During the GDC Next panel "Mob Rules: The Destructive Power of Opinion and Online Community," Adam Orth, the former creative director of Microsoft Studios, spoke about what it has been like to be on the receiving end of internet hate.
While he had been contacted by members of the press many times over for a chance to explain his end of things, Orth chose to remain quiet, and keep himself out of the public eye, reports Polygon. "My colleagues, friends and family urged me to do it, though, hoping that I could find closure and maybe I could get even a single person to see what someone endures when they becomes the target of internet hate."
For those unfamiliar, Adam Orth was the creative director at Microsoft Studios who, through a series of tweets, essentially patronized and dismissed huge segments of the gaming community who were concerned about the then-rumored Next Xbox having always-online DRM. While parts of the conversation were meant in jest with personal friends of his, the entire conversation was public, leading to a huge backlash. The rest, as they say, is history.
While Orth maintains his opinion, as well as people's rational disagreement, "unfortunately, that's not what happened." Adam and his family quickly became the focus of torrents of racist and homophobic tweets, in addition to death threats. Ultimately, it was the sheer volume of threats that caused Adam to relocate his family to Southern California. Safety, not internal pressure from Microsoft, was the deciding factor in Adam's resignation.
"When someone threatens you on the internet, it's very hard to take that seriously," he said. "Were any of these threats credible? Unlikely, but I wasn't going to put myself and my family at risk. Ultimately we had to leave town to feel safe. We had to completely rebuild our life and fortify our digital life as well as all of our financial accounts in order to protect ourselves and our assets. Many people have asked me 'Did you contact the authorities?' In the end I chose not to. It felt pointless. I mean, how do you report the entire internet?"
Even so, Orth has reflected on his own actions, specifically the dismissive tone he brought to what was, and in some ways still is, an extremely divisive topic in our industry.
"I exercised incredibly poor judgment expressing my personal opinion in a public forum about a volatile and divisive topic in the gaming community," he said. "I made it even worse by continuing that conversation sarcastically with a close friend. While the tone was natural and normal for us, the rest of the world heard and read something very different.
"It's easy now for me to see the anger, outrage and how controversial it was based on my professional position and the tone in which I delivered my opinion ... I survived. When something this bad happens to you, you have two choices: Curl up in the fetal position and become the victim, or face the truth, learn from your mistakes with humility and move forward."
I don't have much to say in the way of online bullying that hasn't been said a thousand times over and a thousand times better. It's wrong, we know that, and I wish to God more people would take the time to think about what they are actually saying before they send out death threats like they're candy.
I think there's more that can be said, however, for checking your privilege and maintaining a filter. Where I live in San Francisco, getting a good internet connection is not an issue, and in all honesty, when I use my Xbox it is always connected to Live.
But I have friends that live in remote part of Mississippi, Kansas, and other connectivity dead-zones. Just because an issue is not an issue for you personally, that does not give you a pass to treat it flagrantly and cavalier. Nobody should feel so uneasy about their safety that they move their family hundred of miles away, but some hate can be avoided.