Southern New Hampshire University sophomore Abbey Sager has accomplished more in her eighteen years than most of us do in a lifetime.
In addition to studying Business Administration and Nonprofit Management in university, Abbey is the founder and president of Diverse Gaming Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to ending online bullying and harassment.
Bullied so badly as a teen that she dropped out of high school, Abbey later pursued her GED and completed her high school education. Determined not to let the same thing happen to other bullied teens, she founded Diverse Gaming Coalition. The coalition distinguishes itself from other anti-bullying organizations by making fun an essential pillar of its initiatives — no mind-numbing Powerpoint presentations or bland speeches allowed.
We spoke to Abbey about her experiences with online harassment, how she thinks online games can promote healthy interactions, and the Diverse Gaming Coalition’s current initiatives.
Tell us about your experiences with harassment in online games.
Being a female gamer, online harassment happens almost daily. Plus, harassment can be a two-way street. Sometimes, people don’t care at all and will spew obscenities over their microphone. Other times, people choose to send mean, hurtful messages. That includes adding me, finding other personal accounts, finding out information about me, threatening me, and doing things people wouldn’t normally do through voice chat, let alone to your face.
Playing games that involve or promote voice chat where I speak, questions like, “Are you a girl?” or “How old are you?” are common. I would escape real-life bullying to find solace in video games with my friends, but sometimes, it just made matters worse.
On one occasion, I was playing a game that involved voice chat in the game itself. It didn’t take too long for some random person to find my address, the names of my parents, and announce it to the entire game. I felt extremely unsafe, and it even made me not want to play games for months.
We’ve seen major changes in the industry this year. For example, Twitch released AutoMod, which allows broadcasters to moderate their own channels. Overwatch has been updating their reporting system. And companies like Riot Games are pioneering innovative initiatives like the League of Legends High School Clubs in Australia and New Zealand. As a gamer, what do you think games can do to further promote fair play & digital citizenship in their products? What can players do?
Both the games themselves and players play a big role in promoting fair play. For one, gamers have control over what they say and do. For instance, if a teammate is flaming or harassing them, most of the times ignoring the bully gets them to stop. You can’t fuel the flames without your actions.
Plus, games can take more action by taking reports more seriously and finding ways to keep these offenders from stopping their ways.
What initiatives are the Coalition working on?
Currently, Diverse Gaming Coalition is working on various initiatives to cater and target people with interest in a specific topic.
Our main project is our Comic Project, which includes two parts. The first part is a full 16-page comic focusing on a story of bullying, friendship, and differences within others.
The second part includes monthly webcomics that focus on different topics each month to cater to today’s prominent social issues. You can read some of our online comics on our blog.
Our other initiatives focus on the online world- social media, internet, etc. We want to spread inclusivity and safe-spaces onto all of the platforms that we’re present on. That’s why we created our “Diverse Gamer’s” groups. This includes platforms such as Discord, Twitch, Steam and League of Legends. By doing this, we intend to create an environment to cater to everyone, while promoting those who do good on their platforms.
We’re always actively working on other projects. Everyone can follow our social media and keep up to date by subscribing to our mailing list on our site.
Explain the significance of diverse gaming. What does diversity mean to you? Why is it important?
At Diverse Gaming Coalition, our focus is to end bullying, while collaborating with other causes to support people from all walks of life. We do this through incorporating youth into everything we do, including events, workshops, streaming, gaming, and anything of interest! We understand how dull and repetitive anti-bullying organizations can be. The Diverse Gaming Team is fueled by Millennials, so we understand the bland representation that is centered around anti-bullying campaigns, but we strive to be different. Our main goal is to relay all our information in lively and fun way to cater to people.
With this in mind, not a lot of people get the justice they deserve by simply having a diverse background. In video games, LGBTQ+ persons don’t get the representation that they deserve, women are overly-sexualized, and black people have little to no representation. Diversity is what fuels creativity, compassion, and overall kindness.
What do you hope to achieve with the coalition?
I hope that our organization can promote peace, love, and positivity in the world through our work. We want people that would have never gotten involved with bullying initiatives in the past to come join us and realize, “That’s actually a pretty big issue that we should work on ending”.
How can gamers and non-gamers get involved with Diverse Gaming Coalition?
You can find out more about how to get involved here.
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