Never in all my years have I seen a social campaign fail as quickly and spectacularly as Bully Hunters did last week.
The group’s apparent mission to stop the in-game sexual harassment of female players floundered on nearly every level and likely ended up doing more damage than not to its crusade. And it deserved its explosive death.
Its data and statistics were fake; the examples of in-game harassment were fake; the event was likely a marketing ploy, not a sincere effort to help anyone; and the whole thing was headed up by a woman who has a history of bullying women herself.
For those who missed the cringe-filled fun, let me get you up to speed.
I first caught wind of the event on Twitter when I heard that Nati Casanova, a video game streamer, was heading up an effort called Bully Hunters. Some quick research showed it was an initiative to allow female “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” players who are being harassed by opponents to hire “bully hunters” to enter a game and repeatedly kill said opponents to teach them harassment is wrong.
I immediately noticed several problems with the idea.
First, in the context of gaming, what constitutes “harassment”? Is it merely getting trash-talked by opponents, a normal and widely accepted staple in competitive gaming? If so, why are bully hunters targeting people playing a game as expected and treating their female opponents as they would males?
Also, why is the effort aimed at helping only women, who make up a smaller portion of the competitive gaming community? Men suffer in-game harassment, too, and likely at a higher rate. Surely men are worth shielding from harassment as much as women.
Furthermore, how would “hiring” a bully hunter work? I haven’t played “Counter Strike: GO,” but from my understanding, a bully hunter wouldn’t necessarily be able to easily enter your game on your team to repeatedly target a specific enemy.
Finally, trying to end online harassment is an impossible goal, and hunting in-game bullies would do little, if anything, to stop harassment. If a dude is gleefully trolling a woman in a game and is targeted by a bully hunter, his harassment would either get worse as he’s repeatedly killed, or he’d find the whole thing hilarious and still continue to harass. Even if he left the game, it’s unlikely his harassing ways would stop.
I wasn’t the only one with questions.
Casanova tweeted out that 21 million female gamers have reported sexual harassment, and that 3 million women have stopped gaming altogether because of it.
A woman asked for a source for such claims, and Casanova gave her the runaround. Later, the woman found out the 3 million figure came from projections from an online survey of only 874 people Casanova had extrapolated to the population of every console-owning woman in America.
Before Bully Hunters was even a thing, it was using shaky data to make wild and hyperbolic claims about the harassment female gamers face. It wasn’t a good start, and it only got worse.
Thursday evening, Casanova and others streamed an event showing what viewers were led to believe was an example of real in-game harassment, and how women could hire bully hunters to take the bullies down. It took minutes for internet masses to discover the harassment was entirely scripted, again putting the whole thing in a terrible light.
A few presenters with little, if any, credentials spouted nonsense about toxic masculinity and the patriarchy. The entire stream stank and vilified male gamers as terrible people.
On top of that, throughout the stream, presenters mentioned SteelSeries, a manufacturer of gaming peripherals, including headsets. The company made some limited-edition Bully Hunters-themed headsets, turning the whole thing into a marketing gimmick.
The icing on the cake was, after the stream, gamers found evidence of Casanova herself being a bully. In one of her streams, Casanova called her opponents a homophobic slur. She has several tweets, including recent ones, where she’s called women harsh gendered insults.
It’s pretty ironic that the woman leading the charge against the poor treatment of female gamers is herself part of the problem.
On top of that, Casanova threatened to file false copyright claims on anyone who would use clips of the Bully Hunters stream to critique it or her, both of which are protected under fair use.
It didn’t take long after the stream for sponsors, including SteelSeries, to see the multiple glaring problems with Bully Hunters. Sponsors pulled their support and issued apologies. Even SteelSeries admitted the way Bully Hunters represented the gaming community was “wrong and disingenuous.”
“Most gamers don’t experience harassment, and more importantly, more than 99 percent plus don’t do the harassing,” SteelSeries said in a statement, dismantling Bully Hunters’ entire campaign. “Although we still believe in a world where harassment isn’t tolerated, it’s clear to us that Bully Hunters is hurting, not helping, that cause.”
Since then, BullyHunters.org has gone dark, and even Casanova herself has backpedaled and severed ties with the campaign.
Bullying isn’t cool, and no one likes it. It would be great if people were always nice to each other in games, but that will never happen.
I just hope those responsible for Bully Hunters learned from this debacle because they failed to do almost anything right.