IntelBrief: Incels and the Gaming-Radicalization Nexus

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  • In a landmark case, an Ohio man – Tres Genco – became the first “incel” to be convicted of a federal hate crime in the U.S. last month and was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.
  • While there are incel-specific games, incels play various non-incel-themed games, and misogyny is deeply embedded in the gaming community.
  • The susceptibility to extremist ideologies is partly facilitated by “identity fusion,” where individuals’ personal and gaming identities become increasingly interlaced.
  • Considering market predictions of the increasing popularity of virtual reality headsets and the proliferation of AI applications in almost every digital product, extremist content could become more immersive, automated, and efficient, requiring less manpower for greater reach.

In a landmark case, an Ohio man became the first “incel” to be convicted of a federal hate crime in the U.S. last month and was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. Tres Genco, a self-described “incel,” or “involuntarily celibate,” had reportedly planned to commit a mass shooting targeting women at an Ohio university campus. Incels define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one and tend to harness extreme resentment. His manifesto, which he wrote in August 2019, stated that he hated women and that he would “slaughter out of hatred, jealousy, and revenge.” Although the plot was never carried out and Genco was arrested in 2021, prosecutors believed he intended to carry out the plans fully.

Many incels, including Genco, frequent bespoke online forums which thematically focus on their experiences as incels, “blackpilling” each other, and promoting misogynistic views. Numerous incels who committed violent attacks against women were active on these forums prior to their assaults. The Black Pill philosophy common on these forums emerged as a counterpoint to the Red Pill ideology within the manosphere – a variety of often interconnected websites, blogs, and online forums that promote misogyny, masculinity, and an opposition to feminism. Initially driven by incels conducting pseudoscientific experiments to prove that dating was only viable for exceptionally attractive men, Black Pill adherents often entertain suicidal or violent thoughts, viewing it as the only escape from their perceived isolation, particularly from women. However, the radicalization of incels is not limited to forums in the manosphere. Gaming and gaming adjacent platforms such as Discord, Steam, Twitch, and DLive, are also hotbeds for incels to connect and promote their narratives. According to research by the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) in 2021, incels use gaming adjacent platforms to “connect to each other via private servers to communicate but also share potentially harmful content.”

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