Trash Talk Gaming

Apologies for the lack of updates but I had been putting the finishing touches on my master’s thesis, which is now complete and submitted so I should be back to regular updates. To kick things off I thought I ‘d repost this news post from Kotaku which reminds us of the perils of modern communication:


Trash talk during video game play isn’t all uncommon. And, while it’s troubling when the chatter turns sexist, racist, homophobic or extremely threatening, many games and communities have their own remedies: penalties, bans, negative consequences for player reputations. The last thing you’d expect is for someone to wind up in jail. But that’s exactly what happened to 19-year-old Justin Carter after a League of Legends match. He’s been in jail since February.

Carter was playing Riot’s hit MOBA game in February and jokingly responded to another player’s comment. His words, according to Carter’s father Jack, were “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,” followed by “lol” and “jk”.

After seeing the comments on Facebook, an unidentified Canadian woman looked up Carter’s personal information, found an old address located near an elementary school and called the cops. The then-18-year-old Carter was subsquently arrested on February 14th on charges of making a terrorist threat and has been in custody awaiting trial for more than three months.

Many people feel like mass killings like the Newtown shootings are nothing to joke about and any remark that seems to hint at violence at that scale should certainly be investigated. But,according to a petition letter written by his parents, a police investigation of Justin Carter’s home turned up no weapons of any kind. Carter has a hearing on July 1st to review his case and could be sentenced to eight years in jail if found guilty of the charges.


Certainly we must be responsible agents for communications in any media, including communication though games and social media. But must we filter ourselves for all off hand and joke comments? In the UK we have had many examples of people being prosecuted for offensive tweets, but perhaps the most comparable example is the attempted prosecution of Paul Chambers for his airport bomb tweet. Although it went all the way to the high court before common sense prevailed, at least common sense did prevail and the conviction was quashed. I hope common sense reaches wherever Justin Carter is right now.

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