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Gaming the System: The Use of Gaming-Adjacent Communication, Game and Mod Platforms by Extremist Actors

Gaming the System: The Use of Gaming-Adjacent Communication, Game and Mod Platforms by Extremist Actors
10th June 2024 Constantin Winkler
In Insights


Since the live-streamed racist and antisemitic attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Halle, Germany, in 2019 and details of the perpetrators’ profiles on gaming platforms became known, a discussion about the use of gaming platforms and content by extremist actors has intensified. However, despite this increased interest, reliable research results about the field are still scarce. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that extremist actors are active in these spaces. It is, therefore, essential that we better understand extremist content, groups, and channels on these platforms.

The RadiGaMe project (radicalisation on gaming platforms and messenger services), implemented by a German Research Alliance consisting of eight research institutions, civil security institutions and civil society organisations, seeks to contribute to closing this important research gap. The Centre Technology and Society (ZTG) at the Technical University of Berlin, the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society Jena (IDZ), the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB), the Centre for Applied Research on Deradicalisation Berlin (modus|zad), the Berlin Criminal Investigation Department (LKA 53) and Munich Innovation Labs (MIL) are involved in the project. It is supported by four additional institutions from the fields of civil security, prevention work and democracy promotion.In the first stage of the project, we conducted an initial exploration of 20 gaming and gaming-adjacent digital platforms to gain insights into their functionality, relevance for extremist actors, access options for researchers, and the type of extremist and fringe content posted in these digital spaces. This Insight reports the results of this exploration for eleven platforms across three categories: Communication platforms, gaming platforms, and platforms used to disseminate modifications of existing (popular) digital games (so-called mods). The Insight is based on a German report that can be accessed here.

Communication platforms

We explored five gaming-related communication platforms: Discord, Guilded, GameTree, Reddit and the Gamer Uprising Forums. Although all of these platforms are used for communication and feature gaming content, they differ in terms of their structure and functions: While Discord and Guilded are primarily chat platforms where users can operate more or less closed group chats (called servers), GameTree is a “looking for group” (LFG) platform used to search for like-minded players. The social news aggregator Reddit distributes forum-like content created by users based on ratings, while the Gamer Uprising Forums has a classic forum structure.

The aim of the exploration was to gain an overview of the various platforms, how they function, their relevance and role in the gaming ecosystem and, where applicable, their significance for extremist actors. The same applies to the access options and barriers for researching the platforms, as well as gaining initial indications of radicalised users and the type and scope of extremist content. In addition to key data such as the type of platform, access or usage figures and founding data, the exploration included an overview of the basic functionalities of the respective platforms. We also investigated what is already known about extremist activities on the individual platforms and whether and, if so, what relevance the platforms could have for an analysis of the modes of interaction of radicalised users. Both known cases in connection with radicalisation and assumptions resulting from the functioning of the respective platform play a role here. In addition, the access options to freely accessible (communication) spaces and content on the platforms were tested. There were also reflections on ethical challenges. Extremist content was localised on the platforms using keyword and profile searches. In addition to an overview of phenomena associated with radicalisation, these results provide indications of the significance of the platforms for a more in-depth analysis. While conspicuous material was found on all of these platforms, our exploration revealed that they are not equally relevant for radicalisation research. We, therefore, report on each platform in turn.

Only a few users with references to radical content could be found on GameTree. This is not least due to a very limited search function that only allows the platform to be searched for specific parts of names. This means that researchers would have to be aware of relevant usernames to locate them in a keyword search. Observation of the global feeds also yielded only a handful of significant results, as only a few posts were written each day, and most were not related to extremist activity. This is probably also due to the relatively small number of users (600,000 as of December 2023). We, therefore, deem GameTree as relatively difficult to research and, judging by our initial exploration, less relevant for radicalisation research than other gaming-related platforms.

An exploration of Guilded yielded similar results. The chat platform allows users to create their own servers with messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) functions and offers communities extensive networking opportunities. However, an exploration of the platform yielded hardly any relevant results. We were primarily searching for right-wing and Islamist content but also for possible bridging narratives such as antisemitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. Only a few servers explicitly dedicated to political ideologies were located. User behaviour was also largely unremarkable. This does not mean that there are no extremist activities on the platform, but the exploration suggests that these are rare or difficult to locate and, hence, difficult to research.

Reddit is a much bigger platform than GameTree and Guilded. The social news aggregator, which is divided into subreddits, has around 1.9 billion views per month and has been the subject of controversy on several occasions in the past. Right-wing extremist content on the platform has already been located and studied. We were able to identify antisemitic, Islamist, neo-Nazi and sexist content during our exploration. In addition, video and image material of violence, torture, beheadings, and other forms of execution could be found with relative ease. Animated rape or the display of corpses were also found among the posts. Some of this content was directly related to digital games. For example, there were several posts by users who proudly presented and discussed their Auschwitz replicas in the game RimWorld. However, most relevant posts were not found in subreddits related to digital games. Therefore, we assume that while Reddit is clearly important for radicalisation research, relevant gaming-related content is less conspicuous than on other platforms.

This is different in the case of the Gamer Uprising Forums (GUF) as the platform is aimed directly at gamers. It is run by US Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin and explicitly targets politically right-wing gamers. This forum mainly includes antisemitic, sexist, and racist topics, but also posts on related issues such as esotericism, conspiracy narratives, pro-Russian propaganda, alternative medicine, Christian religion, content related to the incel- and manosphere, lists of criminal offences committed by non-white people, links to right-wing news sites, homophobia and trans-hostility, troll guides, anti-leftism, ableism and much more. Most noticeable were the high number of antisemitic references. For example, there is a thread with hundreds of machine-generated images, most of which feature openly antisemitic content and popular antisemitic references. Many users chose explicitly antisemitic avatars. Some of the usernames also provide clues to the users’ ideologies and profiles feature swastikas as a type of progress bar and indicator of the user’s activity in the forum.

The GUF’s front page contains an overview of the forum, user statistics, and so-called “announcements”. In addition to advice-like references, these feature various expressions of hateful ideologies. At the time of the exploration, the following could be read there: “Jews are the problem!”, “Women should be raped”, “The Jews are going to be required to return stolen property”, “Immigrants will have to be physically removed”, “Console gaming is for n******” and “Anger is a womanly emotion”. New users have to prove themselves in an area for newcomers referred to in imageboard slang as the “Newfag Barn”. Only when the newcomers’ posts have received a substantial number of likes from established users, are they allowed to post in other parts of the forum. It can be assumed that this will also lead to competitions to outdo each other in posting extreme content. However, it is always possible to view all posts and content on the site. In any case, it can be assumed that the platform hardly addresses milieus that are not already radicalised or at risk of radicalisation and is therefore deemed relevant for radicalisation research. However, the number of registered users is low (typical for radicalised milieus) and, hence, the platform may only be of interest when studying a small group of highly radicalised individuals.

This is in stark contrast to Discord, which is extremely popular among gamers and has around 190 million active users per month on around 19 million servers (as of March 2024). Just like Guilded, the platform consists of self-managed servers. To identify Discord servers, we have carried out keyword searches in server lists such as Disboard. As anticipated based on existing studies, the exploration of the platform revealed a large number of conspicuous servers. These include servers that are explicitly dedicated to right-wing extremist or jihadist content. Several servers with a focus on digital games also contained antisemitic, racist, and sexist content. In some cases, server names and images are already explicitly directed against certain groups. For example, antisemitic, homophobic, or racist caricatures can already be found in the server descriptions and names. Unsurprisingly, these servers contain derogatory content against Jews as well as racist insults. In addition, conspiracy narratives and homophobic and misogynistic posts were observed. There are also servers on which women and men are prohibited from communicating with each other. Problematic content, including violent extremist content, can be easily identified. There is evidence that the servers are also used for direct political networking. Therefore, in accordance with the existing literature, we deem Discord to be relevant for radicalisation research.

Gaming and mod platforms

We also explored gaming and mod platforms, including Steam, Indie DB,, Gamebanana, Mod DB and Roblox. While Steam is primarily a distribution platform for digital games, Indie DB and are platforms that serve to present indie games, which are titles from independent, small developer teams, which can be discussed and downloaded on these platforms. Gamebanana and Mod DB are so-called modding platforms that allow users to post their modifications of existing (popular) games. In the process of modding, highly radicalised content can be inserted into games that did not originally contain it. All of these platforms also have communication functions and customisable profiles.

Probably the most inconspicuous of these platforms is The forum contains a low number of relevant posts, but toxic and hateful themes could be detected in the downloadable content (that is, the games presented on the platform, particularly sexist and antisemitic posts as well as content related to the incel- and manosphere). Sometimes, this content is affirmed in the comments.

The more conspicuous platform is Indie DB. We found antisemitic, Islamist, sexist and other discriminatory content during the exploration. Both games and comments were located that made positive references to National Socialism. Radicalised users seem to use the opportunities to network, create groups, and communicate in forums. In addition, a number of member profiles with graphic propaganda content could be located. We found several games with propagandistic content advertised on the platform, which caused apparently radicalised users to form a fan community around those games. For example, there are titles such as the antisemitic Fursan Al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which has won the Best Hardcore Game award at the Game Connection America 2024 Game Development Awards and which has received antisemitic praise on its review page. In the game, players need to target members of the Israeli Defence Forces, and attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas or Lions’ Den can be re-enacted. These include bomb attacks, beheadings and the re-enactment of the terrorist attack in Israel on 7 October 2023. We, therefore, deem Indie DB to be relevant for further analyses of extremist activities in digital gaming spaces.

We found similar content on the modding sites Gamebanana and Mod DB. During the explorations, several modifications with hateful themes were located, including right-wing extremist, racist, antisemitic and Islamist content. This includes mods that make it possible to play as terrorists or National Socialists. So-called “skins” (textures that change the appearance of models in the game) for characters from first-person shooters are particularly popular and contain references to National Socialism or Islamist terrorist organisations. Although some of this content could be justified with reference to historical accuracy and realism, the user profiles of the creators and commentators often reveal political motivations. Names with neo-Nazi codes or the use of avatars showing members of the Wehrmacht or the Waffen SS, for example, indicate a certain degree of positive appreciation or fascination with right-wing ideology, as do affirmations in the comment columns.

Mod DB in particular has attracted public attention in the past. For example, a mod for the game Half-Life 2 made it possible to play a school shooting with the weapons used during the attacks at Columbine High School (1999) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (2007). Antisemitic memes and jokes are shared in several groups on the platform. It seems as if users partially connect with each other because of shared political views. There were also indications that Islamist and right-wing extremist users network on the basis of shared views on women, Jews or homosexuals. In addition to relevant usernames and avatars, we found profiles featuring picture galleries, backgrounds and banners dedicated to the SS. Extremist propaganda and radicalisation processes on modding platforms have not been explored yet, but our exploration suggests these digital spaces to be highly relevant for our field.

The Roblox platform allows users to develop their own games and plugins. The concept of modular development and an optional programming language enables games to be realised with relative ease. The platform is primarily targeting young people. Studies show that Roblox is among the top five most popular games among children and teenagers. In addition to criticism of sexual and non-child-friendly content, Roblox has repeatedly attracted media attention due to its radical content, particularly games that allow the re-enactment of politically motivated attacks or National Socialist operations. For example, many of the right-wing extremist attacks carried out in recent years have been re-enacted in detail on Roblox. There were also replicas of concentration camps, and evidence suggests that some fascist groups use Roblox for networking purposes. Even mobilisation processes in violent extremism have been observed in connection with Roblox. 

During our exploration, we found a large amount of content glorifying National Socialism and antisemitic themes. This applies to the Roblox marketplace as well as games, user profiles, and groups. There are also groups, games and purchasable accessories that can be attributed to Islamist groups such as the so-called Islamic State. We located profiles that use right-wing codes in their names and equip their characters with items of clothing adorned with relevant symbols. Some game creations allow users to re-enact real military conflicts. These include colonial battles and battles from the Second World War. These often offer the opportunity to play (and win) as Nazis. Other games are described as being used for peaceful political exchange but are infested with antisemitic, racist, or religiously motivated devaluations of other users and digital anti-Israel demonstrations. Hence, Roblox seems to be highly relevant for further analysis.


The explorations carried out confirm that several communication, gaming, and mod platforms are used by extremist actors and/or host extremism-related content. However, despite increasing interest in the use of digital gaming spaces by extremist actors, we still lack systematic data collection and analyses to adequately judge the role of these platforms in the digital extremist ecosystem.

Mod platforms in particular have so far gone largely unnoticed by radicalisation research. This is in stark contrast to the fact that mods with extremist content can be created with relative ease, are not challenging to locate, and are apparently distributed widely on these platforms. This suggests that mod platforms may provide spaces for radicalisation and may be highly relevant digital spaces for research and prevention efforts.

The RadiGaMe project has set out to contribute to closing this crucial gap in knowledge and will, in the next stages, analyse selected platforms in more depth to increase our understanding of extremist content and radicalisation processes in digital gaming spaces. 

Constantin Winkler is a Doctoral Researcher at the RadiGaMe Project at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). He investigates antisemitism and radicalisation in digital gaming communities. He focuses on antisemitism research, cultural sociology, and Critical Theory.

Lars Wiegold is a research associate in the RadiGaMe and RADIS projects at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). His research focuses on radical and extremist online milieus, particularly in digital gaming communities.