America, along with the western world in general, still struggles daily with racism and discrimination, and sadly the gaming community is no exception. With its enclaves of toxic behavior and the often-guaranteed anonymity of the perpetrators, stories like that of a Twitch streamer enduring racist abuse for streaming for slightly less time than usual are regrettably commonplace. But even when their experience in-game is broadly positive, many players have to face that sort of invective simply walking down the street.
Anti-Asian harassment in particular has been on the rise in the last few years, in no small part due to the framing of the Covid-19 pandemic by certain political figures and media outlets. After the tragic shooting in Atlanta last month and with over 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate and violence recorded in the last year, many gaming companies have vocally condemned the rise in hate crimes. For pro Overwatch player Lee “Fearless” Eui-seok, though, even walking around his own neighborhood in Dallas can still be an ordeal.
In a video clip translated and shared by Florida Mayhem manager Jade Kim, Eui-seok diverged from chatting about the general response to the pandemic to express how “being Asian here is terrifying.” He went on to describe occasions when strangers on the street would pull down their masks and deliberately cough at him, harassing him and calling him “f*cking Chinese” (Eui-seok is South Korean). “I think Koreans living overseas should be careful,” he said. “The racism here is unspeakable.”
Eui-seok went on to mention that, although his experience of racism was extremely bad in Dallas, things were a little easier for him in Los Angeles, where he was based a few years ago. However, Kim was quick to add in a follow-up tweet that though Eui-seok’s time in LA might have been alright, several other Asian folks on the scene, including Jung-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha, another Overwatch pro who was pelted with tomatoes at a restaurant, had endured harassment there in the past. This would corroborate the idea of an endemic and ubiquitous problem with anti-Asian racism in the United States rather than something more localized to the streets of Texas.
It’s certainly difficult to hear of someone’s lived experience of racism and harassment, and to try and figure out what can be done on an individual level to try and improve the situation. As with many things, it appears the logical place to start is in gaming’s own wheelhouse. Twitch recently updated its rules to try and combat harassment of various types, but speaking out against hate speech that might crop up in chats or private groups can be a step towards fostering more inclusive communities too.
Outside of that, there are plenty of worthy charity groups that are collecting donations. For example, Stop AAPI Hate tracks hate crimes and offers support to victims, AAAJ focuses on advancing the rights of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, while the Asian Mental Health Collective advocates for mental health within the community.