After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry. So, Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment!
More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.
The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.
Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.
Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)
Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)
After those accusations, other streamers began to open up about their experiences with high-profile men in the industry, including fellow streamers, YouTubers, game developers and talent managers.
Jessica Richey, 28, a streamer and content creator in New York City, began compiling the allegations into a Twitter thread.
Ms. Richey said in an interview on Sunday that she received more than 50 direct messages from people asking that their stories be added to her thread. On Monday morning, she compiled all of the allegations in a Medium post, which was shared widely within the streaming community.
“I’m not casting judgment or asking anyone to witch hunt those who are named,” Ms. Richey said. “I’m trying to give survivors of these issues a voice so they don’t feel alone or gaslit based on their experiences in this industry.”
Molly Fender Ayala, a Twitch streamer and community development lead for the video game Overwatch, posted a message on Twitter Sunday morning, in which she accused Omeed Dariani, the C.E.O. of Online Performers Group, a talent management agency that works with many streamers, of acting inappropriately toward her and propositioning her for a threesome in 2014. (Ms. Ayala denied a request for comment. Mr. Dariani did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
“I feel that it’s my responsibility to speak up,” Ms. Ayala wrote, so that other women in the streaming and gaming world “know that this isn’t ‘just how the industry is.’”
Mr. Dariani responded to Ms. Ayala’s allegations in a Twitter thread on Sunday. “I do not specifically recall the conversation referenced, but I’m not going to sit here and argue about whether or not it happened,” he wrote. “Because I promised I would believe women. Even, and probably most especially when I’m the person being called out. And I do believe her. So as far as I am concerned, this happened.”
That night, he stepped down as C.E.O.
“OPG is a special company,” he wrote on Twitter. “It has created opportunity where none existed before. The talented women and men who work there pour their hearts into it daily. Give them a chance. Please don’t destroy it because you’re angry at me.”
Some of the accusations saw a swift response. At least one company, Astro Gaming, said it would stop sponsoring Lono and two other streamers who had faced accusations. High-profile streamers and clients quickly cut ties with the Online Performers Group. Facebook Gaming temporarily suspended one streamer after public allegations of domestic abuse. Read on here.