Melanin Gamers and The Watch launch the first rating system for online gaming toxicity

The move takes aim at gaming organizations and digital communities to do more to combat toxicity in gaming, educate parents and offer a more inclusive gaming experience for all.

Melanin Gamers, a digital community protecting and promoting diversity and inclusion in the video game industry announced today a toxicity rating system with a singular goal — to eliminate harmful and verbal abuse within gaming culture. Ideally The Watch rating would be paired with existing accepted ratings, to offer parents and players alike more information about what to expect beyond the storylines of the games.

Currently video games are assigned age and content rates as developed by The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which helps inform parents, guardians and the over three billion people who play online games what they can expect in terms of characters, storylines, and types of game play. While this baseline is a good start, there are more factors to consider, including offering information and tools to help parents understand if, what, or how toxic conversations may be happening within gameplay for their children.

This present gap in the gaming industry often means that in addition to games and regular rules of engagement as assigned by the game developer, harmful and often derogatory language is a regular occurrence. The Watch, a movement built on personal and collective lived experiences by way of victims and witnesses of racial injustice in gaming, is hoping to reform this aspect of the gaming industry. To forge and inform The Watch, Melanin Gamers, Leo Burnett, and The Angus Reid Group, surveyed hundreds of gamers across some of the biggest gaming communities. Questions explored the amount of toxicity they experienced while playing online. From those results, individual online games were assigned ratings based on gamer responses to help inform other gamers, parents, and the public of the combativeness gamers are exposed to while playing some of the biggest online games.

"My hope is that powerhouse gaming organizations such as the ESRB reset their approach to ratings and take these matters seriously. This toxicity rating is hopefully another step forward as we look to transform the gaming culture and promote an environment built on the tenets of inclusivity, kindness, and respect," said Annabel Ashalley-Anthony, founder of Melanin Gamers.

In addition to the new rating system, The Watch is calling on major video game developers to enhance and adopt more in-game reporting mechanisms to help deliver immediate action against racism and toxic behaviour.

"We recognize the urgency of confronting toxicity in gaming and are committed to leveraging our resources to effect meaningful change," said Steve Persico, CCO of Leo Burnett, Toronto. "Our hope is to spark positive conversations and drive collective action to promote a safer gaming community for all."

The Watch is encouraging people to help put pressure on the ESRB to change how video games are reviewed by signing our petition, here.


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