Game Developers May Need Support Groups

The relationship between gamers and game developers is unusually toxic lately. It's getting to the point that creators could benefit from support groups. The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is considering just such an idea to cope with the volume of bile coming toward creative professionals in gaming.

While the advent of social media has made it easier than ever before to get in touch with game developers, this has not been exclusively a positive thing. Polygon recently ran an article describing the massive amount of hatred that developers receive from fans. This often includes rape and death threats, in addition to good, old-fashioned mean-spirited verbal attacks.

Responses to harassment

"We have [encountered] all kinds of personal-level incidents of sexism and developer harassment and LGBT bias," Kate Edwards, executive director of IGDA, told Tom's Guide. "None of these things are unique to the game industry, naturally."

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First things first: At present, the IGDA has no immediate plans to start support groups. "It's something we're looking into," Edwards said. "We're getting a sense among our developer community of how big a problem it is."

This is not simply a matter of asking developers to "grow a thicker skin" or "tune out" the noise from the criticisms. A commenter threatening to kill you or your family — whether or not you seriously think the person will go through with it — is not easy to ignore. When those threats come in immense numbers, the odds of someone actually following through increase.

"I have not had a lot of people who specifically raised the issue [of physical threats]," Edwards said. "[We] have sexism and other issues in the industry that go unreported for all kinds of reasons, whether it's personal or organizational … We're trying to elucidate and get a sense of how big of an issue this is."

The differences between criticisms, verbal attacks and outright threats can be difficult to parse. Death or rape threats often require intervention from law enforcement, which is where things can get tricky. If the IGDA does eventually implement support groups, it will be up to individual chapters to work together with local law enforcement when necessary.

Beyond that, there are two main avenues for potential support groups: in-person and online. "IGDA is a virtual, global community. It's very likely that it would take an online form," Edwards said. The group already uses Skype to hold meetings for chapter leaders on a regular basis.

That said, the group has individual chapters all over the world, and if there is a spike of bad online behavior directed toward a particular studio — as happened for BioWare in Edmonton, Alberta after the controversial "Mass Effect 3" ending, for example — a local IGDA group could organize a real-world meeting.

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  • ubercake
    Seriously, if you don't like a game, don't play the game.

    Too many people are living in mom's basement these days with no job, no friends and nothing of their own and nothing but time on their hands to give game developers a hard time. Their sole existence is based around the next game coming out and if they're disappointed in it, they take it out on the developers. Quite a sad waste of a life really.

    Also, people need to keep in mind the things usually making games bad in some way were most likely dictated by some greedy executive.

    If you don't like a game, just don't buy it and don't play it.
  • kittle
    As usual - they miss the point

    IMO the real issue is theres NO PENALTY for people who say these threats from their keyboard. And since theres no penalty, people will keep doing it.

    Try saying the same things in person and watch what happens.
    The same stuff needs to happen when said in person or "said" from a keyboard.
  • threehosts
    This sounds more like a witch-hunt for so called "hate speech" posts and a ruse to find ways to obstruct free speech online than an actual issue that the developers have to deal with.

    It's not nice to get threats from other people online. It's not nice when you don't get any likes from 'friends' on facebook after putting a lot of effort into posting something there. It's not nice to read things that you don't agree with. There are a lot of things out there that aren't nice. But that doesn't mean we should forbid them. Free speech is a very important pillar to a society that builds upon the human rights of the individuals in it and mark my words; it is not a coincidence that it is stated as the very first amendment of the US Constitution. It's like Voltaire once said:

    "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

    Let's not forget about it. People have and should have the right to voice their opinions though what they say might not always be pleasant to hear about. Voltaire fought for this in the 17th century and I can't believe this is 2013 and still people have to make this point.

    So if developers are facing such threats and cannot handle it then perhaps they should distance themselves from such social networks and perhaps approach them with a wall of anonymity like most of us do. There is an old saying; "If you cannot ride with the big dogs then STAY ON THE PORCH!", it is as simple as that. Personally I appreciate to hear or read about what people write or say about me even though it is hostile. I rather know that there is a threat against me than be surprised in a back alley by an armed d-bag. Res ipsa loquitur; it is the person behind the words that is the problem and not the post he or she made.

    Then we have this, ... "thing" about sexism nonsense that goes on. Most of us don't like this LGFT thing and just like we have to respect LGTF people for who they are, they in turn have to respect that we in no way whatsoever want to be associated with LFGT things that LGFT people do with each other and that we find such things very odd and unnatural. And to be honest, I think the vast majority of them do whereas the 'Great Establishment of Political Correctness' work their as*s off to raise issues about it.