We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

These black women gamers teamed up to take on the worst online trolls

4 4 0

This session of Overwatch was supposed to be a stress reliever, but tensions began to rise after Daja Williams and one of her teammates started to argue over who would play Lucio, one of the most popular supporting characters in the first-person-shooter game.

“You’re a fucking fat ass nigger,” a male teammate says through his microphone. Williams has never met the guy she’s playing with and chances are slim to none that she ever will. More slurs blare into her ear as Williams blasts through other characters in the game. Flashing lights and swirling colors fill her screen, the intensity of the images almost mimicking the screaming match growing between Williams and her partner.

The 22-year-old has been playing video games since the first PlayStation was released and she’s mastered a wide range of games including Dead by Daylight, Mortal Combat, the Sims, and Overwatch. But even masters take losses. Large red letters pan across her screen spelling out “defeat” as the Williams and her teammate spew the last of their verbal punches before digitally parting ways.

“Hang yourself, bitch,” the male teammate says as a final goodbye.

“Imagine getting racist just because I’m asking for a fucking Lucio,” Williams says. “That is so sad.” Williams logs off of the game and takes a breath as her headset and microphone remain in place. This isn’t her first time having slurs hurled at her while playing online. It’s become so commonplace that Williams has started documenting and recording when she gets harassed while on Overwatch.

“Every time I play, people mention that I’m black or that I’m a woman,” Williams says. “It’s something I’ve always dealt with playing online. I know it’s bad that I’m used to it.”

Williams, like many other black female gamers, often have to deal with harassment, racial epithets, and sexist slurs while playing online. Overwatch and multiplayer online games have become a cesspool for hate and other black women gamers commonly become victims of harassment when they do not hide their identities.

[Screenshot: courtesy of Jay-Ann Lopez]Sometimes Williams masks herself online by opting out of using her headset and mic when playing with people she does not know. Any signs of a feminine voice or “sounding black” to other players could open her up to a whirlwind of sexist and racist insults. Williams also doesn’t use an image for her profile photo on Overwatch or PlayStation, but says that her username often gives her away if she is not using her headset.

Blizzard’s website says that it prohibits hate speech and discriminatory language and that repeat offenders receive expanded account restrictions. The number of transgressors who are punished seems to be the tip of the iceberg as reporting each violator can become taxing and time-consuming for those actively in a gaming session. Blizzard could not be reached for comment.

Williams says Blizzard, the maker of Overwatch, doesn’t have any control over the amount of hate speech used on its platforms and she has turned to gamer communities to avoid the vitriol. Williams is a current member of Black Girl Gamers (BGG), an international online community dedicated to creating a safe space for women gamers. The community originally started as a private Facebook group launched in 2015 by Jay-Ann Lopez, an avid Halo and Call of Duty fan who has dealt with her fair share of racists and sexists online.


© Fast Company