Standing up to bullying and harassment in video games should be a goal worthy of the gaming community's support. But after Bully Hunter's live stream on April 13, they've encountered the behavior that their organization was created to fight.
When Ge'NeL first learned about the creation of the BullyHunters, we wanted show our support for an organization standing up to harassment. BullyHunters' was cloaked in mystery until it's launch. Their teaser video did just that--teased, offering no details except that women gamers are tired of the casual sexism and harassment that's treated as if its supposed to be normal and accepted by everyone. Like everyone else, Ge'NeL had to wait until their first live stream for more details.
BullyHunters seeks to address the growing problem of in-game harassment and bullying. The premise is " to connect victims of bullying with elite gamers who can come to their defense in real time." It's almost like a buddy system. If you're being harassed in game, you hit the button and ask for a hunter to come to your aid. Their purpose isn't to harass the bully. Their purpose is to offer assistance. Someone to have your back. Despite the message, BullyHunters is facing swift backlash online for a myriad of reasons.
Reasons for Backlash
During their live stream, there was a mixture of support, uncertainty, expected trolling and the behavior that Bully Hunters was created to fight. Afterward, Twitter was aflutter with talk of BullyHunters' stream. While some called it a "trend" others called it a scam. The data that BullyHunters used was not thoroughly researched and may have been extremely exaggerated or made up. We attempted to verify the given sources but ended up with more questions than answered.
"21 Million female gamers..."
BullyHunters claimed that "21 million female gamers have experienced sex-based taunting, harassment or threats while playing video games online." This number was based on an article written in 2012 that surveyed 874 women. Then, BullyHunters exaggerated the figures based on market size estimates. BullyHunters named YouGov as its source, but did not provide a link to the survey for this particular statistic. Ge'NeL was unable to find any such research to verify this statistic.
"Over 3 million female gamers have quit a game because of harassment"
Again, these figures are based on market size projections (estimations) in relation to the 874 women polled in the 2012 article. The BullyHunters quotes, but misrepresents the quote with the omission of the word "temporary." They also greatly exaggerated the "874 women" in the study via the PriceCharting blog. What's more concerning about the information that BullyHunters cited is that, when one Twitter user, Platinum, asked about the figures, she was dismissed and blocked due to being an "inter-misogynist". Platinum, a mental health researcher, deciphered BullyHunter's stats in a blog post.
People thought the platform wasn't inclusive to men
Male gamers claimed the platform was biased against men and took offense to not being included. Some pleaded that "men experience more harassment than women," information likely seen or quoted from PEW Research Center that said, "Overall, men are slightly more likely to experience any form of online harassment (44% vs. 37% of women)". For women, however, harassment isn't about name-calling; It's about being respected as a human being. That same study conducted by PEW found that "among adults ages 18 to 29, women are more than twice as likely as men to report experiencing sexual harassment online (21% vs. 9%). And among the youngest adults – those ages 18 to 24 – women are more than three times as likely to be sexually harassed online (20% vs. 6% of men)." It's a very serious problem that some men and women do not care to address.
Viewers of the live-stream thought the in-game harassers were fake
After watching the video several times after the live stream, it's very possible that the CS:GO matches were scripted. Ge'NeL has no way of knowing this for certain. A possible explanation for being scripted or in a custom match is to demonstrate how the BullyHunters platform works, which would have been acceptable had they disclosed that the matches were either scripted or customized for demonstration purposes.
"They're just bullies themselves"
After their video demonstration of how BullyHunters works, critics of the campaign felt as if the Bullyhunters were just bullying the bullies, which solves nothing. Critics also shared a year-old tweet with Bullyhunter spokesperson, ZombieUnicorn exhibiting behavior akin to those bullying. Though, after reading the tweet, it is clear that ZombieUnicorn was defending herself.
A general lack of understanding of the severity of online harassment, especially in video games.
What's more disheartening, however, is the way critics have responded to the BullyHunters, their misinformation and their existence in general. People have different ideas of what harassment is and expressed difficulty in understanding the difference between typical in-game shit-talking versus flat out harassment. Many began harassing BullyHunters' partners via Twitter--their behavior actually displaying why women gamers are trying to fight online bullying to begin with.
Most male gamers do not believe harassment in online gaming is a "thing". And those who do mis-characterize it as name-calling and don't think it's a big deal. And that's part of the problem that people fighting against in-game harassment are facing. People who dare speak up against in-game harassment are called white knights, social justice warriors, feminists or feminazis and worse in order to detract from actually addressing the problem.
While people can easily hit the ignore/block button, ignoring the problem does not solve the problem. When you hit the ignore button, the offending person think's he or she has won and will take his or her behavior to someone else. However, when people speak up and stand up to bullying, letting the offender(s) know that that behavior is not okay, there is more of a chance for that person to stop the offending behavior and not continue or at least try to correct their own behavior in the future. That is the importance of speaking up and standing up for others.
These mistakes by BullyHunters led to, not only the backlash, but their partners pulling their sponsorship and the BullyHunters' website being taken down. SteelSeries issued a statement, though, issuing false statistics of their own in order to combat the backlash they received due to their affiliation with BullyHunters. Diverse Gaming Coalition went so far as to throw ZombiUnicorn and SteelSeries under the bus.
Diverse Gaming Coalition went so far as to throw ZombiUnicorn and SteelSeries under the bus.
All in all, the BullyHunters' intention to combat in-game bullying is noble. However, they lacked professionalism of thorough research, transparency in their actions and inclusiveness of male gamers who are also subjected to various forms of harassment. BullyHunters missed out on a great opportunity to gain male allies because they, themselves, didn't quite understand the data and, therefore, manipulated it in order to make a point. And that backfired.
What do you think about the BullyHunters campaign? Do you think they can recover from the backlash? Or do you think it's game over? Let us know in the comments.