I’m a big fan of female gamers wisely standing up against harassment. I’m also a huge supporter of people standing up for themselves against any type of oppression. PCU is a community who believes in having your voice heard.
But it looks like some people want to monetize one of our most basic rights and ruin the reputation that gamer girls are working so hard to achieve and maintain.
So today, I want to talk about the Bully Hunters controversy, and what we can do moving forward.
This controversy started when some female gamers from CS:GO decided to put a stop to bullying on a game whose developer, Valve, is notorious for not moderating in-game chat. They formed a group called Bully Hunters, and various companies (including Steel Series) gladly sponsored what sounded like a great movement. The group was going to make a live recording of them finding bullies and “eliminate offenders from the game through the sheer force of their unmatched skill.”
Then, critics started noticing some problems, including what charity the proceeds were going to and the Twitch host’s history with insults. One of the biggest questions was “how do you plan to call out bullies and not bully them in the process?” Their answer was to tune in and find out on April 12th. Things started to get nasty, too. One girl asked on Twitter about where they got their statistics for all their arguments. In response, the Bully Hunters called her an “internal misogynist.” It was awful. Some people muttered that this could be another Gamergate. However, there were still many who were willing to tune in and support.
Premiere day comes around and the Twitch stream is a disappointment. It is pre-recorded and the “bully” they found is a username attached to an account of one of the Bully Hunters. To make matters worse, they spent a third of their video showing nothing but advertisements. It was a disaster from beginning to end.
As I write this, the Bully Hunters website and their Twitter account have been shut down, and Twitter is filled with people commenting on the mess.
The most heartbreaking comments are ones from other female gamers who say that this is a step back for women in gaming. It hurts because I think they’re right.
Female gamers have a special place in both the halls of fame and the sewers of the gaming world. We are praised and ridiculed and it’s not just about skill. Many gamers will openly admit to not having a mic because they believe other gamers won’t take them seriously once they realize it’s a woman behind the controller. There are many photos on the internet of girls “playing” video games with multiple comments about how fake the girls are. To be fair, some of them are pretty bad.
Movements like Bully Hunters sound ideally great and we all want gamers to stop attacking the person’s physical attributes rather than their avatar. I wanted Bully Hunters to succeed in their mission. However, they didn’t. Instead, they succeed in showing how easily an organization can manipulate gamers’ emotions to monetize for their own gain. There are those who do this for a living (EA), but at least they don’t pretend to be “one of us.” By doing this, Bully Hunters has damaged the trust gamers hold in small organizations who claim to be fighting for gamer rights. Any organization who tries to do this next will face unnecessary criticism and and probably fail to garner any viewers. As a result, many others will be hesitant to gather for a similar cause and gamers will once again find themselves in, arguably, “pro-bully” environments for the next year at least.
I admit that I’m demoralized by future female gaming movements. We just fell back a several steps on our uphill battle, but I think there are things we can do:
For the bravest, I think we should start chatting more through our headsets. Act like it’s no big deal and eventually it won’t be one.
For the quieter ones, I think we should just keep playing and be a part of any gamer community we like. Don’t feel discouraged if you’re the only female in a party. Just keep playing. Your skills will shine through and then it won’t matter. If you have the highest DPS, you’ll be invited back. They don’t need to know who’s on the other side of the screen and it won’t matter if the team wins the match.
For those in the middle, keep gaming. Don’t change anything. If you let this controversy affect your gaming, then the bullies win. If you keep playing, keep enjoying it, and keep winning, this Bully Hunters controversy will be a thing of the past. We’ll soon forget it and move on.
The point is, don’t give up. Every gamer has a right to their controller, whether you are the highest rank or the lowest. The best way to fight bullying is to keep going. Keep playing every day. The bullies will get tired, or lose rank eventually. Bully Hunters may have been a failure, but we aren’t. We are gamers and we are going to win.