ProblemViolent extremist organisations are actively exploiting online gaming across the world. Yet, research into gaming and radicalisation is sparse and outdated. The Extremism and Gaming Research Network (EGRN) intends to fill this gap by evidencing how malign extremist actors may be using gaming for harm, and how gaming could be used for positive outcomes. This newly established network brings together the strengths and expertise of 11 distinguished counter-extremism organisations to build up the evidence base and develop concrete solutions to counter the exploitation of online gaming environments by violent extremist organisations. Set up as a self-led initiative by practitioners and researchers who saw a need to fill existing knowledge gaps and provide a basis for evidence-led solutions, we are continually seeking new stakeholders, such as research and policy organisations or tech companies, to join our network. EGRN also seeks to partner with gaming companies and governments to counter potential misuse and to develop solutions that use gaming to foster resilient online communities. The network is open to funding opportunities supporting future research and project activities.
ApproachFrom neo-Nazis and far-right groups to Islamic State, those seeking to instigate hate and violence for their ideological ends are finding new platforms to do so as traditional social media platforms crack down on their content. New platforms, including the chat application Discord, live-streaming sites such as Twitch, online games like Fortnite and gaming platforms like Steam, are rife with extremist content and recruiters. Games themselves are not the problem, but socialisation inside gaming-related spaces reveals real and pressing difficulties. Video gaming is a source of resilience for many, reaching an all-time-high during the pandemic according to polling agency Nielsen, with 82% of global consumers playing video games and watching gaming content during lockdowns. Yet, media reports about gaming and its potential to be exploited by extremist actors often sensationalise the issue, and impartial research and analysis on the topic is hard to come by. As part of its multi-layered research effort, the EGRN will map the research that has already been carried out in this relatively unexplored field and utilise innovative methodologies to help bridge outstanding evidence gaps. We aim to conduct research and build up evidence around the following priority research questions:
- In what ways are gaming platforms used by extremist individuals or organisations?
- How does this trend differ across regions?
- In what ways can gaming, gaming-related spaces (forums, platforms, etc.) and key messengers be utilised for the prevention and countering of (violent) extremism?