Plugged In

How gamers are killing the game industry

Plugged In

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Dragon Age II (Credit: EA/Bioware)

There has been a rash of ugliness in the gaming world lately -- and it’s potentially more damaging than court battles or political posturing about game violence could ever be.

A small minority of players are threatening to drive some of the most talented people making games out of the industry with their bullying, harassment, and threats. Polygon's Brian Crecente has worked up the definitive piece on this subject, and it's absolutely a must-read for anyone who cares about video games.

Jerks have always been a part of the gaming culture. You don't have to look any further than an online game of Call of Duty to discover that. But that rancor has been spreading recently, as a minority of gamers emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet and upset over tweaks to games or the general direction of a title's narrative has turned their venom to the people making the very things they profess to love.

How bad is it? Here are a few examples Polygon cites:

- Call of Duty: Black Ops II

In July, Treyarch studio design director David Vonderhaar announced a patch to the game, which seemed fairly minor to most players. Before long, though, he was receiving death threats. Vonderhaar kept his calm, simply saying "Not sure these fractions of seconds are worth the threats of violence."

- Fez

After getting into a Twitter war with writer Marcus Beer, Phil Fish, creator of indie game sensation Fez, hit the boiling point, announcing the cancellation of the game's development and his immediate departure from the industry.

"i am done," he wrote. "i take the money and i run. this is as much as i can stomach. this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. you win."

- Dragon Age II

Jennifer Hepler was a writer on the role-playing game Dragon Age II. The game's ravenous fan base got so upset that she found herself receiving not only death threats aimed at her, but also threats against her family and children.

"I did my best to avoid actually reading any of it, so I'm not quite certain how bad it got," she said. "I was shown a sample of the forum posts by EA security and it included graphic threats to kill my children on their way out of school to show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have me as a mother."

Harassment aimed at developers isn’t necessarily new, but it's never been in the spotlight. The Polygon story starkly exposes how bad things are for game makers today, and hopefully will help usher along the process of correcting what’s an increasingly worrisome – and ultimately damaging -- problem.

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