“This blog presents a double edged sword. I was in two minds about writing this one because I didn’t want to deal with the backlash. But then I was reminded that this is how character assassination works. If I don’t step out in front of it, they will just continue with the bs and trying to pass it off as fact. And once media articles started popping up and making a big deal out of her leaving social media, complete with people trying to make it about me, they left me with no choice.”
FREE SPEECH – THE BATTLEGROUND
Gaming tends to bring out the very worst in people. And it’s not just gaming. Go into any heated discussion about anything from politics to religion, and you will come away a changed person. However, there is more to be said about the people who use abuse, harassment, and bullying as weapons in the war of attrition. They are cowards. But here’s the thing, in a society where it is perfectly normal for politicians, govt officials, role models etc to engage in wanton needless attacks against one another – with impunity; why would we expect anything but that sort of behavior from common folk? As I type this, take one look at the on-going presidential race and you will most likely be ashamed that you actually live here in the US. But that’s how things are.
On the Internet, it is very easy to destroy someone’s life and livelihood with the mere use of words committed to writing. In fact, there are entire enterprises which make money off this specific practice. The law is virtually useless for the most part. To the extent that law enforcement, without an active and credible threat of harm or similar act deemed criminal, are seemingly powerless to do anything. And if your harasser is in another country, you have absolutely no recourse. Which is precisely why, as welcome as it was, Section 230 of the CDA continues to be very controversial since it was first passed in 1996. The downside to this is that on any given day, someone from clean, clear, across the world, can post anything they want in a website forum, news item etc, with ease. Then it is up to the host of the site to actively moderate what’s written. Most simply don’t. And thus they provide a platform for the spread of hate, harassment, protracted attacks etc. Because they can. Even on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al, which have staffed community members whose job it is to curb this sort of activity, more often than not, they fail to do an adequate job of it.
In the pursuit of Free Speech, our society has lost the accountability that goes with responsible online behavior. In fact, the EFF has an excellent article (see Free Speech Weak Link) about specifically this. A fetching quote from that article:
“Speech on the Internet requires a series of intermediaries to reach its audience. Each intermediary is vulnerable to some degree to pressure from those who want to silence the speaker. Even though the Internet is decentralized and distributed, “weak links” in this chain can operate as choke points to accomplish widespread censorship.”
The EFF also has lots of fantastic resources (see Bloggers Rights) which serve to teach bloggers like me what our rights under the law are, how we can protect against frivolous lawsuits, illegal intervention, and everything in between. Quoting from the Legal Guide For Bloggers:
“But here’s the important part: None of this should stop you from blogging. Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Internet bullies shouldn’t use the law to stifle legitimate free expression. “
There are numerous (e.g. see popehat) resources online, all of which provide ample guidance not only for dealing with harassers, but also for defense against harassment.
Knowing the law, your rights, and having robust liability insurance – like most of us do – also goes a long way. And if you live in a State that has robust anti-SLAAP laws, well then.
THE HARASSMENT FACTOR
Harassment is HORRID. I know ALL about it. I neither support, nor condone it. People who KNOW me, know very well that I take a VERY hard line stance against harassment and bullying. I always have, and I always will. It’s who I am.
There are varying degrees of harassment, both civil and criminal. On any given day, you can go on any social media site, e.g. Twitter, and pull up a profile for someone who is actively discussing a topic related to either a person, a business, a product, a game etc. If someone makes 500 posts about any such entity, regardless of merit, is that harassment? No. By that definition, we may as well stop online discussions entirely. Targets of heated discussions are always quick to pull out the harassment card in order to silence and/or intimidate their opposition. This was more prevalent and in full view during the Gamergate fiasco (I was on a panel discussion about this last year). To the extent that some people even went to the extent of creating alt accounts which engaged in harassment against themselves, in order to make the case for harassment.
As gamers, we’re very passionate. However, there are those among us who are anti-social misfits, have psychological and/or mental issues. Drop those people into the hotbed of malcontent that is gaming, and you’ve got a potpourri of wanton abuse. Heck, look no further than the recent furor over the No Man’s Sky game, whereby the developers have had to deal with all manner of attacks, abuse, harassment – including death threats – over a [email protected] video game.
Horrible people don’t need an excuse to be horrible people. It’s who they are. It’s what they do.
Similarly, going online to read what people are saying about you, isn’t harassment. It’s a bruised ego. You know why all the major social media sites have tools to block unwanted engagement? That’s why. If you are on a site where you are being attacked, the simple solution is to not engage. Because if you engage, the chances of being attacked are likely higher than expected. There are those (they’re idiots) who would say that going the route of disengagement empowers the abusers, while blaming the victim. It’s pure and utter bullshit. If I know that going down a dark alley in a city known for crime is going to get me mugged, there is no way in hell that I’m going down that alley. If I am not interested in topics which offend me, or know that engaging in topics in which my opinions are likely to get me attacked, I’m not bloody likely to go to 4Chan, 8Chan, or even Reddit (which, contrary to popular belief, has sub-Reddits with an amazing, and helpful community. But if you go looking for bad stuff, you will find it).
But here’s the thing; even when people use anonymous aliases online, the psychology of engagement is so profuse, that even though people are very well hidden behind the veil of anonymity, they still take offense to some discussions. On social media sites which use your real identity, it is easy to see how harassment can play a huge role in heated discourse. To the extent that even the abusers tend to hide behind the veil of anonymity, even as others go about trying to unmask them in order to hold them accountable for what they say online. For my part, I have no problems unmasking those who would otherwise seek to engage in the harassment of others. Seeking anonymity for your online protection, is completely different from seeking anonymity in order to behave badly online, engage in attacks, abuse, and harassment of others. I have unmasked several people for specifically this reason, and I will continue to do it. Actions have consequences, and the causality of actionable consequences cannot be understated.
As a gamer, game developer, and avid blogger, being harassed – incessantly – is par for the course. How you react to it, makes all the difference. I just happen to be the guy who brings a flamethrower to a knife fight.
STAR CITIZEN – THE WAR OF ATTRITION
A lot has been written about Star Citizen, the co-creators, the fans (both normal and rabid), the companies surrounding it etc. The general consensus at this point in time is that the entire project has devolved into a scam. To the extent that recently some backers looking for refunds started mass reporting the company to State and Federal authorities, who then had to step in. My sources tell me that investigations are on-going. By the time the dust settles on this, lawsuits (trust me, they’re coming), my guess is that not only will the fallout involve State officials, but also various Federal agencies including the FTC, the FBI and even the IRS (more on this in an upcoming blog). I have specifically remained silent on most of the these because obstruction is not to be trifled with. So I’m just going to leave it at that.
As of this writing, over $118 million has been invested into the project by gamers over a four year period. And though Chris Roberts has gone on the record as saying that development started in 2011, one year ahead of the 2012 crowd-funding campaign, five years later – there is still no game. Nor will there ever be one, by all accounts.
My involvement in this farce which started over a year ago – and long after many people were already voicing the same or similar concerns – has not only been distorted, twisted, and misinterpreted, but also a dedicated group of rabid fans (aka Shitizens) have taken upon themselves to dox, harass, and attack myself and anyone – even other backers – who expresses any dissent against the project. To the extent that they have an entire sub-Reddit dedicated to doing specifically that to me. Even on the game’s own official forums, any dissent is squashed, other backers are incessantly attacked, mocked, banned etc. Routinely. None of this is fiction, it is a well known fact. Heck, even in legal letters written to govt. officials, this same company routinely (1, 2, 3) disparages their own backers, lies to said officials etc. All with impunity.
The co-creator of the project, aspiring actress Sandi Gardiner, who also happens to be the wife (something they hid for over three years, until I made it public) of Chris Roberts (creator), and the VP of marketing, is not a nice person. She is an habitual liar, an academic fraud (multiple claims of earning a marketing degree from UCLA, or anywhere on the planet, have proven to be false), and as several sources have stated, someone with an abusive personality, to go with a short and volatile temper.
Quite recently, a lot of personal stuff from her acting (e.g. her staring as Mae Demming in tickle porn videos, currently up on Pornhub and elsewhere) past popped up online, and was being shared. I had some (there were no links to NSFW content) of it included in this section for context. But as I suspected, I caught some flak for it, in addition to the fact that it detracted from the purpose of the blog. So I opted to remove it shortly after the blog went live. True or false, the point of the inclusion was that there is a lot of stuff out there. True or false, that’s the Internet. When you’re a public figure, people go digging. When you’re a public figure attached to a much maligned project, people will go dig deeper. It has happened to all of us, including Chris Roberts, at some point or another. To be clear, I don’t care about her past, nor what she has done. It is largely irrelevant, and immaterial to the matter (Star Citizen) at hand. But here we are. Especially in light of all the drama surrounding her and everyone involved with this project.
As the VP of marketing, as well as the #2 person associated with this project, she is the de facto face of the company. She is a public figure. And as these things go, while it is easy to ignore and discard people’s past – and personal lives – there is the question of accountability and character. There is a very good reason why those two things tend to come up in almost every single legal case.
A lot has been written about how toxic the Star Citizen community is. To the extent that the recent rush on the bank for refunds, stems directly from backers who, aside from no longer having any faith in the project, are simply disgusted with the community. Even as recently as last month, Streetroller, a wheelchair-bound backer, and the subject of my recent blog on refunds, has been subjected to all manner of abuse by the community – including death threats. I get those, and similar, all the time; so to me, it’s not even newsworthy anymore.
Sandi Gardiner is an attention magnet, and a drama queen. Literally. And she is part of what is turning out to be a $118 million scam.
Though I am in fact writing a book on this Star Citizen fiasco, just when I thought I had run out of material, a whole heap gets dumped in my lap. I have written extensively on Sandi’s involvement in all manner of questionable behavior and decisions on this project. Ranging from the customer service furor over tagging backers with derogatory terms, to leaked emails in which she engages in the most abusive and questionable behavior for an exec of an $118 million crowd-funded company. Not to mention the Escapist article from 2015 in which several current (at the time) and ex employees came forward with a lot of damning information from behind the scenes. The writer went on to win an SJP award for the article. What followed those events can only be described as the most destructive act by the company. For legal reasons (pertaining to my defamation claim), I can’t link to the diatribe written by Chris Roberts following the article; and which followed a baseless legal threat (to the article writer and the site) by yet another co-creator of the project, Ortwin Freyermuth – media attorney, and long time business partner of Chris Roberts, through a litany of failed business enterprises. In his diatribe, not only did Chris make blatantly false allegations of being doxed, he also went as far as to try to link myself and the writer of The Escapist article to Gamergate, in a failed bid to ride on the wings of that particular outrage that was in full swing at the time.
And to this day, leaks continue to stream out of every single one of the four studios (CA, TX, GER, UK) associated with this train-wreck. The latest being that not only are the games, Star Citizen and Squadron 42 not coming out in 2016 (note that they are both two years overdue, having missed their Nov 2014 delivery date), but that the development is so rife with problems that even the top developers know, without a shred of doubt, that the project is FUBAR. But hey, it’s a paycheck derived from free money.
As I write this, unknown to the public and the backers, they are actively engaged in what amounts to the harassment of an ex- employee who they accuse of leaking critical information to the media and to me. It’s patently false. First they tried to intimidate this person by sending a PI to his home. Then they had, at last count, three attorneys from different States, write this person intimidating letters in a bid to get him to admit to things he hadn’t even done. He laughed them all off. In the end, having grown fed-up, as per his contract, they ended up in arbitration – which he is currently fighting. These are the people that we’re dealing with. And as of this writing, they still haven’t dragged me into that particular farce yet. Though I don’t expect that they will.
All of this with backer and investor money.
Which brings me to the latest drama. But before I go into it, let me mention that, this year alone, amid backer unrest, and all manner of looming legal threats, not only did they skip a major PC Gamer event at E3, and which they had previously committed to, but they skipped E3 entirely. And the upcoming Gamescom event in Germany has been pared down to a barebones presentation in which they are said to be streaming a broken (hey, it’s pre-alpha, don’t complain) version of the tech demo (it’s not – and never will be, a game), while showcasing even more R&D (the latest buzz word they have been using) of features which, like similar presentations from years past, is unlikely to see the light of day in the project. Let’s not even go into the recent interview which Chris did in which, as every other time before, he made the most alarming statements to date. In fact, back when I wrote my first blog in July 2015, it was due to all the reports I was getting about the project in trouble; and which prompted me to read the June 2015 dev report. This time, Chris’s statements in this interview are so alarming, that I am in the process of doing a video blog taking it apart. As I mentioned on social media, I expect to air that next week, either before or after the Gamescom showing.
Then, this past June, in what is the single most egregious act against backers who have given them $118 million, they issued a new ToS which retroactively removed two key components that backers previously had. That being a right to refunds, as well as the right to have financial accounting of what happened to their money. That June ToS is what has now sparked numerous refund requests, along with investigations by govt. authorities. It’s all carefully documented in my blog (see The Refund Debacle).
I get harassed on social media by Shitizens. Like a lot. Heck, even the support people at Twitter can attest to this; having suspended and/or killed abusive accounts. As of this writing, they are still at it. Even though blocked, they will create a throw-away account and use that to harass myself and my followers in my feed. To the extent that it’s literally a game of whack-a-mole now. Reporting to Twitter is a wasted effort since these are throw-away accounts for which no accountability exists.
Last year during the CitizenCon (a Star Citizen backer event) celebration, Sandi Gardiner pulled a tearful performance in front of backers and those watching the stream. As sources tell me, she was planning to resign from the project, but at the last minute, pulled an audible when she was interrupted by Erin Roberts, brother (and lead of one of the UK and GER studios). Seriously, you should watch it.
Then there was that time when she posted this award in her Facebook feed, and which was spread across social media.
So imagine my surprise when, yesterday, out of the Blue, she posted that she was quitting social media due to “harassment”. As we are both blocked from each other, I first got wind of it when I was alerted to a media account of her statement.
Here’s the thing. Just mere hours before that post, she was celebrating reaching 9000 backers. There were NO other posts in between.
Guess what happened next? Despite the fact that she never named anyone, nor has any history of harassment anywhere in her social media feed, the Shitizens immediately descended on my social media feed and elsewhere, to blame me for it.
Fact is, as Twitter can attest to, she and I have blocked each other for almost a year now. And we were never Facebook friends; though I have her and several of them blocked there as well. But somehow, just because you are writing and talking about a public figure who happens to be a central figure in an on-going major public event, you’re a stalker, and an harasser. They even have a list that they’re now spreading as evidence of me harassing her. In fact, she’s never – ever – claimed harassment anywhere. Until now.
Again, as I stated on social media, let me be crystal clear, I have never harassed her, and she has never claimed anywhere that I have harassed her. Because the minute that she does, knowing that it’s false – I will immediately take legal action.
Here’s the thing. The “VP of marketing”, for a $118 million train-wreck, suddenly decides that one week ahead of a major gaming event in which backers are expecting answers for the project, makes a statement about quitting social media due to harassment. And with zero evidence of same. No, that’s not odd at all. It’s all deflective noise. And on the face of it, her claims of harassment have zero merit. But by her standards, we who are the targets of sustained harassment, should just quit the internet. And right on cue, Shitizens immediately descend on their goto fall guy, me, to amp up their attack. This is what she expects.
And before I forget, let me point out the funding metrics for yesterday.
Ponder this. For as much as they blame me, someone they continue to claim is insignificant, for the unfolding catastrophe that is the project, do you for one minute think that she – or her PR mouthpiece – won’t have taken the opportunity to name me as harassing her? Heck, the last time they singled me out – back in 2015 – they issued a press statement. Right up to the part where they were caught blatantly lying. And that was the event that thrust me into this farce.
This person lies. Like, a LOT. This has been proven time and time again. And even MORE to come that isn’t even public yet. But somehow, it’s OK for her “fans” and minions to harass myself and others who direct any dissent at the project.
So the media wrote bad stuff. How is that harassment?
So myself and others wrote bad stuff. How is that harassment?
So a bunch of people found imdb profiles, LinkedIn profiles, videos, photos etc – all shared by the very same person – and then got shared and spread on social media. How is that harassment? Let alone doxing? It’s like that whole doxing nonsense whereby you can’t even post a LinkedIn profile without some clown screaming doxing.
People trying to modify and/or revise the social construct are idiots who should be laughed at. That’s why we make and share memes. Then laugh at them. Incessantly.
She has lots of legal recourse to take action, against me or anyone that she has evidence of harassing her. Just because someone says bad stuff about you on the Internet, stuff that you seek out, and read, doesn’t make it harassment. In this case, it’s yet another deflective tactic to draw attention away from the main event:
WHERE IS STAR CITIZEN AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE MONEY!?
Fact is that no such evidence of harassment exists. And the minute they even try to make shit up and directed at me, we’re going to be involved in the much anticipated legal battle that is sure to be the single most historic legal event in gaming history. I guarantee it. After my attorneys toss the harassment bullshit, and we get to peel away the layers of lies, deceit, unjust enrichment, and everything in between, we’ll get to the very heart of the matter.
At the end of the day, this is yet another attempt to rally and wind up the Shitizens so that they can continue their pattern of harassment against me, the bogeyman – one person – who is somehow responsible for all the problems of a $118 million crowd-funded project.
Like everything else – including attempts at making it about “A woman in gaming being harassed” – it will fail. This war of attrition against me is a pointless effort. It has yielded zero results since it started last July. The only thing that it will succeed in doing is showing that the Shitizens are the most toxic community in gaming, that the execs behind the Star Citizen project are actively engaged in what most of us now believe to be an on-going scam, and that the enablers and those engaged in money laundering and all manner of fraud, will continue to attack anyone who threatens their enterprise.
And I dare anyone in the media or in public to even infer that I have been engaged in any harassment, and without any proof or evidence of same. And those of you doing this shit, trust me, if I read it, I’m going to unmask you. Then I will make that info public. There is absolutely NO VERSION of this whereby I let such accusations go unpunished.
Nobody is writing flattering articles about the train-wreck that is Star Citizen anymore. So ahead of Gamescom, let’s just create drama because, you know, that usually gets headlines. And right on cue, there are now several such articles floating around. This despite the fact that – as of this writing – there haven’t been ANY accusations against anyone, nor ANY evidence of harassment taking place. That’s gaming “media” for you. Most of them are complicit in the whole Star Citizen drama. And when the shit-show ends, and the dust settles, we will remember them. We’re gamers, and we hold onto shit forever.
That is all.
UPDATE: During this latest flap, some people (see morons) were making feeble attempts at making this about “A woman in gaming being harassed“. So I wrote a sequel. Also, though she “quit” social media due to “harassment“, she was still liking stuff days later.