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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Hunts The Hunters?

Obvious title is obvious.

I play a lot of video games. I mean, a lot.

Primarily, I play cooperative game modes. In some of those cooperative game modes, sometimes the interfaces are poorly coded, such as in Mass Effect: Andromeda. In these more poorly coded interfaces, often the voice chat is on by default, and there's a surprisingly generous portion of the playerbase that doesn't realize this. As a result, you often hear a lot of background noise: dogs barking, heavy breathing, televisions, cars driving by, jackhammers, people having sex, someone being horribly murdered in the background, or a combination of any of the above.

Stay with me. This is relevant, I promise.

Over the last week or so, Bully Hunters was announced. It is ostensibly an elite squad of possibly female gamers on call 24/7 to hunt down and exact revenge on toxic male gamers that harass other female gamers that are just trying to play a game. They announced a livestream event, an hour to show off their system in action, hunting down a bully live and providing statistics on why they're necessary.

And then the stream happened.



An hour turned into 35 minutes of unadulterated cringe.

The experts they brought on parroted Gender Studies talking points, which really came as no surprise. The in-game footage they showed was choppy and looked like it was either poorly encoded, pre-recorded footage or was being played on a computer from 2002. The presenters were stiff and uncharismatic, the audience was lifeless, and the event cues were ripped straight from a garage-level presentation of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. But it didn't stop there.

The statistics discussed by the 'professionals' -- a clinical counselor with a focus on living with diabetes and a clinical psychologist with a focus on marriage counseling -- were revealed to have been extrapolated by a self-reporting survey of 874 people on social media platforms Twitter and Reddit, and inflated from the 874 respondents to a total of 3 million women being driven out of gaming.

One "casual gamer," therosethorn, was revealed to be not only the casual gamer with a level 1 account owning only one game, but the bully, the bully hunter, and several other bully hunters as well. Not to mention that one of her previous names (and the url of her profile page) was testbhv1 (test bully hunter victim 1?).

Full disclosure here: this screenshot was taken from my own Steam account while I was writing this, as I'd lost the original screenshot. That's right, it's still there.


An additional problem arises in that, unless I'm mistaken, you can't hear the enemy team (let alone join a game in-progress if you're playing competitively) in Counterstrike: Global Offensive. If she was able to hear the bully, that means they were on the same team, and if she invited the Bully Hunter in, then she'd go to the same team, thereby making that glorious knife kill from earlier nigh-on impossible. If she somehow joined the opposing team, then due to the hectic nature of a CS:GO match, she'd stand just as much a chance of killing the person that called her for help as she did killing the bully, or even being killed by the bully herself, which is something that happens anyway. I'm not kidding, you play one of these games, and you die a lot. One more death will mean literally nothing to you.

A few watchful eyes happened to notice the prominent SteelSeries branding backing the Bully Hunters, and asked them directly about it. SteelSeries, a fairly well-respected gaming peripheral company (I even have a Fallout-themed headset they made) initially stood their ground when asked, but eventually buckled after being confronted by the shady nature of the entire event.

And I can't blame them at all. After Bully Hunters host and spokesperson Natalie Casanova aka ZombiUnicorn was exposed as having used a slur on a livestream several times (something that poor PewDiePie was crucified for), and using a gendered slur in several tweets, people kept digging, and found that the entire thing was slapped together by marketing company FCB Chicago. Eventually other sponsors Vertagear and, ironically, the Diverse Gaming Coalition also folded, throwing FCB Chicago and, in the case of the latter, ZombiUnicorn under the bus.

This is bad. Not only does it paint people that play games in general in a bad light, but it also paints women that play games as personally helpless, having to bring in outside help to fight their battles for them. I've played with a lot of women in my time; some of my best long-term co-op partners have been women, and I've always trusted them to hold their own, whether they're tanking for my medic or I'm tanking for their medic, and have never been let down. But this? You don't stop 'bullies' by giving them air-time or more exposure. You don't give them an easily exploitable platform so they can play nice until they convince you they're hunter material. Instead, you starve them of oxygen. You give them no reaction until they get bored. Do you want to see the most effective weapon against in-game harassment? I'll show you:

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