It's no secret -- social justice activists in the gaming community form brigades to pressure gaming studios into firing employees that they deem guilty of wrongthink. All it takes is one bad tweet, one errant comment, a dismissive gesture, or a harmless joke to trigger a crusade to ruin the lives of everyone involved.
And they are now bringing their harassment to the next level by doxing and harassing the families of their victims.
The latest company to fall afoul of the grievance cops are the developers at CD Projekt Red — the guys who made The Witcher 3, Gwent, and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. They were initially targeted by posters on ResetEra, many of whom are avowed social justice advocates who were themselves exiled from the NeoGAF forum where their brand of extremist politics has left the much older, more credentialed forum in ruins.
The issue then was Cyberpunk 2077 limiting you to playing as either a male or female protagonist, with no allowance for "genderqueer" characters. It was a big enough deal that publications like Polygon and VICE Waypoint accused the game of “misogyny” and criticized it for its refusal to address "transgender issues."
I don’t think I need to point out the ridiculousness of demanding that the game cater to every single gender identity out there. The developers wish to tell a story that involves either a male or female character. It’s their choice.
The studio has since found itself under intense scrutiny by the mob, and everything it — and GOG.com, by extension — does, is being interpreted as a deliberate attempt to alienate and even mock them.
Kotaku stirred controversy in August with a throwaway tweet posted on the official Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter account responding to one of its fans, in which it joked that the fan was wrong to assume the gender of some of the participants of the game’s presentation at Gamescom. The author, Heather Alexandra, admitted that the tweet itself was not in itself explicitly transphobic and only considered by some as offensive. That alone was enough to provoke a flurry of anger towards the company.
The studio deleted the tweet and issued an apology, stating:
“Sorry to all those offended by one of the responses sent out from our account earlier. Harming anyone was never our intention.”
Besides the fact that jokes can’t actually harm anyone, there’s no reason to think that the remark, which by internet standards would qualify as a dad joke, was intended to offend anyone. The apology did nothing to dissuade the mob, or the writer for that matter. The Kotaku writer claimed that taken alone, the remark is just a “PR faux-pas, but it is not the first time a CD Projekt Red-related Twitter account has posted questionable content. Last July, the official Twitter account for GOG, the game storefront owned by CD Projekt, tweeted an animated GIF from Postal 2: Paradise Lost depicting the main character urinating on a tombstone marked Games Journalism. The date on the tombstone,” according to the writer, was a reference to GamerGate.
The apology was clearly not enough, and it led to another round of interrogations by Kotaku demanding answers for the tweets and so-called “questions” about their vetting process for social media managers. The implication is pretty cut and dry: the person or persons responsible for the tweets need to be sacked. That’s the message.
Amidst the inquisition, forum members of ResetEra doxed a CD Projekt Red employee, publicly posting his phone number and private email addresses for the mob to besiege with complaints.
Most normal people took issue with the apology. It was completely unnecessary, and no effort was being made by any of the so-called journalists to take the harassment mob to task for their participation in the controversy. The Quartering created a video calling out the hypocrisy of all those involved, rightly pointing out that many of Cyberpunk 2077’s detractors had no intentions whatsoever to even play the game.
The mob is now once again at it with its “no bad tactics, only bad targets” harassment tactics. On the eve of the launch of CD Projekt Red’s new game, Thronebreaker, the studio tweeted into a trending hashtag called #WontBeErased.
If you aren't politically active, you probably have no idea what #WontBeErased refers to. Like so many other trending hashtags, it looked like one of those every day normie hashtags that people tweet into and post jokes or references, so it’s difficult for any sane human being to fault the social media managers at CD Projekt Red and GOG for thinking it was anything but political.
As it turns out, it was a political hashtag opposing some new kerfuffle over Donald Trump.
The tweet was pretty straightforward. It read: “Classic PG games #WontBeErased on our watch. Yeah, how’s that for some use of hashtags.”
The tweet lasted for about a minute before it was promptly deleted, no doubt after the social media manager realized it was political. But it was a long enough time for the hypervigilant moral squad to take screenshots of it and start yet another thread on ResetEra, once again accusing the company of bigotry.
This led to a new round of abuse directed towards GOG and CD Projekt Red, with loud, vocal attempts to get the entire team fired.
I wouldn’t even call it a mistake — hashtags do not belong to anyone, and they’re opted and co-opted by anyone and everyone who uses Twitter as a public platform. The company, as it stands, has no reason to apologize.
An administrator on ResetEra, who goes by the name of Hecht underscore Era underscore on Twitter, an account that has been tied to a prominent account on the website, took it upon himself to dox a CD Projekt social media manager on ResetEra by publicly releasing all manner of personal information, including his family’s whereabouts and private phone number. He was just one of several doxxers who actively pursued CD Projekt employees, several of whom independently posted dox and instructions on how to intimidate the employees.
Posting on Twitter, Hecht, who has posted rants about the NPC meme, complained about CD Projekt Red and took credit for his participation in outing CDPR employees. In a series of now-privated tweets, he wrote:
“Jesus Christ CDPR is filled with f**king idiots. Hey CD Projekt Red, GOG com, I am available to be your social media manager. I promise I can help promote games without resorting to bigotry. I also have a trained monkey that can do it. DM me. I’m serious hit me up, CD Projekt Red, GOGcom, clearly you’re gonna have an opening.”
But the harassment hasn’t stopped. I’ve been informed that employees of the company are facing a barrage of abuse both online and offline over the tweets, some of which is directed towards their families.
In response to the controversy, GOG and CDPR have not issued an apology this time around. Perhaps recognizing that the harassment campaigns have simply escalated to a point where they are being targeted over pretty much anything, the company has instead issued a statement saying simply that they “posted a tweet containing a trending hashtag as a pun. The tweet was neither intended as a malicious attack, nor as a comment to the ongoing social debate.
"GOG should focus only on games," they added. "We acknowledge that and we commit to it.”
You know what? Good on them for not apologizing. No one owes them an apology, especially when they didn’t do anything wrong. Using a hashtag is not something anyone can hope to hope to moderate, and they have no reason to be sorry for anyone else’s willingness to take offense at anything they post.
I also want to point out the irony in the fact that these are the very same people who complain that game writer Jessica Price was fired from her job at ArenaNet and comic book author Chuck Wendig from Marvel Comics over their abysmal conduct on social media. The same people now participating in online harassment campaigns allege that their dismissals were caused by online harassment campaigns—as if the companies involved can’t read those Twitter accounts and determine for themselves that Price or Wendig aren’t good representatives of their brand.
While the dismissals of Price and Wendig have made the waves in both the mainstream and gaming press, with much of the blame being falsely laid upon the feet of some imaginary fanbase gone rabid, journalists have been less keen to cover harassment campaigns directed towards individuals targeted by the social justice mob.
Perhaps it’s a lack of diligence, or perhaps these journalists believe these harassment campaigns to be fully justified given that the targets fall on the so-called “wrong side of history” by sharing problematic views or making jokes that the journalists themselves are offended by. Whatever the case, they’re not doing their jobs, and the victims affected by these campaigns fall by the wayside as they are unfairly dismissed—or are, at the very least, bullied into submission and never have a chance to have their stories told.