How to avoid abusive online gamers

According to independent site esportsearnings.com, the highest-paid esports player has accumulated more than US$7 million in winnings across his career. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein is a Danish Dota 2 player and has competed in more than 100 tournaments to amass his fortune.

Below him in the rankings, the next 30 highest earners are all male Dota 2 players. But even where other games like Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty begin to appear, the list is still dominated by men. The first woman appears at #367: the Starcraft II champion Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn. Hostyn has made about $400,000 in prize money during her career since 2011; a far cry from the millions of men above her.

Hostyn is joined by only two other women to have made six figures in winnings. Xiao Meng “Liooon” Li won the Hearthstone grandmasters global finals in 2019, and Katherine “Mystik” Gunn has competed in various games. They are ranked #760 and #1,478, respectively.

How to avoid abusive online gamers

Prize winnings aren’t the only way for esports players to make money, but the disparity extends to other areas of pro-gaming careers. Very few women are in a salaried player position; for example, the only woman to have played in the Overwatch League, Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon, did not compete in the most recent season, returning the league to a fully male player base. Many competitors turn to Twitch to supplement their incomes by livestreaming when they’re not competing, but a recent leak of the company’s financial data revealed that only three of the top 100 paid creators were women.

Unlike traditional sports, esports is, theoretically, an equal playing field regardless of gender. So why is there such a distinctive pay gap?

To put it plainly, the esports industry struggles with misogyny. In an interview with Polygon, the Overwatch League’s first female coach. Molly “Avalla” Kim, stated that she had once been accepted on to a team as a player, before she “gave up quickly because of the difficulties of joining a team house with other [male] players.” Elsewhere, she said that one team had also rejected her as a coach because “our players don’t want female coaches.”

Kim has also spoken about the hurtful comments she has received online about her appearance. Another Overwatch League staff member, Kate Mitchell, general manager of esports team Washington Justice, retired after reporting that her mental health declined after receiving “toxicity and casual cruelty from strangers” over the Internet. “I wanted nothing more than to ‘power through’ and succeed in the face of adversity and blaze a trail for other LGBT women to follow me in this space,” she wrote in her announcement, “but [it] turned out to be a bigger challenge than I was able to take on.”

This misogyny is related to and compounded by the sexism of wider gaming culture. Studies have shown that voices perceived as female in game chats are many times more likely to receive harassment. Being able to use these features freely is often important to team unity, meaning it can be difficult for women to reach top ranks at all if their team becomes uncooperative or abusive. Others simply prefer not to speak to avoid any negativity, which in turn hampers their ability to play well, as well as their general enjoyment.

Where women are discouraged, gatekept or retire early from positions in esports, they are far less likely to compete in and win the major tournaments that make their winners millionaires. This simple fact belies the idea that esports is a meritocracy just because it doesn’t rely on physical strength.

The only real cure for the sexism within the culture of esports is to tackle misogyny more widely, alongside related issues such as racism and transphobia. However, in the shorter term, several groups have been trying to open up opportunities for women and non-binary people within esports.

These typically focus on getting non-male teams or tournaments together. Earlier this year Dota Valkyries launched to support players at all levels in Dota 2. Given that most of the top-earning esports players achieve this by winning the International, Dota’s biggest tournament, which pays much more than most esports competitions, a Valkyrie alum may well be the first woman to break into the highest earners.

Girl Gamer esports festival has been running since 2017, aiming to give female players experience in competitive games including League of Legends and Valorant. Organiser Fernando Pereira told the Verge that the event hopes to make itself obsolete once enough women are playing in major tournaments, but that that might be “quite a long time” away.

But these aren’t ideal solutions. In her paper Esports and its Reinforcement of Gender Divides, published last year, the lawyer, visual artist and gender in sports specialist Kruthika NS questioned whether these were “quick fixes for a larger systemic problem in the esports industry.”

Fixing those systemic problems is no easy task. First, says Kruthika, the industry has to acknowledge that they even exist. One 2018 study found that responses to the announcement of an all-female team were hostile, in part because fans professed the belief that esports was already meritocratic, despite evidence to the contrary.

Kruthika explains that sexist attacks are simply seen as a normal happening in the community. “If the industry continues to stay silent, it will be an active participant in such normalization leading to no real action.”

Any move to tackle the current unwelcoming atmosphere has to start by improving the communities of the games involved. “There’s an urgent need to come up with a code of conduct that includes rules countering sexism, homophobia, casteism and racism,” says Kruthika. “And it is essential that such codes must be drafted in consultation with vulnerable social groups — women, racial minorities, persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, and people at the intersections of two or more marginalized identities.”

Implementing and enforcing these codes of conduct is its own struggle. Creating effective moderation is difficult, particularly where conversations are spoken, fast-moving and potentially in any language. However, developers have been working on solutions for some time, and, with proper prioritization, could significantly improve their games’ cultures.

“Finally, the players really need to do better,” says Kruthika. “Any woman can attest to how little bystanders help in situations of violence even in the offline world. Fellow teammates, especially cisgender, heterosexual men, need to step in and call sexist comments out. After all, a community is what a group makes of it.”

How to Stay Safe from the Threats Posed by Online Gaming

How to avoid abusive online gamers

The popularity of online gaming has shot up both young and old after the pandemic forced us indoors.

After all, we still want to connect with other people, and online gaming communities can be very welcoming.

Most of these games contain an element of competition where you are pitted against adversaries, those you know, and those you don’t. Additionally, some games make us think and solve puzzles, while others test our reflexes and attention to detail.

Sadly, some games also challenge our security and our judgment. For instance, what if another player asks for your details? What if you find a recently released available free on some unknown platform? These are only a few dilemmas online players face. Let’s run through the other potential dangers and tips for staying safe.

How to avoid abusive online gamers

Getting Addicted

The World Health Organization (WHO), under its International Classification of Diseases of 2018, has identified gaming disorder as severe addictive behavior. It’s marked by gaming taking precedence over all other interests and everyday activity despite adverse consequences.

Games are engaging, which makes them addictive. Therefore, you should set aside only limited time for gaming. Make sure that you don’t neglect regular activities, social interactions, and exercise.

Risk of Malware

As they become more and more sophisticated, malware like adware and Trojans can penetrate your device even when you make a seemingly legitimate purchase. It is possible that malware can often mimic an official app being sold on genuine marketplaces.

One of the biggest threats is downloading cracked or pirated versions of games. For instance, researchers discovered Crackonosh malware being included in cracked installers of popular games. According to reports, the games used as bait were Far Cry 5, The Sims 4, NBA 2K19, etc. Thus, never install cracked games as you will end up paying for them in one way or the other.

Getting Drawn Into Unwanted Interactions

There are built-in chat features or sites like Discord you can connect with other gamers you know nothing about. These interactions may at times become bitter, leading to cyberbullying and harassment.

To protect yourself, keep your interactions with strangers at a minimum and end abusive interactions right away. A person overly interested in your life can only be trying to make friends. However, the idea behind this interaction could also be more sinister.

The Threat of Insecure Games

You put your entire network at risk with a compromised game server carrying malware or insecure code. Gamers may be exposed to spyware and malware by using the server to spread the flaw further.

Therefore, you must always download a game from a trusted source only. Additionally, you should avoid playing the games in ‘administrator mode.’ It’s because doing so may make your device vulnerable to being taken over by external control.

Protect Gaming Accounts

Seasoned gamers know just how many titles they can acquire over several years. After all, new games get released every year, and true gaming enthusiasts cannot wait to try them. Thus, your account on Steam or another platform could be worth a lot. Just imagine someone selling your account for a hefty sum. Long story short, it is a sad situation to lose the library you worked so hard to gather.

BloodyStealer did precisely that. Hackers published various assets for sale, including accounts on Steam and Epic Games. Thus, you should protect your account as best as possible. Two-factor authentication is a great solution, available on most gaming platforms.

Using Unsafe Networks

The chances are you have played an online game while connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. However, this decision has many issues. For one, unsecured networks could allow attackers to steal your data or lead you into fake websites. Say you access your gaming account only to find out later that the website was a copycat.

If you wish to connect to free Wi-Fi, you need to enable certain protections. For instance, a gaming VPN can protect your device from threats lurking on public Wi-Fi. You can easily connect to remote servers to have your web traffic rerouted and encrypted. Then, no one can see what you do online, not even ISPs. This application also has benefits for finding the best prices for games. Since many gaming platforms adjust prices according to users’ locations, a VPN helps evade such discrimination. After all, you can mask your actual IP address to indicate any location you want.

Conclusion

Gaming is irresistibly entertaining. Yes, there are risks involved, but gaming helps you develop skills like quick thinking. Our article makes you aware of the risks so that you can keep yourself safe and secure. The tips we have suggested help you avoid addiction and falling victim to cybercrime. Staying away from gaming altogether isn’t the solution; staying cautious is.

A wave of user-friendly devices is making the technology an attractive research tool.

How to avoid abusive online gamers

Devices that have slashed the cost of virtual reality, and transformed its performance, have implications for scientists as well as gamers. Researchers who are experimenting with the head-mounted displays say that they have the potential to find widespread use as a research tool.

Virtual reality (VR), which lets users experience a computer-generated, three-dimensional world, has produced recurring waves of hype since the 1980s — but this time could be different, says Mel Slater, a computer scientist at the University of Barcelona in Spain who has worked in the field for two decades. Thanks to technologies originally developed for smartphones and video-gaming graphics, the performance of these headsets is now comparable to that of high-end devices that cost tens of thousands of dollars. They are sophisticated, affordable and user-friendly enough to become a staple of research labs, says Slater, rather than tools available to only very few researchers.

A gadget that has transfixed technology-news outlets is the Oculus Rift, made by Facebook-owned start-up Oculus VR of Menlo Park, California. It costs US$600 — but operating it also requires a high-end computer that can cost more than $1,000. Similarly priced gadgets made by smartphone-maker HTC and Sony are expected to become available this year. Vastly cheaper sets made by Google and Samsung turn a smartphone into a more basic VR device.

A lab can now buy a VR device without a dedicated equipment grant, says Anthony Steed, a computer scientist who heads a virtual-environments group at University College London.

He and Slater have been experimenting for more than a year with early prototypes of the HTC and Oculus devices, and say that the performance is just as good as that of higher-end devices, and getting better. The new devices are light enough to be worn for extended periods, and they react quickly to the user’s movement, preventing the motion sickness that can occur when using VR. “Two to three years ago, the lab we used for our research cost €100,000 [US$114,000] to set up. Now we can do the same for about €4,000,” says Slater.

For years, Slater has run VR experiments with psychologists, including one that tested how white people’s biases change after they have virtually inhabited the body of a black person.

Last week, Slater and Daniel Freeman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford, UK, and their collaborators published a study that suggests that VR could help to treat people with severe paranoia, who often avoid crowded places because of a perception that other people want to hurt them (D.Freemanetal.Br.J.Psychiatr.http://doi.org/bgrr;2016). The experimental therapy attempts to teach people to lower their defences and to trust others by letting them visit virtual environments such as crowded lifts or underground trains.

Other studies have used VR to try to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and fear of heights or spiders. These experiments used expensive, high-end gear, but several of the researchers involved say that they now plan to start using consumer headsets instead.

As well as being cheap, the headsets are simple to set up. “It’s a proper out-of-the-box experience,” says Steed. If larger studies prove the therapies to be effective, patients could borrow the equipment and use it at home, Freeman says.

Neuroscientist Elizabeth Buffalo at the University of Washington in Seattle is also considering how to use the Oculus Rift. Her team studies monkeys as the animals explore interactive environments that are represented on a screen. Head-mounted sets that create a 3D environment would create a more immersive, and therefore natural, experience, she says, but current products are too big to fit on a monkey’s head. “We are working on hacking the Oculus to achieve this,” Buffalo says.

Creating complex virtual environments still requires specialized computer skills, says Slater. But costs are falling now that some software developed to aid video-game companies is free to use, and many labs outsource the work. A related technology called augmented reality (AR), which superimposes images onto the user’s field of view rather than replacing the scene with a different one, could also be of use in the lab, helping researchers to visualize and share data sets, says Mark Billinghurst, who studies human–computer interaction at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

Google Glass, an early attempt at AR that projected images into the corner of a pair of glasses, was a commercial flop, but Microsoft is about to launch a more sophisticated AR headset called HoloLens. “With AR technology like HoloLens,” says Billinghurst, “researchers could easily see a complex virtual data set superimposed on a real table in front of them, and also see each other face to face across the table and talk about the data.”

Mary Whitton, a computer scientist who works on virtual environments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that there is still room for improvement in the way the systems track users’ motions and in how users can interact with the virtual world using their hands. Still, she says: “I’ve had most fun seeing how people use what we’ve built in ways we never imagined.”