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How Games Marketing Invented Toxic Gamer Culture

Flash back to 2002, however, and Microsoft's marketing campaign to promote Xbox Live's launch told a very different story. In one print advertisement, a photo of a disaffected young man with a controller in his hand is accompanied by a caption claiming that an Xbox Live opponent "wanted to meet me so he could see the face of failure."

Another 2002 ad asks, "Does ruining someone's day make you do the dance of joy?" A promotional video from the same era features a player sneering into her headset, "You guys are so pathetic. You chafe my ass!" Sony was in on the act, too. A 2002 ad hyping the debut of the PlayStation 2's online functionality encouraged players to "reach out and smoke someone," while highlighting the ability to trash talk opponents as an essential feature of the new service.

These ads, along with others from the era, point us toward an uncomfortable truth: Companies like Microsoft and Sony frequently marketed toxicity as a key selling point for their new online gaming platforms. This is a puzzling strategy from the vantage point of 2020, a time when toxicity is practically synonymous with online gaming and too often spills over into real-world harassment. Perhaps these campaigns were eerily prescient in anticipating the downward spiral of gaming culture. Or maybe these edgy advertisements modeled the exact brand of toxicity that the same companies are now struggling to curb.

Read entire article at Vice