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Daily Reaction: Dealing With Internet Bullying in the Games Industry

November 7, 2013 Written by Sebastian Moss

orthful

With Adam Orth now discussing the huge impact internet bullying had on his life, the totally friendly internet pair of Seb and Dan form the Daily Reaction duo yet again. Can the two web denizens get to the bottom of all of the problems with the internet?

1) Why is internet bullying on the rise?

Seb: It’s easy. And kinda fun… Ok, look, that’s not what I’m supposed to say, but the satisfaction of calling an idiot an idiot should never be denied. The problem is, of course, something that should simply be discourse quickly descends into something far more sinister.

Take Adam Orth, he did something silly. The then-Microsoft employee went online and said: “Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an “always on” console. Every device now is “always on”. That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit”. The internet exploded with anger.

After a barrage of hate that included death threats against him and his family by email, social media and phone calls, Orth left Microsoft and moved house. Thankfully for this story, “turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to” Orth, according to his GDC Next presentation. It allowed him to reevaluate his life.

Sadly, it’s not always so easy. Sometimes people can’t come to terms with it, or sometimes they quit the industry. It’s a problem for many, and of course it will rise as the channels of communication between distant humans become increasingly accessible.

Dan: Thankfully, things did work out for Orth, but I don’t know if it was the ‘best thing’ that could have happened. Yes, we all become stronger by making it through a challenging part of life, and having to reevaluate your life because you had to for the sake of your family could count as that. But, the escalation that took place regarding something that should have been little more than an offhand remark should have stopped at simply pointing out Orth’s momentary ignorance and feeble mindedness, instead of becoming a genuine safety concern for his family.

This is a true example of how easy it is to get caught up in an argument, simply because you care so much about something you want nothing more than to protect it from anyone doing it harm. It is easy to let something get out of hand, and by doing it in a public space, you risk having something blow up beyond the conversation you had initially hoped for.

Being outspoken myself, I too have had an issue where things blew up outside of my control, as with what happened with the Ben Kuchera Beyond: Two Souls review situation. A simple question got out of hand, and nothing was resolved or even genuinely debated – leaving little more than a bad impression on both sides.

2) What does this mean for the games industry?

Dan: As the games industry is becoming more connected to the world through the internet, we are seeing the ability for an unparalleled level of communication between developers and consumers. This allows for products to get a great deal of feedback really early in development, or even allow for adjustments post-production. But, the biggest issue is that the majority of people who use a product do not spend their time on the internet complaining about it, that is only a small subsection of users.

This means that the vocal few, who complain that they aren’t being listened to, feel as if developers don’t care about any of their fans, causing them to lash out. Much as we have seen with the Orth situation, fans do not care about the destruction they will cause someone’s life in the real world, since the interaction takes place in a virtual world. ‘Passionate’ is a trait that could easily describe the majority of gamers on the web, but allowing it to become unbridled can cause much more harm than good. Just looking at the situation that took place with Phil Fish and the cancellation of Fez II, we can easily see how we can become our worst enemy.

Seb: Ugh, well for me it means way too much of my life is spent moderating comments, rather than doing something more constructive like giving people cancer. For the industry as a whole, it means that developers and publishers can’t get the nuanced feedback they need to make their games less awful.

The internet could be the greatest place for developers to draw inspiration and ideas from, but instead it’s a dangerous beast that needs to be fed carefully. It’s sad to think about how many discussions and debates developers would have had, but were left unsaid because of the worry that to mention something could cost someone their job.

We are holding ourselves back.

3) What should people in this industry do?

Seb: Normal internet bullying? Deal with it. Sorry. Look, you can take certain measures as a developer to make yourself feel safer – Robotoki have a panic button – or you can limit the ways people can talk to you, but the fact is that as long as you are on the internet, people will hate you.

Of course, if you do something ill advised, or just happen to be unlucky, you can end up being targeted far more aggressively, and seriously. Usually the answer is still to ignore it, let it blow over – and certainly don’t stoke the fires.

Unfortunately, threats against someone’s family are hard to ignore (even if they’re mostly from children), and the increasingly common web security-based attacks from the likes of Anonymous can ruin your life. In those cases, the police may offer some limited help, or you may be forced to do an Orth and move completely.

Basically, try to stay off the internet, you’ll be safer.

Dan: Well, protecting yourself on the internet really is a difficult thing and even if set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, people are going to track you down no matter how anonymous you are. The internet is a prime example of the saying, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’

What can be done though, is for anyone who seemingly types while being impassioned to take a moment and relax before continuing the debate. If you want a genuine change, you need to be listened to and taken seriously. So, unless you are a 10 year old who can’t form a proper sentence, don’t act like one and you won’t be thought of as one.

Are you an internet bully? Or have you suffered from the internet’s wrath? Laugh at angry computers below, discuss the banal nature of living on the web at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net and truly get to grips with the demons online by following Seb and Dan.