Glumberland's Ben Wasser today addressed a wave of harassment the two-person studio has faced since announcing its game Ooblets would be an Epic Games store exclusive. In a post on Medium containing screenshots of particularly disturbing abuse Glumberland has received, Wasser acknowledged mistakes and missteps he made in how he dealt with that harassment, but emphasized that he was not apologizing or taking back his statements.
Wasser said the studio had always had a tongue-in-cheek tone when communicating with its fanbase, something he believes the wider gaming community saw as "condescending and patronizing." In the initial post, Wasser talks about people who threatened to pirate a game because they couldn't get it on steam as "the epitome of that word 'entitlement' that people use to discuss immature, toxic gamers" and suggested people channel any anger over the exclusivity deal toward climate change, human rights abuses, or other subjects worth getting upset about.
"By engaging directly with that crowd, I mistakenly thought I could have some impact on their opinions and emotions and defuse the situation..."
He hoped the post might help people see the Epic Games store debate in a different light, and responded to a number of people who reached out through public channels to complain about the post.
"By engaging directly with that crowd, I mistakenly thought I could have some impact on their opinions and emotions and defuse the situation with some lighthearted criticism of the main things that drove them to attack people," Wasser said in today's post. "You can see how well that went. It was a stupid miscalculation on my part."
Wasser then posted a selection of messages directed at him and the other half of Glumberland, Rebecca Cordingley. The message are full of people wishing or threatening violence toward them and calling them homophobic, racist, and/or anti-Semitic slurs. One of the more printable messages read, "just don't disrespect pc gamers and expect to get away with it you swines."
Wasser said, "I'd challenge anyone to be on the receiving end of this for a few minutes/hours/days to not come to the conclusion that a huge segment of the broader gaming community is toxic. People are upset that I've said that word. Now imagine someone getting offended by me using the word 'toxic' in the context of what this group has been saying and doing to us."
He went on to defend his characterization of some upset gamers as entitled, saying that sentiment seemed to draw the most enraged responses. A developer making a game does not need to capitulate to the demands of potential customers in the same way they might owe something to actual customers, Wasser said.
"I recognize that none of this post equates to an apology in any way that a lot of the mob is trying to obtain, and that's by design. While some of what I've said was definitely bad for PR, I stand behind it. A portion of the gaming community is indeed horrendously toxic, entitled, immature, irrationally-angry, and prone to joining hate mobs over any inconsequential issue they can cook up. That was proven again through this entire experience. It was never my intention to alienate or antagonize anyone in our community who does not fit that description, and I hope that you can see my tone and pointed comments were not directed at you."
As for why he addressed the backlash again, Wasser said the hope is that it helps the next targets of this kind of harassment campaign, perhaps by making individuals second-guess whether they want to join a pile-on of that nature. He concluded the post by thanking the people who publicly and privately supported Glumberland, those who helped moderate the studio's Discord channel through the worst of it, and Epic Games for its "unwavering support." (Epic released a statement yesterday noting the "disturbing trend" of coordinated hate campaigns and harassment, much of which employs fabricated evidence to spark angry reactions.)
"A lot of companies would've left us to deal with all of this on our own, but Epic has been by our side as our world has gone sideways," Wasser said. "The fact that they care so much about a team and game as small as us proves to us that we made the right call in working with them, and we couldn't be more thankful."