The International Game Developers Association executive director Kate Edwards has revealed that the group is looking into starting support groups for developer harassed by fans. The group believes that abuse directed at developers by gamers is on the cusp of damaging the industry.
As part of a feature by Polygon, Nathan Fisk – lecturer at the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – told the site, “I think fans harass developers for a range of reasons, but again, it is always about power and position.
Co-author of ‘Bullying in the Age of Social Media’ Fisk added, “Fans are invested in the stories and worlds that developers create, and certain design decisions can be seen by fans to threaten those stories and worlds. Harassment silences and repositions content creators in ways that protect the interests of certain fan groups, which again is no justification for the kinds of abusive behavior and language seen online today.”
Suggesting that online anonymity has a part to play in the abuse, Fisk continued, “There are groups of fans harassing developers and representatives, and it can be assumed that very few (if any) of those fans have actually met those developers in person. Further, game developers are in many ways becoming public figures as they openly interact with gaming communities, and social networking technologies have made making contact a simple process.”
It follows a torrent of abuse aimed at Call of Duty: Black Ops 2′s David Vonderhaar over changes in one of the game’s balancing patches, which in turn prompted a response from BioShock Infinite’s Ken Levine.
On the other hand, Fisk added that indie devs may also have a hard time suddenly becoming public figures thrust into scrutiny at the hands of games. “In particular, I think that the game developers — more recently independent developers — are struggling with becoming public figures.
“I also suspect that problems with online harassment have long been a problem for the gaming industry, but with the level of visibility provided by platforms such as Twitter and the growing public concern over various forms of harassment among gamers, that industry representatives are no longer willing to quietly ignore harassing or threatening comments.”
Check out the full piece for even more insight from Fisk and former BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler, who left the studio this week after a hail of abuse from gamers over her work on Dragon Age 2.
Personally, as someone who has to face a mountain of slung shit from the internet on a daily basis just for reporting the news, I have to admit that I don’t envy any developer taking this kind of abuse from the game-playing public.
In short, it fucking sucks.