The gaming industry reached a new boiling point this week as more than 200 people made allegations of sexual assault, rape, and harassment. They came to social media to tell heartbreaking stories about overcoming the fear of ostracism and proceeded to tell stories of unpleasant behavior from their abusers.
This week feels like yet another upheaval in the industry’s attempt to deal with discrimination. It is weeks after the Black Lives Matter protest began to shake up the industry, along with the entire nation, about black abuse. That eruption sparked a positive response from the gaming industry to improve its treatment and representation of blacks. And it seems that this new eruption will also bring about changes for battered women and others, as long as the movement does not fail, perhaps due to inaction by those in power, as has happened in the past after great moments like in 2019 or 2014.
It has happened before
The answer is different compared to 2014, when fewer women criticized the sexist gaming culture and were criticized by anonymous critics on the Internet in a controversy known as Gamergate. Feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, and others warned that the gaming industry had a problem of sexism and harassment, although much of that discussion focused on how women were represented in games. , the alleged corruption in gaming journalism and the lack of representation of women in gaming companies.
In the summer of 2018, Kotaku published a long story about a culture of sexism in Riot Games, showing systemic problems in a company where 20% of the approximately 1,700 employees were women. Riot apologized, changed her management and staff practices, and proposed new values to support her “brother culture.”
Another eruption occurred in September 2019, when the #MeToo movement hit the games. Leaving the movement that hit the media and entertainment industries, a handful of cases involved allegations of men sexually abusing women in games. The abuse allegations named prominent independent game developer Alec Holowka, the co-creator of independent hit Night in the Woods. He died of suicide shortly after charges were brought against him.
Other allegations also shed light on the gaming industry’s #MeToo issue, but they were often unique cases that came and went in the news cycle. And in the wake of Holowka’s death, the anger of the anonymous posters often went against those who dared to speak out for “ruining the lives” of the alleged abusers.
This time, the allegations have affected all parts of the industry: game developers, marketers, advertisers, influencers, game journalists, live broadcasters, and large (Ubisoft) and small companies.
While many women faced more harassment from anonymous posters on Twitter, this wave of accusations was also marked by a shower of supportive comments. They included women who corroborated the stories of women who came out with stories of abuse, making it difficult for the accused men to hide behind the denials.
“I support you” or “I believe you” are common reactions in many of the survivors’ publications. Clearly, as last year’s eruption demonstrated, survivors who shared their stories took enormous risks because they had to weigh whether the revelations would lead to a backlash. Much of that reaction has happened, but support has also been received.
One case unleashed the latest allegations
A former community manager named Karissa (@SJBsMama on Twitter) started with an indictment on June 17.
As we do, here’s another man to add to the gaming industry’s predator junk pile. Yesterday was the first time that I said anything publicly about this, and I finished keeping silent, even though that idiot in the answer told me to shut up. I WILL NOT DO. Subject: pic.twitter.com/bXXQHkQmcV
– Karissa☕️ @ ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼 | WEARAMASK😷 (@SJBsMama) June 20, 2020
In the case of Chris Avellone, a prominent writer of games like Dying Light 2, the allegations were so numerous, as were the corroborating statements of others, that game developers immediately severed ties with Avellone. Wild Cat, the creator of the upcoming RPG The Waylanders, said Avellone is no longer associated with his project. Techland also cut ties with Avellone in Dying Light 2.
Here is the statement about our cooperation with Chris Avellone: pic.twitter.com/ozLXZdVPZw
– Techland (@TechlandGames) June 22, 2020
Online Performers Group CEO Omeed Dariani has stepped down after allegations of abuse by an Overwatch community development leader on Twitter. Broadcaster Lono apologized on Twitter for his behavior towards women after other influencers called him. Astro Gaming quickly said it would stop sponsoring Lono.
And on Wednesday, Ashraf Ismail, the creative director for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, also stepped down from his role in Ubisoft’s next big game after the allegations.
I am giving up my beloved project to adequately deal with the personal problems of my life. The lives of my family and mine are shattered. I’m so sorry for all the wounded in this.
– Ashraf Ismail (@AshrafAIsmail) June 24, 2020
Ubisoft also said it is investigating a series of allegations made in recent days against its employees for abuse, rape and harassment. “We are deeply concerned about these allegations. We take allegations of abuse or harassment very seriously and are carefully analyzing the allegations to determine next steps, “a Ubisoft spokesperson said in an email to GamesBeat.
Many of the allegations are now archived in a Medium post created by Jessica Richey, a streamer in New York. Those allegations include responses from defendants when available.
It appears that many of the largest companies in the industry have multiple cases, leading to accusations that they failed to enforce their human resources policies. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear stated that the company was investigating incidents related to its employees. Insomniac Games, the creator of Marvel’s Spider-Man, was also accused by a former employee of doing little to stop predators. The company said it was taking appropriate steps to address the accusation.
Discussions also extended to the mistreatment of employees in general. IGN’s former management, for example, was accused of mistreating journalists and forcing them to create incorrect stories, along with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Many gaming companies have recently pledged their support for Black Lives Matter and have pledged to eradicate racism from their ranks. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, promised that Microsoft would investigate the circumstances surrounding the resignation of a black employee in Mixer (which is closing) due to what the employee said was racist treatment.
And now it appears that sexism and sexual harassment will also be investigated, again. It seems that many more people will be watching now to see if the investigations result in a change.