“...when seemingly good intentions go wrong.”
April 17, 2018 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Bully Hunters organizers shut down campaign after disastrous first stream [Polygon] “In just under 72 hours, the vigilante gaming group Bully Hunters went from an idealistic anti-harassment campaign to a prime example of what can happen when seemingly good intentions go wrong. Bully Hunters is an initiative produced by marketing agency FCB Chicago, composed of an all-female organization made up of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players trying to raise awareness of in-game harassment. The Bully Hunters website described the collective as a “vigilante hit squad of elite female gamers” who will enter CS:GO games when called upon, evaluate the situation and take out an offending player if the case is determined to be severe enough. A debut livestream, which reportedly featured pre-recorded, staged gameplay footage and specially branded SteelSeries headphones used for charity giveaways, aired Thursday night. Reporters and other industry members criticized the group’s harassment countermeasures before the livestream ever kicked off.”

• 'Bully Hunters' Organization Claims To Hunt Down Harassers In Games, Stirs Controversy [Kotaku]
“Last week, the Bully Hunters announced their presence in Counter-Strike, describing themselves as a collective that “connects victims of in-game harassment with gamers who want to help.” “The Bully Hunters are a vigilante hit squad of elite female gamers who have banded together to end sexual harassment and abuse in the popular game CS:GO,” said the announcement. In theory, the system works like this: if you’re experiencing “in-game harassment or verbal abuse” in CSGO, you go to the Bully Hunters website and login with your Steam account. At that point, you’ll be matched with a hunter, who’ll then friend you on Steam. After that, you invite them to join your game, and then they body the baddie and drop a message into chat saying that harassment is not a joke. Anyone can register to become a Bully Hunter through the initiative’s website, but the vetting process is opaque.”
•The rise and fall of anti-bullying group, Bully Hunters [Cyber Sport]
“Bully Hunters reached out to SteelSeries, a gaming equipment company, for support ahead of its launch - though even that has backfired. SteelSeries posted a statement on Facebook to debunk their involvement with the initiative. "BullyHunters pitched us with a simple idea - let’s work together to fight online harassment. And because we believe that’s a noble cause, we supported it. It’s now clear that we didn’t do a good job in understanding exactly what we were supporting. And we’re sorry for that," the statement explains. "The way BullyHunters represented the gaming community was wrong and disingenuous. Most gamers don’t experience harassment, and more importantly, 99%+ of gamers don’t do the harassing. We’re well aware of the many faults with BullyHunters. We hear you guys, and we agree," SteelSeries continued. "To clear a few things up: BullyHunters was not a viral campaign stage-managed by us. We did not hire a marketing agency to create it. We didn’t have anything to do with its execution, content or messaging," it continued. "And more importantly, we would never take advantage of an issue like bullying to sell hardware."”
• What Bully Hunters Gets Wrong About Harassment in Games [Paste Magazine]
“While the service provided aims to protect and help people who’ve had experiences similar to my own in videogames, I’m concerned with the approach and its potential impact. I understand the desire, in light of the overwhelmingly negative experiences women have in multiplayer games, to find a way to address or overcome it with direct action. However, in this case, the methods may be a little bit misguided. Not only does engaging griefers and trolls validate their negative behavior, it can also backfire and antagonize them, increasing the aggression towards their targets. Given how deadly that escalation can be, as illustrated by various swatting incidents over the past few years, it’s valid to ask if the tactic achieves anything in the long run. People’s lives may be put at risk for the sake of sending a message to an intended audience that may never receive it. On a practical level, in terms of maintaining a less hostile gaming environment, will it be worth it? Will there be enough Bully Hunters to address the need? Will response time be efficient?”
posted by Fizz (49 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Look, I don't know jack shit about MMO games, but I can basically guarantee you that there's no possible way in this world that an all-female group of gamers trying to end harassment was ever going to do this "the right way," and anyone who doesn't have a white penis who has ever dipped their toe into the broader community of the internet knows that as well as I do. "Concerned with the approach" my actual ass.
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on April 17, 2018 [48 favorites]


It astonishes me that anyone ever thought this was a good idea, for a million practical, sociological and ethical reasons. I can’t believe it made it past the very first meeting.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


"Seemingly good intentions" indeed.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Virtual swatting, the 4chan dream.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2018


Bully Hunters is an initiative produced by marketing agency FCB Chicago...

Well, there's your problem right there...
posted by Thorzdad at 11:01 AM on April 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


The Kotaku piece IMHO does a better job of explaining exactly what happened with the stream and why it was problematic than the Polygon piece. Short version: The stream may have been staged, and there is research suggesting that the approach proposed is counterproductive. (Also the usual horrible harassment of anyone who dares claim there is horrible harassment in gaming as general background toxicity; "this campaign wasn't perfect so everyone involved is garbage" type stuff.)
posted by Wretch729 at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


this is ridiculous. PewdiePie can recover from a racial slur, Logan Paul is still making fucking videos after his temporary suspension, 4chan and griefers can go and literally SWAT the fuck out of people but of course it's a group of female gamers who are roundly ostracized by various public facing institutions for taking a misguided step towards ending griefing

the worst thing I'm hearing from this is a 6-year old video of one of professional gamers using homophobic slurs?

if that were the bellwether by which we withdraw funding, we wouldn't have eSports of any kind, ever, for any fucking game
posted by runt at 11:05 AM on April 17, 2018 [25 favorites]


You know, when the Littlest Naberius came along, I was sad that I didn't really have time for serious gaming anymore. But I'm getting more and more of a positive attitude about that fact all the time.
posted by Naberius at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Kind of surprised if the whole thing isn't Gamergate hangers on from top to tail.
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


the core premise: centering the online gameplaying experience even more tightly around abusive players by making them the in-game target of "elite" "vigilante" gamers -- is breathtakingly counterproductive.

it's like making harassment something you can do to unlock an achievement where you get to take on a hit squad of high profile SJWs. yes, that's definitely going to deter bullying. jfc
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:09 AM on April 17, 2018 [20 favorites]


"When seemingly good intentions go wrong" hardly seems like an appropriate description for "actually it seemed fake, also third parties were dicks about it". The former isn't "going wrong" so much as "not actually having gone" and the latter is "other people's obviously malicious intentions going exactly as they wanted".

Nor does it seem particularly apropos for, as far as I can tell, "this idea seems really terrible but nothing terrible actually happened in the [potentially staged] demo".
posted by inconstant at 11:11 AM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


(Also the usual horrible harassment of anyone who dares claim there is horrible harassment in gaming as general background toxicity; "this campaign wasn't perfect so everyone involved is garbage" type stuff.)

Indeed. This is what is troubling. This group of gamers wanted to do something about the problem of online harassment in gaming. They went about it in a way that was not fully thought out. And now they're being further harassed and victimized in all of the normal hate-filled gamergate ways.

And of course the media is more focused on the WRONG thing, they're not talking about the actual problem of harassment/hate, they're focused on how this group fucked up in a particular way. It's such an ugly cycle.

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 11:12 AM on April 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


I'm just here to watch how misogyny will predictably help form all the hot takes.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:13 AM on April 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


The last video game I played was PONG, and it's shit like this that makes me grateful for that. Aigoo!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:15 AM on April 17, 2018


Like, seriously, "In just under 72 hours, the vigilante gaming group Bully Hunters went from an idealistic anti-harassment campaign to a prime example of what can happen when seemingly good intentions go wrong" makes it sound like the 72 hours was filled with vigilantes doxxing innocent people or something. From the description of what actually went down in those 72 hours, I would hardly call this a "prime example" of anything except possibly how out-of-touch marketing groups are.
posted by inconstant at 11:17 AM on April 17, 2018 [22 favorites]


Yeah, I was expecting this to be way worse than "not particularly effective" from the framing. If you want to frame it as "good intentions turned bad", then that creates the expectation that the "bad" is the same level as the "bad" on the other side, where actually trying to get people killed is a thing? You know, in the real world? With SWATing and organized campaigns to try to convince vulnerable people to hurt themselves?

I'd be genuinely interested to hear the angle here about the involvement of the marketing agency and stuff, just not the implications that what they did here is really equivalent to the actual bad guys.
posted by Sequence at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I was expecting this to be way worse than "not particularly effective" from the framing.

Yeah, it was hard to find articles in my roundup that weren't just your typical 'takes' on this subject, but I wanted to still have this discussion. In many ways the meta-discussion on how the media/games journalism is discussing the Bully Hunters is more relevant than their failure to follow through on their project. It speaks to the larger narrative of how we view anyone who dares to fight back against the ugly machine that is gamergate/toxic masculinity.
posted by Fizz at 11:25 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]




I struggle to find an angle from which to view this terrible idea from a marketing company as "fighting back" rather than playing directly into the hands of the problem it purported to be addressing.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Twitch needs to stick to Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross.
posted by Melismata at 11:37 AM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I struggle to find an angle from which to view this terrible idea from a marketing company as "fighting back" rather than playing directly into the hands of the problem it purported to be addressing.

it's a bad idea that's being treated as one of the worst ideas of the century, similar in scope to the kind of scrutiny and corporate responses that an actual white supremacist site would receive. actually, even moreso because it took reddit years to take down their white supremacist platforms and Twitter still hosts the same

the issue isn't that the idea is worthwhile, it's that the reactions to it, especially in context with the outrageously assbackwards misogyny in gaming spaces, that deserve criticism. instead of treating it as a well-meaning idea (fighting back against misogynist bullying online) poorly executed that could use some direction and guidance, it's being lambasted as an idiotic mistake made by homophobes and assholes who deserve to be erased from the scene by having their funding pulled and their attempt roundly mocked by gaming media
posted by runt at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


it's a bad idea that's being treated as one of the worst ideas of the century, similar in scope to the kind of scrutiny and corporate responses that an actual white supremacist site would receive

By who? I'm not seeing this in the linked articles.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2018


meanwhile, as pointed out repeatedly above, there are perpetrators of much worse shit (such as PewDiePie and just about every fucking bro Twitch stream out there with 30k+ subs) who have yet to draw any kind of criticism from the establishment or from their corporate funders

I remember back during the heyday of Starcraft II the backroom convos that would get streamed during the Homestory Cups that were just rife with racism and misogyny which advertisers cared nothing about and streamers happily absorbed to reinforce their pre-existing biases. that stuff still exists today in places like League, Pub:G - even the memes I see about a game I never play, Fortnite, have elements of just egregious bullshit that just gets a free pass

it's not a coincidence that these women are being held to an incredibly high standard whereas folks will fall over themselves defending the lowest bar they can set for their favorite bro streamer
posted by runt at 11:54 AM on April 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


By who? I'm not seeing this in the linked articles.

you're not reading that gaming companies are pulling their funding? the false equivalency in the SteelSeries comment? the fact that their public comment was the meat of most of these articles? the concern trolling of the Paste article that reads like it doesn't believe that griefing of the same kind doesn't exists on a daily basis on Steam's platforms?
posted by runt at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


What's the "establishment" in this case?

ah, don't do this bad faith bullshit. you know there are more than 3 gaming media publications plus a whole slew of public personalities on Twitch and Youtube and you know Fizz isn't going to give the nastier of those folks a voice here if he doesn't have to
posted by runt at 12:05 PM on April 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


search 'gamergate' or look up any of the 'response' videos to Feminist Frequency if you want to find their perspectives on this. I get enough of them in passing despite concerted efforts on my part to limit my intake of videos of angry, bearded white dudes yelling about women, especially those with depressingly over 100k+ views
posted by runt at 12:12 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


When women attack men in any way that has overtones of physical violence, even if it's only a fantasy game -- and no matter the provocation or how justified -- men just go apeshit.
posted by jamjam at 12:14 PM on April 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


edeezy, if you search MetaFilter tags videogames + sexism you'll find a number of posts that dig deep into the larger culture of how women in gaming are treated. I've created a majority of those posts b/c it's a subject I'm interested in. Maybe that will help you dig into the larger toxic/gamergate "establishment" that is being discussed here. I always try my best to provide a variety of articles from different sources. Hope that helps.
posted by Fizz at 12:15 PM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


These companies must be amazingly skittish if a few mean frog-avatared comments are enough to cause them to pull support and issue ridiculous apologies to the 'gaming community'. Have they seen how bad gamers are at actually following through with boycott threats?
posted by Pyry at 12:15 PM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


These companies must be amazingly skittish if a few mean frog-avatared comments are enough to cause them to pull support and issue ridiculous apologies to the 'gaming community'.

It's more like they're willing to accept toxic masculinity and harassment because this part of the gaming community generates so much revenue for them, so fuck everyone else, we'll accept trollish behaviour because there's $$$ to be made and advertisements to generate and profit from.
posted by Fizz at 12:18 PM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


"The last video game I played was PONG, and it's shit like this that makes me grateful for that. Aigoo!"

You should return to the gaming genre, some improvements have been made.*

* You may want to avoid online games with other humans, however.
posted by el io at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah Pyry, it goes well beyond skittishness to active complicity in the toxic misogyny of gaming culture. Misogynistic assholes are the core customer for a lot of these games, and gaming companies intentionally pander to them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:25 PM on April 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's more like they're willing to accept toxic masculinity and harassment because this part of the gaming community generates so much revenue for them, so fuck everyone else, we'll accept trollish behaviour because there's $$$ to be made and advertisements to generate and profit from.

which is why an anti-bullying campaign that increases attention and competitive gameplay for online harassers is complete and total garbage from the get-go.

I mean, if you want to start a guild that griefs harassers in your MMO of choice, more power to you, but I have zero good faith to offer marketing companies that are attempting to leverage this problem to benefit themselves and their clients in a way that does nothing to actually help the problem beyond "raising awareness."
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:28 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Lol wow it’s...I mean. Come the fuck on. It’s the double standard.

Men threaten to rape and kill women in real life so often it becomes a culture of harrassment; this is hardly worth mentioning, and certainly not worth doing anything about

Women threaten to kill men’s avatars in a video game in response to all the rape and death threats and it’s a Very Serious Problem and a Very Bad Idea and everyone involved is stupid and should get the fuck off the internet
posted by schadenfrau at 12:30 PM on April 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


Women threaten to kill men’s avatars in a video game in response to all the rape and death threats and it’s a Very Serious Problem and a Very Bad Idea and everyone involved is stupid and should get the fuck off the internet

On the other hand if any of my crone island neighbors want to form up a vigilante hit squad to solve this problem irl I'm not entirely against that. Ahem.
posted by phunniemee at 12:35 PM on April 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


it goes well beyond skittishness to active complicity in the toxic misogyny of gaming culture

That's the confusing thing, though: if they were truly embedded in the toxic misogyny of gaming culture, they would have never sponsored this thing in the first place. "How will self-described gamers react to an all-woman anti-bullying squad?" is a question that anyone even tangentially familiar with gamers could probably answer. So Steelseries' hasty dropping of support at the slightest whiff of gamer disapproval speaks, I think, to their core fear: being caught out at the fact that although they pander to gamers, they are not actually of them. What they unfortunately don't realize is that gamers will continue to buy their glowing mice pretty much no matter what they do.
posted by Pyry at 12:44 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


The links in the post weren't 100% clear -- did this ever actually exist, or was it just the dream of some marketing people? Did anyone ever actually Steam friend a bully hunter who then joined their game and killed someone?
posted by value of information at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't understand, how was this supposed to work? If you are being harassed in a game, you call in a "bully hunter" to... what? Play with the offender?
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Bad people on both sides"
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:57 PM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


you call in a "bully hunter" to... what? Play with the offender?

They spam them with GIFs of Teddy Roosevelt.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:35 PM on April 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


The links in the post weren't 100% clear -- did this ever actually exist, or was it just the dream of some marketing people? Did anyone ever actually Steam friend a bully hunter who then joined their game and killed someone?

I believe there was a single stream, which was scripted and had the bullyhunters pretending to be bullies to be hunted, changing their steam names so they looked like different people.

It was a misconceived, poorly executed and mockable idea that is being mocked for being misconceived and poorly executed.

I don't see the outpouring of toxic rage or w/e it's mainly pointing and laughing, and laughter is something we all need in these troubled times.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:56 PM on April 17, 2018


laughter is something we all need in these troubled times

Are you seriously suggesting that laughing at an attempt (however clumsy or ill-conceived) to address online harassment of women gamers is healing, healthy laughter???? Especially when a large part of these "troubled times" is a fucking President of the United States who has openly admitted to being a sexual harasser? Seriously?
posted by soundguy99 at 3:41 PM on April 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Yeah. Also, the whole story is really fucking depressing. I'm struggling to see what's funny about a misconceived attempt to raise awareness backfiring, and so clouding the issues about the appalling prevalence of abuse, harassment and bigotry in online gaming. I think there are plenty of people laughing about it, not because it's funny, but because they're pleased by the damage to anti-harassment efforts.
posted by howfar at 3:48 PM on April 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Someone mentioned the Bully Hunters on Overwatch the other day, and I honestly assumed that it was a group of probably-mal-intentioned male gamers who were trying to deliberately stir up shit and provoke a new Gamergate. It's kind of depressing that it is actually just a bad marketing idea with all the same negative outcomes.

I mean, I remember back when I played Diablo (the original one) and I ended up so annoyed by the stream of cheaters who would come to the game with a maxed-stat spoofed character and murder the actual players that I downloaded a cheating program myself. On my main account, I just used it to see the stats/equipment of incoming players to see if they had obvious spoofed items. If they did, I went and got my cheat-enabled alt character and them murdered them back until they got bored and left. Trying to vigilante this stuff for others never seemed like a good idea, though.

(Once I took out someone with just my regular character because he had not built his cheated itemset well and I was able to stunlock him with The Needler after he Fireballed me once. XD)

Anyway, I guess the moral is that I understand the urge to strike back, but it's still almost always counterproductive.
posted by Scattercat at 3:20 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


"The way BullyHunters represented the gaming community was wrong and disingenuous. Most gamers don’t experience harassment, and more importantly, 99%+ of gamers don’t do the harassing."

Ah, we're back to the familiar old saw-horse here, the fragile egos of self-identifying gamers. 'How dare anyone say that gaming has a misogyny problem, I'm a gamer and I'm not misogynist at all!'

If you don't want to be complicit in that shit, don't sweep the problem under the carpet like that. Own that your hobby/community in aggregate has a problem, acknowledge it, realise that it isn't a personal attack on you individually, and from there, work can be done on tackling the problem. A 'nuh-uh, how dare you!' response shuts the whole process down or mires it in arguments about whether or not the problem is an actual existing one before it can even get started.

I play games, some of them online. Fuck online gamers. In aggregate, as a culture, they are the worst.
posted by Dysk at 5:49 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


And now I've read this article and I hate the gaming community more than I thought possible:

In South Korea, Gamers Stage An Inquisition Against Feminists [Kotaku]
“A swarm of gamers had unearthed and publicized the Twitter profile of an artist at IMC Games while looking for feminism-sympathizers in the South Korean games industry. The artist hadn’t hurt anyone, hadn’t even set her bra on fire. All she’d done was follow a few feminist groups on Twitter and retweet a post using the slang term “hannam.” In response, her employer, IMC Games founder and CEO Kim Hakkyu, who is regarded as one of South Korea’s most influential game designers, launched a probe to investigate her alleged “anti-social ideology,” promising to remain “endlessly vigilant” so it wouldn’t happen again. The investigation, he explained, was a “sa sang gum jeung,” a verification of belief—the same word South Koreans used in the Korean War to verify a citizen was not a communist.

For two years, vigilante swarms of gamers have been picking through South Korean games professionals’ social media profiles, sniffing out the slightest hint of feminist ideology.”
*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 2:50 PM on April 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Their Gamergate is mainstream I guess. Great.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on April 19, 2018


Yeah, it's an informative and very depressing read.
posted by Fizz at 4:28 PM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]




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