In slightly below 72 hours, the vigilante gaming group Bully Hunters went from an idealistic anti-harassment campaign to a major instance of what can occur when seemingly good intentions go unsuitable.
Bully Hunters is an initiative produced by advertising company FCB Chicago, composed of an all-female group made up of Counter–Strike: Global Offensive gamers attempting to lift consciousness of in-game harassment. The Bully Hunters web site described the collective as a “vigilante hit squad of elite feminine players” who will enter CS:GO video games when referred to as upon, consider the state of affairs and take out an offending participant if the case is set to be extreme sufficient. A debut livestream, which reportedly featured pre-recorded, staged gameplay footage and specifically branded SteelSeries headphones used for charity giveaways, aired Thursday evening.
Reporters and different business members criticized the group’s harassment countermeasures earlier than the livestream ever kicked off. Their considerations have been compounded after one host’s private historical past of antagonizing individuals on Twitter and utilizing homophobic language was dredged up, and questions concerning the involvement of corporations like SteelSeries have been aired. Even the usage of pre-recorded footage throughout a reside occasion raised alarms. It was the group’s anti-harassment methods, nevertheless — which inspired gamers to go in and take out dangerous actors — that drew essentially the most ire.
Paste Games’ assistant editor Holly Green wrote about her considerations, mentioning that, “Not solely does partaking griefers and trolls validate their destructive conduct, it could actually additionally backfire and antagonize them, growing the aggression in the direction of their targets.”
The backlash that was already brewing after preliminary information studies turned unmanageable following the occasion. Every side of the occasion was scrutinized — from the staged gameplay to the psychological well being statistics supplied on stream. Critics on Twitter began pointing at holes within the occasion’s setup, which led to nearly everybody concerned backing away from the disastrous stream. Even the Bully Hunters web site and Twitter account have been taken down over the weekend.
Companies like Vertagear, CyberPowerPC and SteelSeries — in addition to nonprofit our bodies like Diverse Gaming Coalition that partnered with the group — at the moment are distancing themselves from Bully Hunters following the overwhelmingly destructive response to the occasion. The strategies used to deliver consideration to the harassment that girls face left the businesses feeling uncomfortable with how the difficulty was represented, in keeping with public statements on Facebook.
“When we have been approached with the background and objectives of Bully Hunters, we put our religion within the trigger and the organizers,” Vertagear’s assertion reads. “However, the data that we obtained earlier than the beginning of the campaign not solely contradicted the execution of it, however we found after the truth that it was sorely missing. Our greatest mistake was not totally vetting the main points of the campaign to make sure that the execution could be as much as the right requirements anticipated, and we apologize for that and the horrendous outcomes of this occasion.”
Both Vertagear and the Diverse Gaming Coalition say in unbiased statements that Bully Hunters campaign organizers gave them insufficient data, however the corporations continued regardless. SteelSeries, which has been on the middle of the controversy for the reason that campaign was first introduced, posted a public assertion on Facebook addressing its participation and condemning the group’s techniques.
“The means BullyHunters [sic] represented the gaming group was unsuitable and disingenuous,” SteelSeries’ assertion reads. “Most players don’t expertise harassment, and extra importantly, 99%+ of players don’t do the harassing. We’re effectively conscious of the numerous faults with BullyHunters. […] Although we nonetheless consider in a world the place harassment isn’t tolerated, it’s clear to us that BullyHunters is hurting, not serving to, that trigger. On Friday, we ended our help and partnership with the group.”
Things solely received worse when previous video clips and tweets from Natalie “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova, the distinguished Twitch streamer and YouTuber who turned essentially the most seen spokesperson for the occasion, surfaced. A 6-year-old clip showcased Casanova referring to aggravating gamers with a homophobic slur. Tweets from Casanova that referred to as different individuals a “bitch” and worse have been shared round Twitter.
In a press release on Facebook, the Diverse Gaming Coalition highlighted Casanova’s previous actions as a part of the rationale it was withdrawing help for the Bully Hunters initiative.
“Various tweets present wrongdoing by host, Zombi Unicorn, that are actions that Diverse Gaming Coalition doesn’t condone, though she was not solely accountable for the Bully Hunters initiative as an entire,” the assertion reads. “After the live-stream, evidently Bully Hunters continues to be an initiative they want to preserve pursuing. However, this initiative doesn’t align with our mission and imaginative and prescient assertion as a non-profit. Because of this, we’re deciding as of now, we’re dropping as a associate from the Bully Hunters initiative.
“We consider of their intentions as an organization to advertise social good, however don’t assume they approached it in the easiest way attainable.”
Casanova is greater than conscious of the considerations round her previous conduct, and he or she has repeatedly defended herself and apologized for her previous tweets. Talking to Polygon at some point after the livestream and within the midst of dealing with accusations and assaults on-line, Casanova stated that whereas there isn’t any excuse for utilizing a homophobic slur towards somebody, she really feel that she has atoned for her actions.
“That was nearly six years in the past and I screwed up,” Casanova stated. “I paid for it, and I apologized for it profusely. I used that language in a second of frustration. I used to be being harassed by a griefer who was hacking within the recreation to get to my location, and he stored killing me time and again. It’s not an excuse. There’s no excuse to what I did, however I had by no means stated something like that earlier than, and I by no means stated something like that once more afterwards.”
It’s not simply Casanova’s use of the homophobic slur that received dredged up, although. People pointed to her use of phrases like “cunt” towards people on Twitter as its personal type of bullying. Casanova informed Polygon that it was infuriating to see these tweets go round taken out of context. The actuality of the state of affairs, she stated, is that she was responding to individuals harassing her.
“If you’re taking these tweets and also you have a look at what I’m responding to, I’m responding to people who find themselves harassing and trolling me, and treating me like crap,” Casanova stated. “I get it, I’m not an ideal human being. I’m fairly certain all people has in some unspecified time in the future informed someone, ‘Hey, fuck off. Leave me alone. You’re being a dick proper now.’ A variety of these individuals are performing like they’re holier than thou, like they’ve by no means made errors.”
Part of the rationale Casanova determined to start out working with Bully Hunters within the first place is essentially because of her personal dealings with individuals in gaming, she stated. She’s been focused by individuals for years, Casanova informed Polygon, and as such, has develop into an outspoken determine speaking concerning the stage of harassment that girls in video games obtain. Casanova has spent a big portion of her profession as an influencer and livestreamer, and stated the latest harassment she’s obtained stays a number of the worst.
“I’ve by no means obtained this a lot hate and harassment in my life,” Casanova stated. “I’ve all the time been referred to as one of many extra real individuals within the business with no filter, and I’ll say what I imply — and I get in hassle for it quite a bit. Now I’ve immediately been labeled as this pretend one that’s doing this for cash when anybody who is aware of me is aware of I’ve been within the business working for this for a very long time. This one campaign isn’t the one factor I’ve finished, and it’s not the very last thing I do both.”
Casanova informed Polygon she desires to proceed working with Bully Hunters sooner or later, if the initiative continues to be energetic, however acknowledges that there have been all the time considerations with the tactic the campaign used to lift consciousness of harassment in video games. Those concerned within the campaign have been labeled as harassers and griefers themselves for going after CS:GO gamers in-game.
Polygon has reached out to FCB Chicago for extra data on the occasion, together with whether or not future campaigns will happen. Considering the sudden disappearance of the campaign’s web site, Facebook web page and Twitter account, it appears unlikely right now.
Casanova repeatedly stated she was given no management over the course of the venture, one thing the businesses concerned additionally spoke to in their very own statements. Despite her reservations, she stated occasion organizers addressed her fears effectively sufficient previous to the occasion to provide her sufficient confidence to stay concerned as a advisor and host.
“People can debate the deserves of the execution, however I’m all the time going to stay supportive of the general purpose,” Casanova stated. “I understood from the start that there could be backlash. I didn’t essentially assume that this instrument could be the one means. It wasn’t my thought, and it was delivered to me. I type of fought it a bit of bit at first, however as soon as the wording was modified and it was proven to be that it wasn’t meant to be harassing, it was simply meant to ship a message, I assumed that perhaps, perhaps, individuals might settle for that and a minimum of deliver consideration to it.
“Love it or hate it, it did its job. It’s introduced a number of consideration to this. It’s opened up the dialogue to extra individuals. Yeah, it’s introduced a number of trolls, nevertheless it’s opened the dialogue.”
The extra that comes out about Bully Hunters, the much less anybody appears to wish to be hooked up to the venture in any respect — financially or in any other case.
Although many of the corporations concerned, together with SteelSeries, have fled Bully Hunters, and the state of affairs raised loads of eyebrows, Casanova stands by the group. She believes the campaign proves greater than ever that there’s an issue with harassment within the business that she desires to maintain combating towards.
“We clearly want it,” Casanova stated. “Look at the truth that so many individuals are pretending like they’re tearing aside Bully Hunters due to the dangerous execution, and within the course of are harassing me and a number of different individuals so badly. Go by means of my timeline. Look in any respect the rape threats; the ‘whore’; the ‘cunt’; the ‘silly fool, you’re a slut, you’re an fool, you’re not even an actual gamer.’ That’s actual harassment.”