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IGDA considering support groups for devs harassed by gamers
IGDA considering support groups for devs harassed by gamers
August 16, 2013 | By Mike Rose

August 16, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    26 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



The International Game Developers Association plans to start a number of support groups for developers who find themselves harassed and attacked by angry gamers on a regular basis.

As part of an in-depth article at Polygon, which explores the damage that some of the most impassioned video game fans are causing to development teams, IGDA director Kate Edwards notes that the organization plans to set up groups in which those affected by cyber harassment in the games industry can find some support.

Edwards notes that, while harassment isn't having a massive impact on the video game industry as of yet, "we're at the cusp of where it could... Harassment silences and repositions content creators in ways that protect the interests of certain fan groups, which again is no justification for the kinds of abusive behavior and language seen online today."

She later adds, "We're getting to a point where we're thinking, 'Yeah, it's becoming something we're going to need to talk about. It might be time to consider doing a more explicit support group or mechanism to help people who are dealing with this sort of thing."

It's well worth reading the full article over at Polygon.


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Comments


David Klingler
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This is very strange to read... "we're at the cusp of where it could..." ..I suppose that some developers could be negatively affected by feedback, and I think that a support group (for lack of a better name) could definitely help those people out. I don't want any fellow developers to quit just because somebody told them they should quit. There will always be people that hate on your game, but chances are that there will always be the opposite as well. My first game had very polar feedback in that it was either really loved or really hated. People are vocal, especially when it's anonymous on the internet, and that's just something that you have to get used to. I'd be glad to talk with other developers about dealing with negative people, because I had no trouble with it.

I don't know if this is something that requires an organized support group, but if people are having that much trouble with harassment from players, they should just talk about it with other developers casually. It's not so bad.

Naomi Clark
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So have you personally not gotten death threats aimed at you and your family left on your home telephone number? (That's what happened to Hepler, whose story is described in detail in the linked article, including threats to kill her children on their way out of school.) Or are you saying that those kinds of threats are "not so bad?" Clearly there's a spectrum between someone being angry on the internet and overt stalker behavior, but there's no denying that a lot of lines have been crossed by some groups of fans. These aren't lone eccentrics, either; they're the most aggressive and irresponsible tips of much larger, more passive communities that encourage retribution against developers.

G Irish
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Agreed. There's a big difference between people insulting you over a game, and people threatening you and your family. I think a big part of the problem is that many people don't realize that you can go to JAIL for making a death threat. People think it's a joke or that it's not that serious, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

I think the gravity of threats needs to be communicated to the gamer populace far better. For one, that should be treated as a 1-strike = ban offense.

Secondly, I think society at large needs to be educating young people far better about the consequences of violent and antisocial behavior. A lot of people shrug and say, "They're just kids" or "Just some guy on the internet" but it's that attitude that allows this stuff to persist.

David Klingler
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Naomi, I didn't mean to make it seem as though those threats aren't serious. I'm aware of that going on and have heard personally from some people that have gotten threats (I feel fortunate to have not been seriously threatened to death). I would never support the idea that these threats are ok.

I was only talking about the harassment on the smallest level, and I fully understand that threats are on an entirely different level of seriousness.

Naomi Clark
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Thanks for clarifying! I wasn't clear after reading your first comment that you were only talking about the most minor forms of harassment, as opposed to the threats and stalking described in Polygon's articles.

Wylie Garvin
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Shouldn't those death threats be forwarded to the FBI, or appropriate national authorities? I was disappointed not to see any mention of that in the article.

If the idiots who made those threats against Hepler's family actually live in her area, they should be arrested and prosecuted. If they live in another country, well at least they are unlikely to actually act on the threat.

Threatening to kill someone's children is a serious crime and anyone who does that deserves some jail time. If the system can't accomplish that, we need to fix it.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I was a journalist at the time of 9/11. I began receiving death threats every time I published an article (which was at least weekly), based solely on my name's ethnicity, not the content of my articles. I have a Persian sounding name but I am not ethnically Persian. I solved the problem by writing under a pen name (Sarcerok) for the next ten years. This hurt my profile on Google (and thus professionally) but also stopped the harassment as my pen name was race neutral. Google has gotten so powerful that unless you are a bit secretive about where you live like I am it is pretty easy for anyone to figure out where you live.

I'm not sure that counseling would have helped me, though if the police could have traced such comments to their source and done something about them that would have been great.

Rob Wright
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David, I think there's a huge difference between negative feedback and harassment. I'm personally glad you haven't had to experience the latter, but that doesn't discount the existence of said harassment, which in my experience is painfully real. This issue isn't whether the harassment is widespread -- Edwards even said it isn't. The issue is whether we as a community and an industry should act BEFORE it becomes a widespread issue and help out the admittedly small number of colleagues that are dealing with this unfortunate and preventable problem.

rAnd the answer to that, to me, is a resounding YES.

David Klingler
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Hey Rob, I agree there's a huge difference there, and like in my response to Naomi, I agree that threatening shouldn't be overlooked. I was only talking about the game feedback specifically, and I would say that the threats issue is serious ALREADY, not just something that is becoming a widespread issue.

Rob Wright
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Like Naomi said, thanks for clarifying.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Katy Smith
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I don't think this would take much effort or money. Even if its just a forum where developers can vent/sympathize it would be a help. I would have appreciated having someone to talk to after the fourth person told me to "get raped" after the company I used to work for changed a cast time from 0.5 seconds to 0.6 seconds.

Maybe if Phil Fish had someone to talk him down, there would be a Fez 2 coming out soon.

Wylie Garvin
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Anyone being harassed or threatened, should at least report it to their local police. I understand that some developers will be reluctant to do that, and/or might live in a country where the local police won't help them with something like that.

Having a support group of peers they can talk do seems like it could help, and can't really hurt. At the very least, knowing that other people have experienced the same thing can be really helpful. And they might have some concrete advice to offer too.

shayne oneill
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Yeah well thats something that possibly needs even further attention, the culture of sexism and how it impacts women in the gaming industry (As well as the punters too.) One thing the Sarsekian(sp?) thing really highlighted is that some of the younger men can be fantastic bullies to women who do something they percieve as threatening.

I think theres a lot of really nasty misogyny directed at women by men who seemingly havent grown out of the 12yo "No girls allowed in the clubhouse" mentality, and thats sad, because women in the industry bring absolutely irreplaceable value. The best 3D artist I ever met was a woman, and she can kick my arse at street fighter too. I'd hate to lose folks like her in the gaming industry, but I can't blame women when they decide to quit and join a more sane field.

Rob Wright
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Andrew, I've read a number of comments about this story that are similar to yours, and while I don't think you or others are wrong -- people should call the police if they get a death threat -- I believe it is a little more complicated that how you're seeing it.

I have some experience with these kinds of situations (not on the giving/receiving ends, but as a third party, just to clarify). And let me tell you, I think you're overestimating the capabilities and resources of local police. If you get an anonymous death threat online via Twitter or a message board, the police will ask first and foremost if you know the person and have any history with said person. When the answer is no, as it usually is in these cases, they'll politely tell you to block them on Twitter or take it up with whatever Web site or forum he/she is posting the threats on. At no point will the police suddenly roll up a team of crack Internet investigators to track the perp down because 1) they don't have such a team, and 2) they don't care. They'll only act on the report if they believe there is a real, tangible threat to your life. Hell, even if the person starts calling your house and threatening you, it takes REPEATED incidents before the authorities would attempt to track down the perp (assuming it was more difficult than looking up the person's phone number).

So again, the police will only take cases like this seriously if they believe the threat is more than just Internet bullshit. So fine, these type of harassment is just Internet bullshit, and you're not REALLY in danger, or at least you hope. And meanwhile, as your hoping all of this Internet bullshit is just idle threats and praying there isn't really a psycho out there that would hurt you and your family, you have to deal with a cascade of demoralizing, stressful negativity. Not an ideal situation, obviously.

This is a long way of saying that solving the problem of getting harassment/threats isn't as easy as just calling the cops to make them go away.

Ramin Shokrizade
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My experience is pretty much what Rob describes. When I was getting death threats after 9/11, I was probably getting on the order of 100 death threats a month. There really were not many journalists with Middle Eastern sounding names at the time, especially in interactive media circles and as we all know gamers are a particularly vocal and excitable bunch.

Probably 99% of those threats were total bullshit, just meant to harass or silence me. That is bad enough, but what if only 1% of those threats were real, made by someone a bit off their rocker? How can I determine which threat is real? How can the police determine this other than by waiting for one to take physical action? This doesn't help a lot. The only obvious solution was to go underground, which is what I did, for 10 years.

Still I don't know that a support group would have helped. This is one of the few times anyone has even brought this subject up so that it made sense for me to mention it.

Heck, I've even had to endure a long parade of games over the last 12 years where the objective was to shoot Middle Eastern people. Were these games harassing me? Thankfully we don't get games where the player is rewarded for specifically killing Blacks or Jews anymore, but this sort of deadly racism is far from gone in any society.

shayne oneill
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For what its worth, the poor old russians had to put up with decades of bein the bad guys in american media.

Not that it makes any of it any better. its all a bad thing :(

I used to work as a journalist too , and god damn did I get a lot of threats from people. Political articles on mid east politics would just lead to shenanigans. At one point I had pro-palestinian folks threatening me for calling out anti-semetism AND pro-israel folks threatening me for calling out imperialism. Most of it was fine, except for the one white supremacist nut who started emailing death threats with detailed descriptions of his knives, making threats about my girlfriend and so on.

Yeah, I don't work in that field anymore. God help me if I had breasts, I'd have probably be driven insane by the crazies. Women seem to attract the bullies even worse than us guys do!

Sean Chau
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This is my favorite reply. I think the problem isn't that there's a community of violent gamers out there, but more that there is a community of emo's who just sit around whine and complain.

Same bunch who'd be the first to complain about "overpowered" units in a multiplayer game for losing.

Ernest Adams
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The police aren't going to give you personal support or help you figure out how to handle it. Other people who have been there before can do that.

If you get cancer, you see a doctor, but it's also pretty helpful to talk to other people with cancer.

Mark Fronstin
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The forum comments on news sites are scary. I normally wont even post under my own name.

shayne oneill
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Youtube comments scare me the most. Dear god is there some stupid in those woods.

John Wallace
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Anyone considered how the film industry has dealt with this situation, considering it's existence long before video games? Figures like George Lucas should have received thousands of death threats at least.

Also, has any game developer ever had stalking issues with overzealous fans, and not just threats?

The idea of being stalked makes me a bit scared but that seems to be an rare problem.

Ron Dippold
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Tweets by Call of Duty gamers, incandescent with rage over tiny gun tweaks, to the dev (referenced in the article, but this collects some of the worst):

http://gamerfury.tumblr.com/

Warning - this is NSFW, NSF sanity, NSF anything, especially any faith you might have in humanity.

shayne oneill
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Woah, I thought the MMO kids got unhinged pretty bad when things where rebalanced, but thats something else. Racism, death threats, rape threats, all in one twitter. Ouch.

Erin OConnor
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1. look at what they posted. Strip away all the negatives and sour comments and see if there is an actual point/message/concern.
2. Address that concern.
Many times people make a post "in the heat of the moment" and don't think it through (their inner 15 year old comes out....or maybe they are just 15). When you address their concern politely many times they realize what a troll they were.

IF there is no substance there....make a reply and then delete it. (get it out of your system). Or simply delete the post/ban the account and be done with it.

Matthew Buxton
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You should see some of the comments we get ;)


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