By Jamaal Ryan
The strategy of “don’t feed the trolls” only works to a certain extent within a certain capacity.
Online forums where there’s a community presence is a standard cesspool for internet shit talkers. A few weeks ago on IGN, I commented on an article that discussed the unknown quality of Eastern European narrative elaborating my experience playing The Witcher 2. Somehow someone took offense to that, pointing out the Killzone franchise and its subpar storytelling and how out of touch with reality they thought I was. I could have very easily belittled their logic, highlighting the fact that they were only able to call attention to a single game while there are countless game narratives from other cultures that are unequivocally poor as many are fantastic, but where would that conversation have gone? Nowhere but a volley of mindless and potentially increasingly hateful banter. So what did I do? I ignored the troll. Problem solved.
Developers are in a very different boat. They don’t have the advantage of being able to hide under the 500 posts on a comments section. Their popularity, particularly for faces of games such as Zoe Quinn, has staying power. You can’t remember nor likely would you be able to find the shit head who said that PC gaming is for frumpy degenerates who “don’t get any ass” or are “acne ridden and fat”, but type in the letters Phil F… and Google will auto correct the rest.
As an internet known developer, you’re the sole target. And being a face in such a sensitive and maturing industry can open you up to far more than some superficial insults on a thread. Zoe Quinn, known for her and her small team’s work on Depression Quest, might have wished that her online harassment was only reserved for isolated online venting. She’s received death threats and sexual harassment via phone, both in which can be traumatizing or trigger past trauma experience. Batting an eye then becomes as useless as attempting to douse a burning building with an ice cube.
Like all good advice to those experiencing emotional distraught from emotional abuse, Quinn emphasizes taking care of yourself. She discusses strategies like: using a form of metaphorical venting in taking a bank filled with glitter and smashing into bits for physical release; reading the most horrible messages in funny voices with a friend for uplifting social support; and helping others which elicits the antithetical feeling of being worthless as per hateful messaging, only then to receive gratitude for helping other people.
She also speaks about pushing back. Though I’m not quite clear as to how, going public seems to be an effective way of doing so. Just me writing about this is a product of public expression. It gets journalists, story seekers and bloggers to spread the word of internet abuse by humanizing its victims, and carries the message that “this ain’t fucking cool.”
The theme in how devs can cope is reaching out, whether that’s to a friend, a gaming publication, or even through volunteer work. Sharing your woes with a social support system is unquestionably healthy, especially when doing it in creative ways. Going public in a non-adversarial manner sheds light onto offenders and forces them into hiding. And remember, you’re always appreciated, being gentle and caring for others proves just that.