Adam Orth, a former developer at Microsoft provided an extended version of his GDC Next talk Mob Rules: The Destructive Power of Opinion and Online Community at GDC 2014 this week, and explained how Internet vitriol affected him on a personal level.
According to GI International which attended the session, Orth discussed how death threats against him spun out of control, and how folks were "wishing cancer upon him and his child.
"I was becoming the next victim of the Internet hate phenomenon. It was an absolute feeding frenzy. My public and private life was fair game," he said. "People began to distance themselves from me. I was dejected, ashamed, and embarrassed. I destroyed my career and feared being blacklisted by the industry. I went from income to no income.
"The reason that Internet threats are terrifying is not the possibility of the realization of a violent act; it's that society has regressed to a point that this behavior and discourse is an acceptable and expected response to something someone doesn't like or agree with. Most developers don't even raise an eyebrow at this because this is the new normal.
"As an industry we've become desensitized to this insane behavior because it's overwhelming, ubiquitous, and unstoppable. Somehow we've devolved while moving forward, and there's no going back."
Orth said he wanted to provide quotes in his talk from other game developers, but most would not go on record for fear of being bombarded with 'revenge' in the form of internet toxicity, and the developers who would discuss it, would only allow their opinion or experience to be divulged anonymously. Those who would speak with him, said such behavior was making them reconsider their careers.
"Be the shining example to inspire others to action. Never forget the joy you get or that you give by illuminating it with video games," he offered. "Internet toxicity has the power to shit on something beautiful and destroy it, [but] I survived.
"You either curl up in the fetal position or you carry on...This was the best thing that happened to me. When I tell that to people they can't believe it, but it's fucking true. I saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime. I grew closer to my friends and family, I matured as a person, I became a better parent, got healthy and lost 50 pounds, and I recommitted and rededicated myself to my creative life.
"Life is too short to worry about anonymous internet activity. You have to look inward and block it out. What they are saying is a reflection of their life, not yours. Fighting back on their level is pointless. Eventually they tire out. Keep building, keep dreaming."
Orth is developing a game called Adrift, which spotlights the destructive power of Internet toxicity