The facial expressions in Mass Effect: Andromeda have been getting a lot of attention lately. The gifs and jokes have been funny to look at, but there are some who take it a bit too seriously. In between all the funny gifs is a much, much darker side, one that the gaming industry is unfortunately becoming quite familiar with.
A hate-filled website misidentified Allie Rose-Marie Leost, an employee of EA, as being responsible for the animations in Andromeda. Predictably, the hate mob went wild. She quickly removed any mention of #MassEffect from her social media profiles, but not before the mob started their angry harassment campaign.
And angry it was. Outraged that a woman would dare infringe on their beloved game, and dare to "ruin it", the mob resorted to the usual degenerate attacks and comments about sexual acts. They were as numerous as they were uncreative.
It's not enough to blame her for single-handedly causing the downfall of the game, but they also accused her of using sexual acts to get hired in the first place. That sounds familiar. The phenomenon seems to be far more prevalent in their heads than based on any actual reality, another tired trope when women are the target.
Once one started, the rest piled on, desperate to get their jab in and pat themselves on the back for being so witty.
It's especially telling that these incidents only seem to happen when a woman is supposedly at fault. Names were censored not to protect them, but because they seem to view being included in an article, like the one on Kotaku, as a badge of honor. One of the offenders was also apparently surprised that harassing someone leads to retaliatory harassment from the opposition.
BioWare quickly stepped in, officially condemning the torrent of abuse.
It's great to see BioWare taking a stand, when too many companies stay quiet. It's (marginally) better to redirect the abuse to the company rather than an individual. However, don't read through any comments on Bioware's tweet if you value your sanity.
Even if one single person is responsible for an aspect of the game, it's sill no reason to harass them. Games of this caliber are obviously made by large teams of people, but the internet hate mob loves to have a face they can blame, especially if it fits into their narrative. Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street, once Lead Systems Designer on World of Warcraft, became the face of the game when he would speak personally with players on the forums, despite only overseeing certain parts. He admitted recently on his tumblr that he received death threats during his tenure.
This is hardly the first time a harassment campaign has run someone off Twitter. Zelda Williams briefly quit in 2014, when the mob attacked her with images and tweets mocking her father's death. Anne Wheaton quit last year as well, citing toxicity and hate.
Part of this culture of abuse also falls on Twitter, which has been incredibly lax about harassment. All of the worst comments are still there, despite blatantly breaking Twitter's rules.
Social media offers a platform for harassment, especially when there are no consequences. Twitter only added more reporting options after several harassment campaigns became too large to simply ignore. They are slowly taking steps to combat the abuse and ban the worst offenders of harassment campaigns, but the onus still falls on the rest of us willing to report them.
There were plenty of supporters in Allie's mentions and, though she didn't respond to anyone, I'm sure she appreciated the support. If you see someone getting a torrent of abuse, send them a nice message. It breaks up the monotony of abuse and offers a small ray of sunshine.
What do you think about the rise of this internet culture?