in the pitch that the video’s writer was apparently too ashamed to say explicitly but still made very clear. She’s the only woman in the match, and the voice-deepening filter she uses causes the POV character to think she’s a man. In 2002, when online gaming was blowing up, Microsoft recognized misogyny in gaming and proposed a solution: don’t let anyone know you’re female.


So what you’re saying is it’s Tom Kalinske’s fault.