Thousands of Game Developers Support Open Letter Against Harassment

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Whether a video game is independently produced or a AAA title, it's fair to say that a huge amount of work goes into turning concepts into reality. Video games generally take anywhere between two and five years to produce, with some carrying development times even longer than that, and there are often teams of hundreds all working on individual moving parts.

Given how much work goes into making a video game, it must be frustrating for developers to see their complex and creative playgrounds turned into forums for abuse. From the harassment of female players documented on sites like NKA and Fat, Ugly or Slutty to actual felonies like the current trend of "swatting" (calling in a fake threat to local police to punish a rival player), there exists a loud and obnoxious minority group of gamers who seem determined to ruin the fun for everyone else.

Both independent and AAA game developers have now banded together in support of an open letter against online harassment - not only in-game but also on sites like Reddit, Steam and Twitter - penned by Spaces of Play developer Andreas Zecher. Over 2000 developers - including more than sixty Ubisoft employees, several members of the Rockstar North team and eight people from Deep Silver - have all undersigned Zecher's message to the gaming community.

"We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.

"If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites. If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in."


The open letter comes in the wake of a tumultuous few weeks among the gaming community, including controversy surrounding Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn and the release of a new video in Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. The video was praised by game developers like The Last of Us writer and director Neil Druckmann, Double Fine Productions' Tim Schafer and even BioShock 2 creative director Jordan Thomas, whose game was critiqued in the video and who stated on Twitter that "Everything [BioShock 2] was called out for, we deserved."

While many members of the gaming community responded positively or with thoughtful criticism to the video, much of the discussion has been derailed by harassment. Sarkeesian herself shared graphic death and rape threats she'd received that included personal details, leading her to vacate her home in fear of her personal safety, and Schafer's support of the video earned him plenty of vitriol - including a suggestion that he kill himself.

One of the many problems with harassment, threats and personal attacks is that they drown out reasonable debate and poison the well of communication between developers, video game critics and the gaming community. With that in mind, curbing abuse and harassment in order to promote civil discussion is in everyone's best interests.

Source: Andreas Zecher

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