This past weekend, prominent video game forum NeoGAF went offline in response to allegations that long-time site owner Tyler Malka (better known as "EviLore" on the forum) committed an act of sexual misconduct against film director Ima Leupp in April 2015. In the aftermath of these allegations, more than half of the site's moderators resigned, with many users flooding the forum with calls for self-bans and vows to quit using the site. Kotaku and Waypoint have done some thorough reporting on this most recent sexual harassment claim within gaming, and on Monday, Malka responded with a statement refuting the reports. He predictably denied the claims, blamed the victim by calling her mentally ill, and then stated the forum would focus on games talk only.
NeoGAF had built its progressive and gamer-friendly reputation on breaking gaming news, off topic threads, taking an early stance against GamerGate (the 2014 harassment and doxing campaign that targeted women and embroiled the lives of developers, journalists, and gamers alike), and taking progressive political stances before many gaming outlets did. That Malka, who had been previously accused of sexual misconduct in 2012, would take this stance and be slow to respond to more allegations is disappointing for the community, its moderators, and for his alleged victim.
NeoGAF users quit in droves after the response. Leupp is reliving all of this harassment all over again by sharing this story, re-victimizing her. Many NeoGAF users moved to a new forum, ResetEra, which is looking to rebuild NeoGAF's look and feel with moderation tools and policies that will hopefully prevent harassment. All of this comes just one week after the sexual harassment story emerged involving environmental artist David Ballard, and developer Naughty Dog's empty response to it.
It should be said: when allegations like these arise, it is important to take them seriously. Believe the stories of victims. Take the side of people against corporations and those in positions of power. Allow the investigations to hold accountable the parties in question before coming to your own conclusions.
That these stories are just coming out now should not shock you. The history of sexism and harassment in games is nearly as old as video games themselves. The fallout from GamerGate is still ongoing and led to the rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump. You likely know someone who has been sexually harassed in video games. It's the reason, coupled with racist hate speech, why chatting during multiplayer games has become a cesspool. Stephen Tolouse, former head of enforcement for Xbox from 2007 to 2012, once said women were the most frequent target of harassment on Xbox Live. A 2006 study showed that 83.4% of gamers had seen the words "gay" or "queer" used as derogatory names. Twitch streamers have to be careful about "swatting," an awful prank where SWAT teams get called into their spaces. Fighting game tournament participants have been targets of death threats and verbal and sexual abuse on official streams just for being themselves and playing games.
When a games industry and community is complicit by not standing up for its most vulnerable members, more of this awful history is going to repeat itself again and again. These stories are going to continue to come out as more victims elsewhere come forward. But they shouldn't have to: gaming and the cultural momentum of its insular communities have never reckoned with our worst actors. On another forum, another space in games, another marginalized person is going to have this happen to them. Our next question shouldn't be where the next discussion board to talk about video games will be. It should be what steps we can take to prevent another victim.