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Michael Condrey: "I certainly wouldn't characterise the community as toxic or misogynistic"

CoD: AW director has "low tolerance" for exceptions

Michael Condrey, the director of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, has challenged the idea that the gaming community is characterised by offensiveness and abuse, saying that he's experienced little to none of that attitude in his time in the industry.

"I certainly wouldn't characterise the community of fans I know and had the pleasure to engage with as toxic or misogynistic," he told the BBC.

"The community as a whole is very healthy, engaged and thoughtful and probably like anything anywhere well outside of gaming. In the fringes of a lot of areas of society there are examples of people behaving poorly."

Condrey also had some advice for CoD players, reiterating that there are procedures in place for reporting players who don't stick to the rules.

"Come to the game to have fun, come to be social, come to enjoy and build a community and have a positive energy," he said. "Toxic behaviours, abusive language, inappropriate emblems, I don't want that around. So for our community, Sledgehammer Games and Advanced Warfare we have pretty low tolerance for toxic behaviour."

Condrey's comments are a stark contrast to the thoughts of some, who have attributed the abuse and threats received by a number of developers, players and journalists in recent weeks to a poisonous culture which they believe has co-opted gaming and/or its media.

Advanced Warfare is out tomorrow: Tuesday November 4th. Whilst some analysts are predicting lower sales this year than previously, based on pre-order numbers, the game has reviewed well as the embargo lifted today. Expect a full round up of scores and opinions in a Critical Consensus on GI later today.

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Latest comments (31)

Dan Tubb Investment manager, Edge2 years ago
I play a lot of MOBAs, which are a kind of turbo charged petri dish of utter toxicity.

But the most damaging thing is not actually the toxic morons, it is how you yourself react to them. Providing your game gives you the option to build a friends list and to mute the morons you can quickly adapt your experience to suit you. Yet time and again I see people getting into massive flame wars and spend the whole game in the chat box, some even head to the games forums to elicit further sympathy or hostility.

It rather like a microcosm of another issue in gaming today which I just refuse to get drawn into. I suspect gaming as a whole would be much healthier if everyone could just accept that some people cannot be helped, and then ignored them, rather than endless futile back and forth name calling.
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Nick Parker Consultant 2 years ago
Unfortunately, as we'd all like to move on, whatever our views, mainstream media, always the last into industry debates, continues to stoke the debate - BBC Radio 1, a UK contemporary music station targeting 10 to early 20s, aired a piece on Gamergate today, around the Advanced Warfare news item.
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Erin Anderson Sr. Technical Developer Relations Manager, EA2 years ago
This is a pretty sad statement, actually; "I don't see it, therefore it doesn't happen" - typical head-in-the-sand syndrome. Yes, it would be great if the overriding issues weren't a problem and they could just be "ignored", but the fact of the matter is that there are still rampant sexually charged attacks and breaches of privacy going on, and until we, as an industry, can find a way of making it stop, it is blatantly irresponsible to collectively put our fingers in our ears and say "la la la la la, I can't hear you", and hope that it simply goes away. The situation has already gone too far for that.
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Show all comments (31)
Christopher Ashton Carlos Software Programmer 2 years ago
From my experience with CoD and League of Legends, the "from the people I know..." remark is very likely a small and tiny percentile of the actual community. Heck, it's likely they even are not aware if someone is toxic, because when you "know" someone, you "know" they don't "mean" those "jokes" they say. No one takes ownership for their own language these days. I know some of my friends I play with, we have fun and try to be cheery even when losing, even if you have someone on the other end shouting "Raped!" every time they kill your body, and start humping your dead carcass as virtual insult.

The most common words you hear are people spewing things like "Raping, killing, inflicting some unspeakable act upon your mom/sister/both" and it happens a lot. I think one issue is that games like CoD will always have these people expressing these behaviors, due to the aggressive fast pace and twitch nature of CoD. It doesn't give one time to think or relax, it's always drawing out adrenaline from the player, and the responses they make from it are drawn from their more primal behavior.

As for LoL, I think part of the problem with the community is that it's always "someone else's fault." There is some very toxic players, and I feel I observe the most toxic behavior from low level players (or possibly high level players with a smurf account) and the higher end level players, who think they are "professional" level and "too good" for the "sh**" team" they are on.
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Alex Lemco Writer 2 years ago
"I certainly wouldn't characterise the community of fans I know and had the pleasure to engage with as toxic or misogynistic." said A Man At A Major Games Publisher.

Well, in the face of this compelling evidence, I don't see any other option but to say the online community is almost completely free of misogyny. Pfft. Honestly, I don't know what all these women are complaining about, etc....
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Carolyn Pollard Studying BA (Hons) Creative Writing, Edge Hill University2 years ago
This statement is a big fat middle finger to all the female gamers, producers, journalists, critics etc. who have had to put up with the apparently non-existent misogyny within the gaming community. Personally, I don't touch online gaming, and this toxicity and misogyny is the sole reason why. I know I'm not welcome and my skin isn't thick enough for me to just brush it off - your generic gamer-to-gamer 'banter', maybe, but not when the insults are gender-fuelled, and I'm being targeted constantly over the other players because I have breasts. It's really rather shocking that such experiences are relatively minor in comparison to that of the high profile women in the community who have been threatened and doxxed recently. Games are no longer a means of escapism when your players feel ten times more alienated and victimised in the game world than they do in real life.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
I had a different takeaway to everyone else, it seems, from Mr Condrey's statement, and it's one that I would agree with.

Despite the claims to the contrary of many members of the toxic element of gaming, they are not typical of gamers. They are not the majority of gamers. They are simply the loudest because the real majority prefers not to get involved.

it's a lot like walking down the street. In the area where I live, you'll get catcalled 30-50 times in the course of a day out shopping**, with a few taking pictures or following you or otherwise being a nuisance, and it's really unpleasant. And if you confront any of the perpetrators, they'll say it's natural, they can't help themselves, and all men do that...

... while completely ignoring the fact that I've passed literally THOUSANDS of guys while walking around who haven't had any urge to stop minding their own business and annoy me. It doesn't change the fact that I'll want to add new locks to the door when I get home - a minority can still do damage - horrible damage - especially when it's allowed to run rampant and the responsibility for controlling that damage is placed on the targets, not the perpetrators ("that's what the block button is for" "dress less slutty*").

As I've said elsewhere (though I'm not certain how valid this information is for shooters, my experience is with MMORPGs), the people who pay for our games are the ones who are silent - they log in day after day, play it like a one player game with a big market, don't know where the forums are and talk as little as possible in any public channels. They are the silent majority - silent largely because of that toxic minority, but as the majority THEY are the ones who should be identified with "gamers".

I can think of other names for the more obnoxious elements, but I'm classy so I won't say them outright. But they end in "Hat", "Wit", "Bag" and "Poodle."

So if what Mr Condrey is saying is that they have a lot of good eggs and would actually ACT on reports of toxic behaviours they have such low tolerance for, AWESOME!

If, on the other hand, what's actually happening is that there's loads of behaviour that would be considered godawful by someone ACTUALLY TARGETED BY IT, and it's simply not recognized because "THIS IS A FUNNEH JOKE, GUIZE!" then I cannot facepalm hard enough.

*This is amusing because I live in a cold, unpleasant part of the country and wear the world's largest, thickest, most shapeless and all-enveloping coat at all times. At one point I found Prester John's lost kingdom in the inside pocket. The only way in which it makes me look hot is through the buckets of sweat that pour off me when I walk into any heated environment. In fact, I was once mistaken for a donation pile for Oxfam.

** Yes, I'm not exaggerating. Also, this is a LOW number compared with major cities.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 4th November 2014 5:51am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
Yes, there are 21st century digital hooligans out there. But thinking they were the norm among those engaging with games on the Internet is wrong.
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Helen Merete Simm Senior UI Artist, Ubisoft Reflections2 years ago
I also took something else from it...
Condrey also had some advice for CoD players, reiterating that there are procedures in place for reporting players who don't stick to the rules.

"Come to the game to have fun, come to be social, come to enjoy and build a community and have a positive energy," he said. "Toxic behaviours, abusive language, inappropriate emblems, I don't want that around. So for our community, Sledgehammer Games and Advanced Warfare we have pretty low tolerance for toxic behaviour."
I took this to mean he doesn't consider all the COD fans to be asses. Which they aren't. And he expects the fans to behave like decent human beings. Because theres no place for the ones who don't.

Its a clear statement that neither alienates his fans, or fans the fires of the asses. Diplomatic and good.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Helen Merete Simm on 4th November 2014 10:56am

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Alex Comer Games Developer 2 years ago
@John, no, it hasn't been blown out of proportion. The media response is entirely proportionate to the scale of the problem, because it's a big problem. What's not in proportion is the number of people who Ė instead of simply condemning the bad behaviour as they should Ė complain as if there is an attack on all 'gamers' (whatever that means), or as if 'men' are somehow being oppressed, or as if the media are making it all up to create click bait (sure they love to stir, but that doesn't mean the toxicity problem doesn't exist.) What's not in proportion is the amount of denial and victim blaming.

Perhaps if there were simple, universal condemnation of toxic behaviours from the majority community, more of those quiet, nice bystanders would be encouraged to report the bad apples and gaming culture would change.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
I'm curious that people are unhappy with this statement, or are interpreting it as insufficient or dismissive. I'd agree with Bonnie's interpretation.

What do you want, here? You want the director of a major franchise, with an enormous engaged player base, to come out and say 'Yes, our players are the problem! They are culturally toxic and/or misogynist!'. How do you think that will go down? And given that we, a collection of supposedly erudite industry professionals / commentators, cannot agree on what the statement means, what hope of any nuanced condemnation be properly interpreted? The fact is, you engage substantively with this topic, you get burned, no matter the subtlety of your position.

He said harassment isn't welcome. He said there are tools to deal with it, and asked people to use them. You want him to go further and smear the entire player base, or risk being perceived as such?

This "with us or against us" nonsense is risible. Most people are just trying to navigate this as best they can.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 4th November 2014 1:37pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@John Owens

You're right, I hold onto the misogyny card because receiving emailed pictures of angry penises from strangers is not to my taste, nor are graphic rape or death threats. It's a taste thing, because I clearly didn't like the game I was fighting to continue playing in the face of such things.*

It is a tiny percentage of gamers that act like this, but they do present their toxic culture as "gamer culture" and that sense of entitlement and the assumption that anyone not tough enough to take it doesn't belong, is a problem. And it is a big problem. Even one stalker can push someone to suicide, here we have hundreds.

They are a very small percentage of gamers, but it is not a small problem.

Experiments were done after the E3 incident and the way Jennifer Hepler was treated, where male and female online journalists would post more or less the same article - just minor changes in wording - and then see how long it took to rack up 100 threats.

Articles posted under a woman's byline got 100 threats in the time it took the male journalist to get 3.

Even leaving the human decency angle out, here we have a small percentage of players, spending a very small percentage of the money, dictating (by creating an environment many people do not want to be in) who can and cannot play games, who can and cannot make games, and who can and cannot talk about games. Allowing it to continue is simply bad business.

* May contain sarcasm.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 4th November 2014 2:29pm

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
Articles posted under a woman's byline got 100 threats in the time it took the male journalist to get 3.
I wonder if it would be the same in any other industry?
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@Tom Keresztes

While I think the articles published were on gaming related sites etc, there have been a lot of women journalists in other fields suffering the same thing - the common factor seems to be "online" rather than "gaming", especially if something gets linked to Reddit or 4-chan.
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Thomas Glen President & Co-Founder, ValorCon LLC2 years ago
I wonder if it would be the same in any other industry?
I say it is irrelevant if it is the same. This is the industry we've chosen to operate in, so this is the one we should focus on. My gut tells me that fixing sexism in our industry is something we are much more likely to be able to affect vs. fixing it in every industry at the same time.
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Dan Pearson Internal Business Editor, Square Enix West2 years ago
Hear hear, Thomas. Let's deal with what's on the doorstep before we dismiss it as a social problem that's beyond our control.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 2 years ago
These harassers are obviously very angry people, while their actions are extreme and idiotic, the anger they have will be shared to various degrees among a much larger group of people.

Personally I think one of the causes is that, they don't feel listened to and that they don't feel valued, games media in particular seems to shifted to a more elitist, snobbish form, where often games are criticized not by a fellow gamer but somebody looking in on the game from the outside like, if it wasn't their job, they would never of touched the game in a million years, and opinion pieces where anyone that is offended, is told your to dumb to understand the article, which just compounds the offense.

Basically my view is that mainstream games media needs to win these people back or else they'll gravitate to the more extreme sensationalist youtube personalities that have a vested interest in keeping emotions volatile and people with volatile emotions do stupid things.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Personally I think one of the causes is that, they don't feel listened to [...] Basically my view is that mainstream games media needs to win these people back
I would be curious how many of these people are straight white males with no health issues. I could understand not being listened to if they were PoC, or disabled, or had mental health issues - how many articles have you read about any of those groups, let-alone all-three together? Conversely, I would be curious how many of those white-males were marginalisd within wider society - how many were poor/are on free-school-meals//are unemployed (or have unemployed parents)/are in debt (or have parents in debt)/are bullied at school.

Which is to say, I don't think gaming media specifically ignores the demographic who harass. But it could be that the people who harass are ignored or blamed in wider society, and they lash out in the one area they feel they can control.

I really want to see a proper anti-bullying network/organisation set-up within the gaming industry. Does one exist already and it's just not widely talked about? It seems... odd that there isn't one, so surely there must be.

Edit:

Not wanting to fan-flames or anything, but I've not seen this linked anywhere other than Twitter, and it's good reading.

https://pixietalksgamergate.wordpress.com/gamers-are-dead-article-analysis/

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 5th November 2014 12:29pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
I do think there is a nugget of truth in Eric's point. I think part of the explosive reaction to, say, Leigh's article (and others like it) is driven by the fact that, in the world view they present, 'privilege' is conferred by maleness and whiteness, and heterosexuality; the many good points they raise are often clothed in the language of gender and racial diversity. But the reality of the world is that privilege is largely conferred by wealth. Not solely. But largely. It is the greatest predictor of life chances, by an order of magnitude.

If you tell a young man who doesn't have a decent job, has a low level of education, and is, therefore, in society's eyes a relatively low status individual that they are 'privileged', with all the small-minded piety that vocal proponents of such viewpoints usually use, then they are unlikely to be open to the message the author intended.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 5th November 2014 11:44am

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Nick, I think maybe you and your hypothetical low-status young man have misinterpreted the concept of privilege as it pertains to social status. 'Privilege' only works when you understand the concept of intersectionality, which is quite a simple one: that every person in the world has different areas in which they do, or do not, benefit from privilege.

It's not a simple case of 'you are a man, therefore you have no problems at all' - that's not what we mean when we talk about male privilege. (Or white privilege, or cis privilege, or able privilege, or class privilege, etc) It is simply that a man, in otherwise exactly the same circumstances as a woman, has an advantage in life solely due to his gender. So your hypothetical young, badly-paid, badly-educated man is still marginally better off than a young, badly-paid, badly-educated woman. He's still probably doing worse than a well-paid, well-educated woman, but even she is doing worse than a well-paid, well-educated man. Assuming of course that all of these people share the same racial background, sexuality, physical/mental ability, etc. Intersectionality is a simple concept, but when you put it into practise there are many variables to account for. At the end of the day though, it's not a points race - you don't add up all your privileges and rank yourself against everybody else. Recognising when you have or do not have privilege is a very important part of helping to dismantle that system, however, by ceding power and attention when you can to those who do not benefit from the privileges you have.

I know well that it can be hard to accept at first, and I have little doubt that a lot of the backlash feminists and anti-racists and disability activists and etc face is simply due to mainstream misunderstanding(wilful or not) of the concepts we are talking about. But it is impossible to intelligently engage with these subjects without doing some learning and having an open mind. Unfortunately I'm not sure there's much we can do about those who refuse to listen and learn about such basic ideas.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 5th November 2014 11:51am

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
Hi Jessica, yeah, I get that. And I accept (most of) it; that all else being equal, a white male heterosexual faces fewer barriers in many areas of life. I wouldn't dispute that at all. Like Louise CK says, being white is awesome. And yeah, most of the meat of these discussions is simply drowned out in the sound and fury of the internet.

I'd merely make a couple of observations. One is that the caveat *all else being equal* is never given enough importance. I'm familiar with some of the arguments that, yes, whilst individual circumstance will always override the systemic privileges (or lack thereof), producing lots of anomalies like underprivileged men and over privileged women, the *systemic* parts of the equation are what need to be tackled. In other words, the forces that make the averages worse for women, minorities etc. I would be totally on board with that. They need tackled.

But what I find more difficult is the relative blindness of people to the *systemic* properties of wealth inequality, and the utter lack of importance given to them in discussions of this kind. In other words, poverty and the status it confers is a systemic issue just like gender, just like sexuality, just like ethnicity. Moreover, it's the most predictive systemic factor by a country mile. And because the internet often has no idea how rich you are, but very often knows your gender and race, it gets no airtime in discussions (in games, anyway, plenty outside it). As an industry we are so focused on this aspect. Perhaps we have to be, given the nature of the reaction we've seen. I don't know.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 5th November 2014 12:36pm

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I think possibly the biggest difference between 'wealth' as a privilege category and something like gender or race is that gender and race are qualities you are born with and cannot change. Even people born into a lower-class family can become wealthy, although of course it's easier for someone from a higher-class background, and the two('wealth' and 'social class') are often conflated. That's why I avoid framing 'wealth' as an innate privilege, since it's something rather more situational. I tend to think of wealth and influence as indicators or 'rewards' of privilege rather than privileges in themselves, particularly because they can be distributed to those less fortunate in ways that innate charateristics like skin colour or gender cannot, but tend to be accumulated by people who are already privileged in many areas.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 2 years ago
My point is that the games media used to treat their audience as equals, now I feel increasingly a sense that it is talking down it's audience or at least its traditional audience, this disconnect, personally I think is fueling discontent. Looking at that article Morville posted full of prime examples of games media failing to communicate in a good way, many of the articles could be worded in a much less inflammatory way to get across the same point, it's not the readers fault for taking offense, it's the authors either by accident or design.
.
I don't believe its a single demographic that is harassing people, but I do believe they could be agitated by common issues, its by tackling these issues, understanding why people are angry and addressing concerns, which will calm things down and reduce idiotic behavior
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
@Jessica, I see your point, yes; the counterpoint is that whilst in theory the poor can become rich, in practice we know that this happens depressingly rarely. Poverty looks situational (and often is) but take a step back and look at the statistics, and it's clear that in aggregate it isn't. Your parents' wealth determines your life chances to a greater degree than anything else about you; it's a systemic problem. Innate privilege, perhaps not, but the dice are so loaded it barely matters.

Obviously getting into the weeds a bit, here, but things get even more difficult when you start trying to tease apart the issues of race and poverty. Are some minorities disadvantaged because of ethnicity? Or because of poverty that intertwines with ethnicity? It's not often clear where one begins and the other ends. It's why it's important to include it in the mix if we really want to address under-representation of minorities in game development. For some demographics, it's probably the single biggest contributory factor to their under-representation in the industry, given that gaining access usually requires a tertiary education of some kind.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
@ John

Not trying to start anything (insert obligatory smiley here :D ) - can you point me to the article/tweet she says/implies that? Thanks. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th November 2014 9:09am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
That's okay. :) To be honest, the link I posted a few comments up appears to be the only timeline/analysis of the whole controversy, so no wonder it's so hard to keep track of what's being said/who said it/when.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
The whole thing is slightly reminiscent of that scene from Anchorman.

"Did...Leigh Alexander throw a trident at someone?"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 6th November 2014 10:07am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Moreover, notice that this "Angry Gamers attack women" narrative, has been overuse to describe the whole ordeal of one female developer, at the time of the article(s).
Mulling over the other points of your comment, but this one is not quite correct. Quinn's treatment was the straw that broke the camel's back in a lot of ways - Jennifer Hepler and Jade Raymond have both been subject to horrendous abuse in the past, as well as other developers (both male and female). And Zoe Quinn, before, actually, back when she placed Depression Quest on Steam Greenlight. I would be inclined to say that journalists rounded on the stereotypical "gamer" identity as a means of doing what the industry as a whole didn't do - standing up against the abuse that developers get, from gamers who think they're owed something.
Maybe, that is why gamers, that did not fit her view, got upset at her?
The thing is... See, this is why I'd like more anti-bullying talk in gaming. I've read tons of these articles (or similar ones in different fields), and I didn't get upset. But then, my identity is not tied to what I do/the entertainment I enjoy. I can certainly see some people (kids especially) getting upset at having their "gamer identity" destroyed if they have real-life experience of bullying, because it's just another form of being belittled. But that doesn't excuse anger and threats. And, as I note above, anger and threats have been coming at developers for a few years now - long before the "gamers are over" articles.
Why not talk about the bad apples in the gaming culture and target them alone instead of using generalizations and stereotypes?
From the article:
Right, letís say itís a vocal minority thatís not representative of most people [...] Donít blame an entire industry for a few bad apples [...] Suddenly a generation of lonely basement kids [...] We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games
I would say she makes her targets clear - If you identify as an "angry young man" or "lonely basment kid" then, yes, you have every right to be hurt. Beyond that? No.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th November 2014 3:41pm

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playing the victim
Please, stop using this phrase. It's incredibly disrespectful of people who are simply talking about being harassed. Refusing to be quiet about being targeted for abuse is not the manipulative act you keep framing it as, it's a very important and powerful way of personally processing the harassment and letting others - particularly those who are also experiencing harassment, but are either too afraid to speak up or just have no audience - know that their experience and their feelings are valid.

What you are doing by calling these people, who have the actual courage to protest this abuse, weak and counterproductive is essentially gaslighting and victim-blaming.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 6th November 2014 6:45pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Quitting or playing the victim in social media will get them some support, but not as much as if they actually took a stronger stance against bullying and harassment. It is an unfortunate fact that not all people have the same backbone to stand against something, but if others, around them, are showing support, then do not quit or play the victim.
I'm sorry, but... What do you mean here? "A stronger stance against bullying"? Like, saying you're being bullied and that threats have driven you out of your house isn't a strong stance? I would class that not as "playing the victim", but as standing your ground, and saying enough is enough.

You can argue that gaining wider media attention is "playing the victim", but again, I don't think that's true. When there is a crime, it occasionally falls to the victims to publicise it and try to ensure it doesn't happen again. Gabrielle Giffords speaking out for gun control, for example.

GG'ers are portraying themselves as victims, and you seem to have no problem with that, so I don't quite understand what you're getting at here.

(Will try and respond to other points tomorrow night... Have work tomorrow, so can't be up too late. :p )
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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
if the kitchen is too hot for those people, then don't become a chef
So you are saying it's the victims' faults, then?
how we response to those horrendous things define us
Quite.

Another quality comments thread on the subject of gamers and harassment.
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