New York (CNN Business)The gaming industry has taken notice of widespread accounts of misconduct, and some companies are beginning to act.
Twitch announced Wednesday evening that it is investigating some of the more extreme accusations and permanently banning streamers depending on its findings.More than 100 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have publicly alleged they were sexually assaulted, harassed or discriminated against on the basis of their gender by fellow gamers. Many posted longform accounts using the platforms TwitLonger or Medium to explain events that may have occurred years ago. Many named their alleged abusers.
The floodgates opened over the weekend, after a Twitch streamer Hollowtide tweeted that a well-known ‘Destiny 2’ streamer was “scum.”
Although the original tweet received only 1,500 likes, it had a ripple effect on the industry. Others in the community saw his tweet, and began to share their own stories.Read More”For a long time, I was afraid to say anything. I was worried it would ruin me as a content creator because my attacker had influence and a small place of power within the game industry,” said Enola Leone, a content creator and graphic designer, in a Saturday statement on TwitLonger. “I’ve seen strong and brave women come forward about their experiences with assault, unwanted advances and discomfort forced on them by men and fellow content creators in our industry. It makes me angry and less afraid to share my story.”One by one, gamers posted on social media their accounts of encountering people — mostly men — who were manipulative and influential in the gaming industry, and who allegedly used their positions of power to coerce illicit photos, take advantage of them, or commit sexual crimes.The reaction has been swift and supportive, as many on social media called for people to believe women.On Wednesday evening, Twitch streamers iAmSp00n, BlessRNG, Wolv21 and some others appeared to have been banned by the platform. (Twitch has not officially released a list of banned streamers.) Wolv21 responded to the allegations, admitting he was wrong for touching someone sexually without consent.iAmSp00n was accused of sexual abuse by two streamers and of using a derogatory term for Black people. He admitted his previous behavior was wrong and apologized in a statement. And BlessRNG, whose real name is Brad Jolly, was accused of grabbing a woman by the waist and pulling her toward his pelvis. He later apologized in a statement and encouraged people to cancel him. Kanga, an app for following streamers, released a statement Monday that it had ended its relationship with Jolly, a recent hire.Jolly had his own Twitch emote, commonly referred to as the Jesus or Pray emote. Similar to an emoji, people could use the emote in chat. It, too, was removed from the platform Wednesday. Yet several streamers accused of rape have not been removed from Twitch.YouTube said it is still investigating allegations on its platform.Facebook Gaming, in a statement to CNN Business, said, “We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and will investigate them thoroughly. We have a clear set of community standards, and we need to work together as a community to tear down toxicity in all forms.”While it investigates, it said it may suspend the account of the gamer in question.Microsoft’s livestreaming platform Mixer announced this week it will shut down by July 22 and redirect its page to Facebook Gaming. Although Mixer did not immediately return a request for comment, Facebook said it will consider public accounts of misconduct when determining which streamers from Mixer can monetize on and partner with the platform.
Three employees of French video game publisher Ubisoft, which is known for games like “Assassin’s Creed” and “Just Dance,” have been accused of misconduct. Ashraf Ismail, creative director of the upcoming “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” game, stepped down from the project to take a leave of absence, according to Ubisoft. Ismail was accused of allegedly engaging in relationships with multiple women while married. “I am stepping down from my beloved project to properly deal with the personal issues in my life. The lives of my family and my own are shattered. I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt in this,” Ismail tweeted on Wednesday. His Twitter account is now deleted.Ubisoft apologized Thursday evening and said in a statement it is investigating. The impact on the industry has been wide-ranging. Evil Geniuses, an esports organization, also announced on Twitter early this week that it cut ties with two members, Grant Harris and Chris Gonzalez, after several women said Harris sexually harassed them, and racist comments from Gonzalez resurfaced.Method, another esports organization, announced Wednesday it would end its relationship with World of Warcraft streamer Method Josh, following accusations of predatory behavior. Co-CEO Sascha Steffens was also “placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of a third-party investigation,” it said.Organizations and individual streamers have already made statements saying they won’t work with Method again.
The gaming industry has been rocked by sexual harassment, assault and abuse allegations before, but not on such a large scale. Last year, Thomas Cheung, a Twitch streamer and game studio employee, was arrested by Georgia police and the FBI for seeking sex with a minor.”Twitch does not have a great history of dealing with things like sexual harassment, for example,” said Bo Ruberg, assistant film and media studies professor at the University of California, Irvine. Now, they added, “we’re seeing them respond more quickly…It’s the kind of moment where people seem to be expecting companies to respond more quickly to social justice issues.”