In a sign of how frenzied, panicky and intolerant the games industry establishment has become over the legitimate concerns of ordinary gamers, the International Game Developers’ Association branded some 10,425 Twitter accounts, including those of journalists, as harassment “offenders” in a humiliatingly ill-conceived attempt to provide a “blocking tool” to its members.
The blocking tool, which has been widely mocked online for its lack of sophistication and “blanket ban” approach, was assembled by Randi Harper, a persistent online agitator. The tool prevents users from seeing not only the tweets of users Harper has decided are implicated in harassment, but also many accounts who simply follow those users, by blocking a list of thousands of users with the use of an automated “bot.”
So indiscriminately has the block list been compiled that the IGDA’s own staff appear on it. Roberto Rosario, chair of the IGDA in Puerto Rico, is named on the list. In an acutely embarrassing moment for the Association, Rosario, who is not a GamerGate supporter, publicly threatened to resign unless his name was removed or the bot was disavowed.
He later told Breitbart: “It’s ridiculous, an insult, its anti-ethical, probably criminal and just plain false. I’ve been fighting for freedom, openness, anti-censorship and equality. A simple Google search of my name will reveal all the projects I’ve headed or collaborated on. The facts are there, clear as day.” As we went to press, Rosario had received no communication from the IGDA.
Dozens of innocent developers, journalists and even some feminist critics have been caught in the tool’s exceptionally wide net, thanks to whom they follow on Twitter. Prominent internet personality and YouTuber Total Biscuit noted this weekend the absurdity of an international trade body accepting unfit-for-purpose software and capricious, arbitrary “harassment” clarifications by an independent developer who is hardly non-partisan in the ongoing GamerGate controversy.
He also criticised the “echo chamber” mentality that is leading to such heavy-handed and absurd attempts to stifle debate. This is the third or perhaps fourth time a block list or block bot has been assembled by opponents of the GamerGate movement, which seeks better ethical standards in game journalism and rejects feminist critiques of video games such as those of video-blogger Anita Sarkeesian.
Randi Harper herself is no paragon of civic virtue. She has been incarcerated on multiple occasions for what she claims were traffic offences but around which much more salacious rumours swirl, say games industry insiders. Harper denied on Saturday night that there was any more to her arrests, or the time she has spent behind bars, than her driving violations.
In the best traditions of far-Left feminist activists, Harper has also spuriously accused GamerGate supporters such as lawyer Mike Cernovich of “rape threats.”
As with developer and prominent anti-GamerGate activist Brianna Wu, who became notorious for her sock-puppeting and trolling on message boards and social media, there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy around the woman now earnestly claiming to be a brave warrior in the war against online bullying.
The International Game Developers’ Association included a link and endorsement for Harper’s block list on its website in a new “harassment resource” section. But critics say linking to the bot, together with poorly-judged wording, has only served to spark more unkind words on social media, the exact opposite effect the calming and supportive tone on the IGDA’s website evidently wishes to elicit.
Associations ostensibly set up to support developers are now actively driving a wedge between different sections of the community, as this latest episode demonstrates. Several industry insiders have told Breitbart that the proportion of professional developers who support GamerGate may be as high as 50 per cent.
Brad Wardell, chief executive of games developer Stardock, put the figure even higher in an October interview with The Escapist: “If you were to take an actual survey of game developers who are following this issue… the overwhelming percentage of them (>75%) are sympathetic with the #GamerGate people.”
Suggestions that GamerGate supporters are exclusively white heterosexual men, as feminist campaigners have claimed in order to brand it a misogynistic hate group, were blown out of the water ten days ago when writer Oliver Campbell released a video showing the sexual, ethnic and gender diversity of the movement.
These developers, many of whom are independent and self-employed, and who support ethical reforms in game journalism and denounce harassment, now feel they are not being represented by the trade body.
One contracted female developer, who spoke anonymously to protect her job at a mid-sized American design studio, told Breitbart: “The harassment of women narrative seems to have won in the media. But that has never been what GamerGate was about. And now the IGDA is siding with people who are in it for attention and not trustworthy, tarring thousands of us with the same brush.”
And a male video game enthusiast, who asked not to be identified, wrote: “I’m 28, male, white, and a survivor of child sexual abuse and torture. I have never harassed anyone online, and the fact that I have been placed on this blocklist simply because I fall in line with the GG ideas of ethics in gaming journalism is infuriating to say the least.”
“Now I have to worry about people picking my name off that list as a way of deciding that because someone labeled me a scumbag for nothing, I get to be harassed,” he explained. “If that happens I am going to be called a lot of nasty things, and frankly just the possibility of the kind of memories and emotions that could dredge up for me is terrifying.”
He continued: “I’m just some random guy on the internet that wants ethics to be intrinsic to any kind of news media. Gaming is a hobby of mine that has helped me cope with a lot of the things that happened to me in my youth and has helped me move beyond flinching when I look at my own scars. The two together are why I personally back gamergate, but the fears of being labelled the kind of person that did those things to me have prevented me from being very outspoken about it. Now that fear has be redoubled by this whole debacle.”
The block list endorsed by the IGDA contains a number of eyebrow-raising inclusions. Alex Wilhelm, a reporter at TechCrunch, the UK Twitter account for publisher Penguin, Guardian journalists, actor Taye Diggs, feminist critics and your present correspondent are all present on the list.
But perhaps the most absurd Twitter account on the list is the official account of KFC. That’s right: Kentucky Fried Chicken was, at least for a while, according to a prominent international video games industry body and thanks to the hysteria of so-called social justice warriors such as Randi Harper, one of the worst harassers of women on the internet.
In one final, finger-lickin’ irony, the IGDA’s executive director, Kate Edwards, was reportedly unable to see messages of thanks posted to her on Saturday night when she admitted the block had been a bad idea and removed it from the IGDA’s website, because she had herself already used the now widely discredited, and ideologically repugnant, bot.