Melanin Gamers, a self-described “team of BIPOC streamers dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion in the video game community”, have launched The Watch, “a digital community watch designed to eliminate racism in the gaming community.”
RELATED: Activision Blizzard Claim Internal And External Investigations Found No Evidence Of Company-Wide Harassment Issues
“Melanin Gamers and The Watch are calling on major video game developers, like Activision Blizzard, the developer of the video game phenomenon, Call of Duty (CoD), to create real accountability in-game for players by improving the reporting mechanism for the racist and toxic behaviour that has gone unchecked for far too long,” wrote the organization in an official press release announcing the initiative.
Noting that they would welcome “a meeting with Activision Blizzard to discuss the longstanding racism prevalent in games like CoD and discuss how to make a much-needed change,” Melanin Gamers asserted, “As spotlighted in a powerful 41-second video, The Watch is a rallying cry for all gamers everywhere to stand in solidarity, be an ally, and join the movement to end racism in gaming.”
In an accompanying video, as seen below (an uncensored version can be found here; Viewer discretion is advised for both videos), the group provided examples of racism as seen in various multiplayer games
“By showcasing snippets of the discriminatory lived experiences that gamers endure while gaming, Melanin Gamers and The Watch aim to raise awareness of the racism that takes place in multiplayer online games to create a tide for lasting change,” the group said of the compilation video.
In support of their efforts, Melanin Gamers called on Twitch streamers and viewers “to use the built-in clip function to capture videos of racist language that they hear in the background of a stream and send it to The Watch on Twitter @HelpKeepWatch.”
“The campaign hopes to show game developers like Activision Blizzard just how widespread racism is in Call of Duty and encourage them to take real action to address the problem for good,” the press release explained.
RELATED: Blizzard Entertainment Now Requires World of Warcraft Players To Sign Anti-Harassment “Social Contract” Before Logging In
“We created Melanin Gamers with the belief that video games are for everyone to enjoy,” said Melanin Gamers’ founder Annabel Ashalley-Anthony. “Unfortunately, problematic gamers hurl endless verbal abuse towards people of colour, like myself and my brothers.”
“The goal of The Watch is to raise awareness about the racism that occurs in online multiplayer games and call on our allies to help make meaningful change for generations of gamers to come,” she declared.
RELATED: Activision Blizzard Clarifies Recently Revealed Diversity Tool “Is Not Being Used In Active Game Development” Following Backlash
“I experienced my first instance of racism in-game when I was 14 or 15 years old while playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” claimed Melanin Gamers’ Chief Researcher Alan Ashalley-Anthony. “There are millions of Black players across hundreds of video games, yet somehow harassment towards Black and BIPOC communities is so widespread.”
Melanin Gamers also provided a “checklist” for developers to “work towards anti-racism in-game,” which in addition to the aforementioned meeting between Activision Blizzard and Melanin Gamers “to discuss the rampant racism in CoD and discuss solutions for real change”, suggested such steps as “Restoring faith in the reporting system by providing transparent updates for each user report,” “Enforcing appropriate punishments for racist in-game abuse,” “engaging with the BIPOC gamer community regularly to identify emerging issues and work together towards effective solutions,” and “increasing accountability for game developers and create an obligation to share tangible goals, targets, and a roadmap to combat in-game racism.”
“Unfortunately, racism is only one type of injustice seen in gaming,” admitted Melanin Gamers in conclusion to their press release. “The Watch is mindful of the intersectionality and various forms of toxic discrimination and abuse that all types of players endure, from sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and more, and is committed to providing a safe gaming experience for all players.”
The group further elaborated on their plans on Twitter, clarifying on July 11th that The Watch’s goal “is to show game developers how widespread racist language is in their games.”
“We don’t want to target any gamers individually,and are asking all submissions to be DM’d to us so no bullying takes place,” they said. “Let’s come together as a community to get racism out of gaming.”
Later that same day, Melanin Gamers and The Watch further argued that making use of widely available in-game reporting and muting functions was “not a real solution”.
“It just masks the problem instead of solving it and forces already marginalized gamers to accept a worse gaming experience,” they said. “We want to work with game developers to create meaningful change that goes beyond the mute button.”
RELATED: Activision Blizzard Blames Lackluster Call of Duty: Vanguard Sales On World War II Setting
“Trash talking is a part of gaming, but racist language and abuse crosses the line,” the group admitted. “We don’t want to choose what you can or can’t say, we just want to help @CallofDuty enforce their existing rules against racism and encourage them to take enforcement more seriously.”
The Watch also tweeted at several journalists, including those from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, in an effort to bring more attention to their campaign.
Further, after @UberFacts claimed “Players have collectively spent more than 25 billion hours (2.85 million years) playing ‘Call of Duty.’ Longer than the course of human existence,” The Watch retweeted the claim and accused, “And over 80% of those gamers get harassed while they play.”
“That’s why we started The Watch,” they once again declared. “A community watch fighting racism in gaming. To join our mission, just watch Twitch, clip racism when you hear it in the background of a stream, and DM it to us.”
RELATED: California Attorney Resigns From Activision Blizzard Lawsuit Over Alleged Interference From Governor Gavin Newsom
Unsurprisingly, following The Watch’s reveal, players were quick to draw comparisons between it and the “Bully Hunters,” a 2018 campaign which promised to join games where female players were being harassed and use their own skills to put the trolls in their place.
However, dubious claims of how many women received harassment in gaming and a disastrous debut livestream which featured blatantly staged instances of ‘harassment’ led to the campaign disbanding almost immediately.
Host Nati Casanova was also accused of having previously made abusive tweets and homophobic slurs when streaming, and ultimately, many felt the entire concept was merely the brainchild of a marketing company trying to sell headsets and gaming paraphernalia.
SteelSeries would later emphasize “We decided to support this campaign because we believe that harassment of any kind sucks. But this was not stage-managed by us as some sort of viral campaign. We didn’t come up with the idea. No money was exchanged whatsoever. We provided headsets for charity and support.” The Bully Hunters website went dark soon after their debut.
It should be emphasized that as of writing, Melanin Gamers have asked for no money, nor attempted to sell any sort of product.
Further, though no companies have publicly agreed to meet with the group, it’s possible that Activision Blizzard could find themselves strong-armed into a partnership.
Investors are likely to be on their last nerves with the company’s reputation, and with more of their worst players’ behaviors being showcased, they may find themselves desperate for any solution to avoid any further controversy.
What do you make of The Watch? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments down below!
NEXT: Overwatch 2 Removes “Anti-Homeless Architecture” From Benches Follow Request From Single Fan