3 things that have made gaming social media more toxic

By on August 28, 2014 12:09:02 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
+1120

imageThe game industry as been ablaze for, really, the last couple of years about misogyny within its ranks. This really came to a head in the past couple weeks when an outspoken “indie” game developer was accused of some sordid activities in exchange for media coverage.  

Online culture has a serious toxicity problem. It gets worse every year. Here are 3 things that are driving it:

#1 The tabloidiziation of the gaming media. 

First, I want to emphasize that the gaming media isn’t some monolithic thing. There are a lot of good publications and journalists in the game industry.  But at the same time, they, like you, know who and what I’m referring to, are often appalled by them, so I think they, and you, will forgive me if I simply describe the usual suspects as “the gaming media”.

It’s not just that the gaming media publicizes every tawdry rumor or speculation about the individuals involved in making games. It’s that they actively take sides and drive the narrative. This is extremely divisive and thus creates a constituency of people waiting “their turn” to air their grievances.

The gaming media likes to create heroes, villains and victims.  I’ve been portrayed as all 3 even though I’ve never been any of the 3:

  • I was a “hero” because I refused to put copy protection on our games. But I wasn’t really a hero. I believed that we would generate more sales by not inconveniencing our customers.
  • I was a “villain” because I was accused of “sexually harassing” our marketing manager.  But I wasn’t really a villain. I hadn’t actually done anything beyond sending a mean email to an insubordinate employee who happened to be female (and she later apologized publicly).
  • I was a “victim” when Demigod got released on Good Friday by GameStop and our lack of copy protection allowed hundreds of thousands of people to jam up our servers keeping people from playing.  But I wasn’t really a victim because if I had planned better, we would have had a more robust multiplayer infrastructure up before release.

The problem is that the gaming media gets more hits from demonizing game makers which makes their audience angry and causes them to lash out at the appointed villain.  So contextless articles are written designed to make you hate someone, usually people that the article writer already has a problem with. Those articles then live on via search engines perpetuating people being mad and going after the appointed villain. Toxicity is created, spread and maintained.

This is easy to demonstrate.  Right now, Google my name. “Brad Wardell”.

On Google, you’ll find my Wiki entry, twitter and my blogs and probably linked in.  But right after that? Slime. 

Note that I’ve been in the tech/game industry for over 20 years. I’ve done a lot of stuff in that 20 years ranging from writing the first commercial 32bit computer game to designing Start8.

Now, Google search someone the media has exceptional…sympathy for. Go ahead.  Look at the top entries there.  Compare.

For me, the really frustrating parts is how out of context and biased the actual coverage can get depending on what is being covered. The media and the subsequent trolls loved to take snippets or something without any curiosity of the larger context (such as incredibly insubordinate comments from someone – “you need to make an appointment with me before coming to my office area”) in order to create the narrative they want to incite their readership.

The point is, the gaming media is perfectly happy to profit from spreading toxicity into Internet culture.  The only difference now is that people are able to push back against the narratives being foisted.

 

#2 Professional Victims

The professional victim is an individual who takes advantage of good hearted people.  This is particularly the case in the game industry.  If someone’s media coverage / social media influence greatly outstrips their actual accomplishments, they might be a professional victim.

I’ve been getting death threats and online flames since the beginning. I didn’t go around complaining about it because, like most people, I know that the world is full of jerks and idiots and if they’ve heard of you, they will sometimes target you.  The professional victim, by contrast, will convert trolling into media gold which just so happens to get coverage for their new game or new project.

The professional victim is purposely trying to ruffle feathers and then gain exposer for their project by the outpouring of abuse they take.  But only some people are allowed to be victims. If some gruff man were to start critiquing the fashion industry, any complaints he had regarding the “harassment” he received due to the inevitable insults directed his way would be ignored. 

Professional victims rely on the fact that we don’t condemn intolerance and abuse universally. Because of that, like issue #1, the culture becomes more divisive, more toxic. When people feel they haven’t gotten a fair shake or that their beliefs are being misrepresented, they get angry.

Lastly, a reminder: Trolls customize their insults just for you.  They will pick what they think will upset you the most and use that. If you wear your grievances on your sleeve then it’s just that much easier.

 

#3 Unaccountability

The typical stereotype of the online “troll” is that they’re some kid.  But the nastiest of the trolls tend to actually be people who actually work IN THE INDUSTRY (or close to it) posting anonymously. 

Sometimes they post as themselves but because they have the correct “politics” they get a pass. One of the worst trolls I’ve had to deal with was the founding editor of Kotaku. He even made a YouTube video comparing me to Hitler (it’s still up if you search for it).  Imagine if the former editor in chief of Kotaku posted a video comparing a female game developer with Hitler. What do you imagine the coverage would be? What does that tell you about the attitudes of some people in “activist” media?

The fact that Twitter and YouTube still allow anonymity for their users is [A] Not surprising but [B] a major reason why we have so much shit on the Internet. People are a lot more reasonable when they are posting as “themselves”.

No easy answers

I wish there was an easy answer.  In a click-bait driven Internet, toxicity sells.  I suspect we’ll be forced to live with that.  But people don’t have to sit back like sheep and be manipulated by it.  They can push back when some “journalist” posts a hit piece and call out hypocrisy on those who complain about “harassment” when in fact they’re part of the culture that cultivates and profits from it.   In the meantime, grow a thick skin and try not to let it affect you.

So that’s my 2 cents anyway for what it’s worth.

TL;DR version:

The tabloid parts of the gaming media shit out a lot of toxicity that lives on forever via search engines. Unaccountable trolls read up on this and then perpetuate the original toxicity by keeping it alive, thus perpetuating the cycle. Meanwhile some cynical people capitalize on the gaming media bias to get career boosting publicity despite their meager real world accomplishments.

18 Replies
Search this post
Subscription Options


Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 3:04:18 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Nailed it. Great post, thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you for the unfair press treatment you've received in the past.

I'm in AAA industry and its gotten to exploding point for me, I've finally decided to go anonymous and have made long rambling thoughts on it on an anonymous blog as it feels like there is a lot of feeling of intimidation from SJW types on the internet. I've tried to get this blog seen time and time again, yet it has been universally moderated and deleted everywhere I try and put it despite me trying to be reasoned and honest and not trying to inflame or insult. I just feel gagged and want to say my piece.

I think this is an important issue to talk about and few, except brave souls like yourself who are perhaps helped by the fact you've already been burnt and labeled unfairly. too many others are silent due to fear of being labeled a misogynist for disagreeing with these professional victims, especially since the press seem keen to take their stance over anyone elses.

The link to my blogpost is here. please read / let it stay as I've felt I've had no voice on these issues and that any critical viewpoint is suppressed as sexism by default.

http://nastythingssaidabout.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/the-terrible-misogyny-in-the-games-industry/

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 4:45:41 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Pretty fantastic article and I think this will resonate with a lot of frustrated people who feel shut out and even demonized by current games media. 

But I can't fully agree with this: "People are a lot more reasonable when they are posting as “themselves”."

You can look at all kinds of Facebook comment sections on news articles (political and religious ones for sure), or the recent controversial week on twitter, or even just public youtube videos, and you can see people publically say incredibly offensive things with their real names and pictures of themselves. I don't know how they do it, personally, especially when all their family and employers can see. The lack of anonymity definitely curtails some behaviour for some people, but not all. 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 5:34:10 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Same disagreement on the anonymity, otherwise I'm with Wardell completely, decent people are pushed aside, kind people are taken advantage of, permit the expletive but "degenerates" are made vocal, one escape out of this is anonymity, you can't control anonymity as well as a real name through status, fame or exclusion. Anonymity doesn't censor terrible or great points on a subject which makes it the most approachable way to discuss something, the only power your comment has is your comment.

 

Although, with recent events and all the Twitter scavenging, NSA stuff really, real names also helps to spot the huge hypocrites.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
Sign Up or Login and this ad disappears!
There are many great features available to you once you register. Sign Up for a free account and browse the forums without ads.
August 28, 2014 6:37:35 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Sometimes we don't want to post as ourselves because of the very people whom you are talking about. Not that most people's anonymity would stop them from being as much of jerks to us.

I prefer Pseudonymity just to add some small barrier to the jerks of the world and keep it separate. I use the same name everywhere, so I build up a reputation on that name rather than my real one.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 7:27:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Quad55,

http://nastythingssaidabout.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/the-terrible-misogyny-in-the-games-industry/

 

phenomenal!  will share..

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 7:36:03 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

I'm all for anonymity on forums and other places.

It's the "mainstream" places (Twitter and YouTube) I start to have issues because some of the worst trolls I've dealt with in the gaming world were actually IN the game industry posting anonymously. Once I found out who they were and let them know I knew who they were they slinked back to whatever rock they lived under.

 

 

 

 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 8:44:10 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

I'm all for anonymity on forums and other places.

It's certainly not so much of an issue here [on Stardock's forums] as most respondents are SD customers....ie.  we know who you are.....

 

I think the propensity for being abusive idiots on FB, etc [social media] whilst posting under real names is more accurately an indictment on the IQ of the typical user of social media.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 28, 2014 8:55:33 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Fine post on the video gaming entertainment industry today.  A few points:

One direct consequence of all the recent game "journalism" shenanigans is some of those journalists are leaving the industry.  The ship is starting to show signs of sinking.

Another problem that is rarely discussed is that the journalists reporting or even worse reviewing don't actually like games, don't have a passion for games, have no desire to be involved with the media of games, and some even hate games.  The reflection is in their work.

 

I submit, elimination of anonymity is not the solution but will eventually lead to far greater problems.  We're talking about persistent strong armed political correctness and silencing the dissent here.  I submit, an explosion in trolling will occur because trolling becomes a standard skill set to employ due to the fact it will carry real consequence to the victim and is one of the few ways to sneak your opinion into the conversation with some limited deniability.

Take note that a number of American civil rights leader celebrities today have a reputation for going around aggressively shaking down businesses at the first smell of opportunity.  Imagine with Stardock's past history, A.S. comes by demanding a volunteer charity "donation" from you and she won't use her influence to raise attention to the latest so called scandal.  Let's face it, when it all boils down all these people want is your money which they believe is rightfully theirs.  "Cough up the money Wardell and try not to choke too hard while doing it."

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 1:49:45 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting TheEureka,

I submit, an explosion in trolling will occur because trolling becomes a standard skill set to employ due to the fact it will carry real consequence to the victim and is one of the few ways to sneak your opinion into the conversation with some limited deniability.

Not here it won't.  Not when a poster's joining date may coincide with the advent of 'trolling'.  It's all about the efficiency of 'administration'.

The 'O' in 'JAFO' is for 'Observer' ....

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 8:29:59 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Jafo,


The 'O' in 'JAFO' is for 'Observer' ....

So, you are part of the NSA...I thought so.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 10:41:16 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Great post.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 2:36:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This reminds me that the gamingsite I always went to, started posting about politics (and I totally disagree with their views) and now I visit them with adblock on so they don't get a red cent in adrevenue. Don't want to support them anymore.

 

I can understand guys who have something to lose like yourself. Have to say the correct things or some gamingjournalist might paint you in a bad light. That's what I like being completely unknown in gaming circles. I can say what I want and if people don't like it, too bad! 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 3:03:05 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

The internet is the largest repository of knowledge in the history of mankind.

Sadly most people use it for trolling, starting arguments or looking at pictures of cats.

So what's the answer? Learn all you can, enjoy the cats and have as little to do with people as possible

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 3:20:23 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

 

Quoting Jafo,

I think the propensity for being abusive idiots on FB, etc [social media] whilst posting under real names is more accurately an indictment on the IQ of the typical user of social media.

Quoting Fuzzy Logic,

Learn all you can, enjoy the cats and have as little to do with people as possible

Now there are some things that I feel worthy of both comment and karma. Thanks. Fuzzy and Jafo.

 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 6:57:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Fuzzy Logic,

The internet is the largest repository of knowledge in the history of mankind.

Sadly most people use it for trolling, starting arguments or looking at pictures of cats.

So what's the answer? Learn all you can, enjoy the cats and have as little to do with people as possible

Amen to knowledge and cats.  I think I can still say "Amen", at least I hope I can.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 7:34:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Amen to cats, knowledge, and connecting.  Our wisdom and compassion has not increased as quickly as our toolmaking expertise.  Sad.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
August 29, 2014 7:39:23 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Amen to saying 'amen'.........wait is that the new (old) 'like'?  

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
September 5, 2014 10:15:12 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Great article!

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
Stardock Forums v1.0.0.0    #101114  walnut1   Server Load Time: 00:00:00.0001640   Page Render Time:

Home | About | Privacy | Upload Guidelines | Terms of Service | Help
WinCustomize © 2014 Stardock Corporation. All Rights Reserved.