40% of all video game developers have faced player harassment

A new report from the Game Developers Conference (GDC) has revealed the impact of player harassment and toxicity on developers.
video games developer gdc survey

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has released its annual video games industry report, revealing new statistics and emerging trends in the global market – including the rise of player-driven harassment against game developers. According to GDC, respondents to its annual survey were extremely concerned about the growing toxicity of player bases, with 75% of developers noting it as a ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’ industry issue.

In addition, 40% of developers claimed they’d faced harassment directly, or as part of a team. A large portion of these respondents identified as LGBTQ+ and non-male. To combat this, developers have called for a range of new tactics, including banning and deplatforming those with the loudest, most aggressive voices.

‘I think setting boundaries clearly and publicly, as well as calling on the community itself to help, can be effective,’ one developer said. ‘Large companies seem to fear that their toxic players are their fanbase without appreciating that they are impacting much larger numbers of their actual fanbase.’

‘Ban, isolate, and deplatform,’ another simply said.

Read: Video games developers speak out about NFTs, unions in GDC report

Others called for studios to have ‘easily accessible hotlines’ for developers facing harassment, and to set proper boundaries and ‘stop inviting the community to be part of the family.’ One developer noted receiving death threats from their game’s player community, with this harasser reportedly reaching out to their family with the same tone.

In this situation, the threat was reportedly ignored by the developer’s studio – however, nearly 70% of survey respondents did indicate company management ultimately helped deal with harassment complaints. This is a positive sign overall – but more needs to be done to protect everyone working in the games industry.

Unionisation remains a core talking point

Unionisation was also a major topic of discussion, with 53% of developers believing those working on video games should unionise for more protected rights, and only 13% of respondents disagreeing. While this has not changed or grown since 2022, the continued support for unions is notable.

Other concerns cited in the GDC report are the potential impact of increased studio conglomeration – for example, the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. Only 17% of respondents believed this will be a positive move, with nearly half (44%) believing it will negatively impact the industry, in terms of innovation, diversity of products, jobs, and stability.

Read: Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal may face EU antitrust warning

The metaverse was also a core focus in the GDC video games industry report, although it’s clear many remain sceptical about these projects. 44% of respondents did not select an option for which company/platform is best suited to deliver on the promise of the metaverse, indicating a lack of faith or disinterest. Likewise, there was little regard for NFTs and the blockchain amongst respondents – with 75% of developers indicating strictly no interest in this technology.

Just 2% of respondents indicated they were already using blockchain technology in their games.

While the GDC report on the state of the video games industry in 2023 does not indicate major changes since 2022, it’s certainly an intriguing read that illuminates the changing trends and values of the industry going forward – as well as the concerns facing game developers as technology advances and game communities grow.

You can view the full GDC State of the Game Industry 2023 report here.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.