Earlier today, Brian Crecente from Polygon published a very good and informative article on the “Plague of game dev harassment.” Please go read that article by clicking here before continuing on….Did you read it? Ok. Good.
I wanted to add a few words of my own about the increase in online harassment that those who work in the game industry are experiencing. While I agree with Brian on most of the points he makes, there are a few that I think are not as clear.
First off, let me start by saying online death threats and bona fide harassment is wrong. There is no way to justify throwing hate at a developer personally for any reason at any time. Complaints; ok. Gripes; sure. Disagreements about the game direction; absolutely. However, telling a dev that you are going to kill their children as they come out of school because they should have been aborted, as was the case with Jennifer Hepler who left Bioware this week because of the threats, is completely and utterly WRONG! If you are making threats of this nature to anyone, in person or on the internet, you should seriously consider admitting yourself to a hospital to get some help because something is definitely not right with you. Talk to your family and friends and seek help now!
That said, part of the problem we are seeing are the trends in game journalism we have seen over the last few years.
Many media outlets tend to focus on conflict and controversy because, let’s face it, those who read articles, like you are doing right now, tend to click on those types of stories. It is in human nature to respond to conflict and turmoil. That is just what we do, but that doesn’t make it right.
Take the Phil Fish debacle for instance. On one hand, you had Marcus Beer throwing insults at Fish on a show watched by thousands of people with Fish not being able to defend himself. This was wrong of Beer. He shouldn’t have done that. On the other hand, Fish then responds with what most would consider a death threat when he told Beer to kill himself. That was wrong of Fish and he has no excuse for that kind of language. Who was on the right? The answer is no one. Both parties threw insults and personal attacks at each other. Both may even deserve punishment, but what kind of punishment would they receive? The fact is that the internet is not regulated, and since most of the hate conversation between the two was on Twitter, no rules say that those threats could not be said. Of course, this isn’t the only incident of death threats within the gaming community. There are many examples of threats being made on the internet; google it.
So do we regulate the internet? Do we resort to the government censoring the web? No.
However, we need to wake up and know that these threats are not, in any way, acceptable in our society. I’m pretty sure most of us do not want the government to tell us what we are or aren’t allowed to view on the internet, but at the same time, we are headed in that direction if we allow the kind of hate speech that is growing among our population.
Why do you think that the government is, yet again, looking to study whether the effects of violent video games has a direct correlation to violent crimes? It’s because they see these kinds of horror stories within the gaming community and think “man, those people are disturbing.” As gamers, we need to realize that we have a responsibility to ourselves to regulate the way people view our culture. We need to quit with the harsh words and be kind to one another. If we don’t, then we may just reap what we sow and I guarantee you that will not be anything good.