Determinants of harassment in online multiplayer games
De Letter, Jolien
van Rooij, Tony
Van Looy, Jan
Social Sciences | Routine Activity Theory | harassment | cyber bullying | online multiplayer games | target suitability
Objective. Online multiplayer games allow large numbers of participants to play simultaneously online. Unfortunately, this has also given rise to new forms of harassment and abuse. The current study used the criminological framework of Routine Activity Theory to identify possible circumstantial and individual risk factors that predict both general and sexual harassment victimization in this online context.
Method. An online survey of online multiplayer gamers (N = 883) was conducted. Measures included harassment exposure, guardianship, and target suitability. These determinants were used to predict general and sexual harassment victimization in multiple regression analyses. Analyses controlled for social desirability responding.
Results. Both sexual harassment victimization (R² = 63%) and general harassment victimization (R² = 57%) were successfully predicted using the determinants. The gender of the gamer is associated with the type of harassment received; women are more likely to encounter sexual harassment, while men are more likely to be harassed in the general sense. Gaming for fewer hours per week, with mostly or exclusively female avatars, and sharing personal information (e.g. gender) predicts sexual harassment victimization, whereas playing in Player-versus-Player game modes predicts general harassment victimization. Harassing other gamers and associating with harassers predicts both general and sexual harassment.
Conclusions. Our models explained a sizable percentage of the variation in harassment, indicating for the first time that the Routine Activity Theory can be applied to understand online harassment in gaming. Specifically, it was found that different types of in-game exposure predict different types of victimization, that lacking personal self-guardianship predicts sexual harassment and that gender (or revealing gender) is associated with changes in harassment.
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