Bungie promises to fight hatred and bigotry in its online spaces

Josh Broadwell, Thursday, May 19th, 2022 3:52 pm

Destiny 2 maker Bungie pledged to take action and combat racism and bigotry in its online platforms, following the recent domestic terrorist attack in Buffalo, New York. On May 14, an 18-year-old white male killed 10 people and injured several more when he opened fire in a Buffalo grocery store. Authorities confirmed it was a hate crime after finding extensive evidence that Gendron intentionally targeted a predominantly-Black community and ascribed to anti-Black and antisemitic views.

Bungie moved its Be Heard pin to the front page of the Bungie store and promised to donate all profits from the pin’s sales to the Southern Poverty Law Center for at least the next year. The studio said it will also redouble its diversity, inclusion, and equality initiatives and will see how it can make its online spaces safer for everyone.

“Far too often, these racist attacks begin within online communities that are used to recruit and radicalize individuals,” Bungie said in the statement. “It is time we begin to examine our practices and see what part we can play in preventing these tragedies. Black at Bungie intends to partner with our Player Support and Community teams to see how we can bolster our ongoing efforts to maintain safe and anti-racist spaces in which our players and fans can come together.”

This marks the first time an entity in the games industry has publicly announced intentions to address issues of racism and hatred, rather than only expressing support for a cause. 

Bungie also called on other developers and community managers to do what they could to address the issue.

According to reports, the Buffalo shooter developed his views on platforms such as 4chan and Discord, and he livestreamed the attack on Twitch. The Discord and Twitch platforms are used for purposes other than strictly video games, but Bungie’s public recognition of gaming’s role in fostering hate communities and white supremacy is rooted in a growing trend. 

In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League published a study showing increases in reports of harassment against women and non-white players in online multiplayer games. The rise in harassment correlated with game developers and publishers speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes–speaking out, but taking no action. 

In April 2022, author Ibram Kendi published a report in The Atlanticon the same subject, with stories of teenagers and young adults recruited into white supremacy groups in multiplayer lobbies in games such as Fortnite. The groomers would move conversations to sites such as 4chan and Reddit, using racist and misogynistic memes to create a sense of shared values with their targets.

Viewed through that context, Bungie’s call for action from other studios takes on an even greater sense of urgency, though as yet, it remains the only developer to promise action.

The statement came not long after Bungie also expressed support for reproductive rights as basic healthcare rights, and while the studio disclosed no plan of action to help employees or pro-abortion organizations, that may be unsurprising given the stance Sony, Bungie’s soon-to-be-owner, has taken on the subject.

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