Not Bully Hunters. A self-appointed “vigilante hit squad of elite female gamers who have banded together to end sexual harassment and abuse in the popular game CS:GO”, Bully Hunters launched over the weekend and bombed almost instantly in a glittery cloud of questionable statistics, a fake livestream demo, and allegations of – you’ll never guess what – online bullying.
Because this is the internet, because women calling out men for shit behaviour will get shut down faster than the shit behaviour, because those are the rules.
I mean, it’s not exactly the most sophisticated or otherwise commendable premise. According to the website (which has since been scrubbed, but there’s an archive version over here), the system is simple – if you’re a victim of bullying in a video game, you can hook up with a Bully Hunter rep on Steam, and she’ll join your game and deliver a virtual beating on your trembling behalf. Besides the problems of adequately proving that you’re a victim and not the perpetrator and the inevitable exploits of this, and the indeterminate vetting process for Bully Hunter reps, however, this also reinforces the stupid perceptions that mAd sn1PiNg sk1llz are more important than being a decent, reasonable human being, that women can’t sort things out for themselves, and that a frag in a public game of CS:GO even matters.
The website also cites some improbable statistics, claiming that “21 million female gamers have experienced sex-based taunting, harassment, or threats”, a disingenuous interpretation of this linked study, involving only 874 participants, but extrapolated to include every woman who’s ever played Candy Crush on her phone. A TOTALLY LEGIT, OKAY debut livestream, in which a male player dropping hot original insults like “you wanna get raped, bitch” between scene cuts to an obligingly disapproving studio audience is promptly subdued by the indomitable authority of bullyhunter03, who is able to join the game immediately without even queuing, and let’s stop pretending that it’s not pre-recorded, because it’s obviously pre-recorded, and they couldn’t even get one of those 21 million female gamers on the show? And if that wasn’t already meme-of-the-month enough for everybody, Bully Hunter host Natalie “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova is – or was, but I dunno if there’s much difference – apparently a super gross garbage person so that’s awkward too.
And so Bully Hunters was loled off the internet.
This is about women on the internet. And this is the same internet, featuring – I’d bet a crate of Mountain Dew on it – a lot of the same people, who supported Gamergate, a controversy started on the false assertion that Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn had sex with Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson for a positive game review that didn’t even exist, a lie that I re-re-re-read this week on Reddit as a for-real-truth, almost four years later. That and “ethics in games journalism” were the flimsy pretexts, anyway, because evidence to the contrary was met with – you’ll never guess what – online bullying of Quinn, including doxing, and rape and death threats, because it was actually about women on the internet. The guy who dredged up ZombiUnicorn’s sleazy social media history? He’s about those ethics in games journalism, duh.
This is the same internet that blames Anita Sarkeesian and Briannu Wu and some sort of ambiguously defined feminist space lizard conspiracy for everything that’s wrong with the games industry while subscribing to PewDiePie and Logan Paul, so excuse me if I’m cynical about this new controversy. Was Bully Hunters a clumsy, misguided initiative that makes me cringe? Yes. Is that the reason why a vigilante hit squad of elite internet detectives made sure it was a non-starter? I don’t know, but probably not.
Does bullying the bullies feel like it would be kind of nice? Sometimes.