Terrorists for time immemorial have used popular media to radicalize and recruit new members. Now these groups are slowly moving to the gaming space to spread their propaganda. Last year the UN even hosted an expert panel, talking about the motivation and execution of gaming exploitation.
While there isn’t a lot of data on radicalization through gaming, people are increasingly talking about it. To that end, the Department of Homeland Security recently awarded a $699,763 grant to a research group, working to develop a shared framework for understanding extremism in games.
Over the past decade, video games have increasingly become focal points of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and young adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross over into the real world and are impactful parts of local communities. Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from propaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training.
Gaming is definitely a more prevalent form of media now, than it was a decade back. And that presents new challenges for authorities in terms of tracking and monitoring these threats. Some of the responsibility also lies with game developers and publishers, who should have strict protocols and reporting tools to deal with such threats.
Middlebury’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, along with Take This, and Logically also plans to host training workshops for the “monitoring, detection, and prevention of extremist exploitation in gaming spaces for community managers, multiplayer designers, lore developers, mechanics designers, and trust and safety professionals.”
Almost all of us are familiar with the prevalence of toxicity and racism in online games, and some of us have probably faced the blunt end of it at some point. Although that doesn’t mean all of it is coming from extremists, or terrorists. But it certainly helps actual threat actors blend in. So it is now even more important for researchers to study the cultures and subcultures around gaming to make that distinction.