Gaming can be a way to be social, learn new skills, develop teamwork, and relax.
In most games chatting is an important part of gameplay. It’s a common feature in a lot of games and is usually a safe space where you can chat with friends.
Chatting and meeting new people online can be fun, there are lots of online apps and communities that can be educational and supportive. But there are always risks when it comes to chatting online, this article has more information about different types of chats, the risks and how you can stay safe online.
Every game is different, which means that there are different ways of talking in game. But there are a few common ways of talking:
- Built in open chat functions. Using the game’s built-in chat functions you can talk through voice (via a headset) or text (by typing on a keyboard) with other people in the game
- Quick chat functions. A ‘quick chat’ function has set phrases, so you can send short automatic messages to a team mate or player. For example, sending ‘Nice shot!’ to a team mate who scores a good goal.
- Platform messaging. Some gaming platforms let you send voice or text messages to other players, just like a messaging app or social media. For example, PlayStation Network or Steam Friends & Chat. Players give this number to their friends and other players so they can add them to the game and chat with them.
- ‘Ping’ systems. Some games use non – verbal communication to ‘talk’. A ‘ping’ is where you can alert other players to a useful item or hazard by ‘pointing’ at it and pressing a button.
- Chat or messaging apps. Players can also use external apps like Discord, Twitch or WhatsApp to talk to each other during the game. This chat can be voice, video or text. Some apps can even be set up to look like they are part of the game (called in–game overlay).
Players can also talk to each other outside of the game. This might be on social media apps, through the platform messaging or in other online forums and chat rooms.
Live Streaming Platforms
Live-streaming platforms like Twitch are platforms you can access with other gamers that let you watch live events or repeats of games. It is important to be mindful of how you use these platforms to chat but there are other risks involved. Often on platforms like these, videos play automatically when you open the app or site. This means it’s hard to control what you see and you could easily come across a game or video that isn’t suitable.
Twitch users must be over 13 years old and it is recommended that users aged 13-18 should use the platform with an adult.
As a viewer, you can watch live gameplay or archived videos by browsing various categories. A Twitch broadcast or stream often includes a video with an audio commentary from the player and the video of the game itself. There is also a live chat option where at times the streamer can respond, but you can still talk to others including sending private messages.
Forums and Online Communities
Online communities and forums can be a great place to chat with people who you share common interests with, like gaming, celebrities and hobbies.
Discord is a chat app that’s popular with gamers. It is often used to talk to other players while playing games. Or you can swap tips and advice with other players in game-specific servers (similar to online forums). Some games, like Fortnite, have official verified Discords for fans to talk about the game.
Discord is used for more than just gaming chat, so it is important to think about what you might see or send when using Discord and what might happen to content that is shared. Discord has some privacy and safeguarding settings to keep you safe online, you can enable the ‘Keep Me Safe’ function to change who can talk to you and what you can see while using the platform.
Reddit is a community-based forum where people write posts covering many different topics, which others can then comment on. The more popular something is the higher up it appears on the website. You can post to Reddit with an image, video and text and you can also insert links and include polls. The platform has over 100,000 different communities known as sub-reddits.
The comment function on Reddit is public which means you need to be careful about what information you are posting as all users can see it.
You might read or see something upsetting or negative on Reddit. If this happens, you should report the content. Reddit Help has specific guidance on rules and reporting. And they also have information on how to report spam, abuse or other issues. Remember you can always talk to a trusted adult about worrying things you see online.
There are lots of benefits to being a part of an online community, but there are also some risks that you should be aware of so you can think about how to minimise them and take care of yourself when you’re spending time online.
- Chatting with people you don’t know. In-game chat, forums and online communities are different to social networks, as players often play against or chat to people they don’t know. This may include adults who may want to do you harm, this is called grooming and there’s more information about this on our That’s Not OK page. If you’re worried that this may have happened to you, firstly it’s not your fault. Speak to someone you trust or get in touch with a support service such as Childline.
- Inappropriate or unmoderated chat. While many in-game chat functions are monitored, and players look after each other, chat is live. In some games and online communities swearing and insults are common, especially when a player hasn’t performed very well. Bullying may happen in online games, this could be where someone says or does something on purpose to upset or target you. If you are bullied online, or in person, it’s never your fault. If you receive upsetting comments, if you can, ignore them and don’t respond. Sometimes a response is what someone is looking for, by ignoring it, the person might leave you alone as they’re not getting the reaction they wanted. You can also report, mute or block a person using tools on the platform. And remember to speak to someone you trust about how you feel, or if you don’t feel comfortable get in touch with a support service such as Childline.
- Requests to chat in private. Some people online genuinely just want to chat about gaming. But once they move to the private chat, you could be exposed to greater risks. You might share personal information or feel pressured to do something that you don’t want to do. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do or share anything, if you start chatting to someone and then feel uncomfortable you could report, mute or block them. Think about what you share and don’t’ share personal information with people you don’t know (for example, your phone number, address or school). Remember, that if the chat is happening on a different chat or messaging app, then it will no longer be monitored by the platform or game developer’s moderation tools or community team.
- Offering gifts or trades. Some people may offer to trade – or give – you in-game items or currencies to earn your trust and persuade you to have a separate conversation outside of the game. Remember, once you’re out of the game and into a private space, then it will no longer be monitored by the game. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
How To Stay Safe
If you ever receive a message or comment that upsets you, you shouldn’t reply straight away and should always avoid using hurtful or mean language in response. Speak to someone you trust or get in touch with a support service such as Childline if you have been impacted by anything that you’ve seen online.
Games platforms and developers have put in a lot of settings to help manage or protect young people from inappropriate chat.
- Family controls. Games platforms have in-built family controls to let you limit in-game chat to a friends list only or turn it off completely. This means you can either only talk to people you know or not communicate at all.
- Privacy controls. Different platforms offer different privacy controls, these can help to keep you safe and normally can impact things like who can see if you’re online, what game you’re playing and who you can play with. Take a look at the platforms you use for more information about how to customise the settings for you.
- Customised chat. Most games allow players to customise chat options, including letting players turn off voice chat, text chat and limiting conversation to people they know.
- Monitoring and reporting systems. Games also use artificial intelligence moderation systems to filter or find inappropriate chats. They also have reporting systems to let players report anyone behaving abusively, which can lead to temporary or permanent bans from the service.
However, these settings only work after they’ve been set up. That’s why it is recommended to spend a little bit of time the first time you go into a new online game to set these up. It’ll help you work out how to chat in-game and help you work out what settings you may want to turn on to stay safe.
Find out more about staying safe online at the Digi Know page.