Back in 1990, video games were nothing more than a minor distraction—a hobby. Fast forward to today, and the video game industry is more significant than the movie industry. Video games are bigger than Hollywood! A major reason for the growth in the industry is eSports.
Games like Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and Smash Bros birthed a massive eSports industry that many modern games aim to be included in (like Valorant). With brands, famous professional players, and huge tournaments dedicated to single games, it’s clear that eSports is here to stay.
However, it’s known that competing in games that are considered “eSports-friendly” can become a toxic experience. Mix internet anonymity with a competitive spirit—maybe a loss or two—and you have yourself a recipe for toxicity.
Today, let’s go over a few ways you can keep yourself safe online when these toxic encounters occur. With swatting and online stalking being prevalent dangers, it’s crucial you take steps to protect yourself.
How to Stay Safe Online
Refuse to Give Out Personal Information
Let’s kick off this list by talking about the golden rule of online interactions: never hand out personal information to strangers. What does this rule mean in the gaming space? Well, for starters, it means that any information visible to other players in your lobby—your username, your player profile, and maybe even your location—should not be enough to identify you in real life.
For example, using your real name in an online lobby means that people in said lobby can narrow down your identity, especially if they have your IP address (which will be discussed later). Specific platforms like Steam also allow you to enter your city and state in your profile—don’t do that. Never give away personally identifiable information unless absolutely necessary. And in eSports, unless you’re a famous professional player, it will never be necessary.
Hide Your IP Address
Speaking of physical location, your IP address acts somewhat like a street address. With it, websites can identify your device and send data, similar to how a mail carrier uses your street address to deliver packages. In other words, your IP address should never be shared.
However, many don’t share their IP addresses voluntarily; games can leak IP addresses. It’s why some games, like Call of Duty, now allow players to hide IP addresses in-game.
Sometimes that’s not enough. If you care about your security, you can connect to a VPN to hide your IP address during a game. Depending on what server you connect to, you can even improve your connection with a VPN.
Do Not Instigate
Lastly, you should never engage someone who is being toxic towards you. It won’t help or fix anything in the lobby. If you decide to engage, there’s no telling the lengths that person will go to harass you. People have been forced to deal with online stalkers, swatting, and DDoS attacks simply because they made enemies in an online lobby. Don’t be toxic. Don’t engage toxic players.
I highly encourage people to participate in eSports. There are tons of games with a live eSports scene; it’s just all about finding a game you’re good at. But when participating, have these tips in mind.