Part of dealing with people in general means that you will have to deal with some unsavory folks every now and then. This is merely a statement of fact. However, the volume with which you meet this kind of individuals seems a bit higher when dealing with the online world, likely due in no small part to the fact that the internet is like alcohol: It can bring out who people really are and lower their inhibitions. The internet also is somewhat anonymous and can create a feeling of anonymity. You can often join a group, get what you want out of it, and then never speak to any of those people ever again. Many people, in fact, create a distance between their time spent online (as part of a forum group, an online game guild or clan, or whatever else), never giving out any personal details and being willing to disengage from them once they are ready to move on to other things.
Recently, a guy who I will call Indie, appeared on “The Gaming Goddess” podcast. Indie actually first contacted me earlier this year to tell me about an indie game he had helped create and wanted to get some good press for. I played the game, was mildly entertained by it, and reviewed it with a decently favorable write-up. A bit of time passed and he began to email me casually, talking about some of the projects I had been working on and how much he appreciated them, and then brought up the idea of wanting to come on the podcast in order to talk about the indie gaming world, game design in general, and the problems he saw with game journalism. While I felt that he was a bit forward with his request, I initially otherwise saw nothing wrong with it, discussed it with Rob, and we decided to let him on. The episode was pretty good and we got some good feedback about it, though a few people did not care for the guest very much and thought he came across as arrogant and overbearing. But, whatever – that’s not the point. Again, a little time passed and then he started to get a bit more personal with his emails. He talked some about his work, his past, and then moved on to ask about sexual kinks, fetishes, relationship beliefs, and other things. He eventually went on to talk about his own sexual fantasies regarding voyeurism and crossed a line by saying he wanted me to send him a bunch of information and personal photographs. Obviously, that wasn’t an acceptable request to me, and I felt kind of used that he would even ask me to send him anything like that. I mean, let’s face it: Outside of some casual emails and him being on the podcast one time, I didn’t even know the guy. What the heck was the deal there?
It gets more complicated though. So, after having been pissed off by that whole affair, I decided to look into the guy a bit more. Indie claimed on the show to be 42 years old, having been born in 1971, and I had seen a couple pictures of him from his social media sites. However, typing his real name into Google and finding his YouTube page, things didn’t really add up. The person in the one video he had posted there did indeed sound like him, but there was no way that he was 42. I would believe that he graduated in 1971 before I’d believe that he was born in 1971.
Want to know what the real kicker was though? The one video up on his YouTube account is what seems to be a video that was like a brief personal bio given for a job he was applying for. The date on the video was from just a couple months ago. That was around the time he claimed to be working for that one indie studio and wanted me to play the game. So, why is it that he apparently was applying for a job when he seemed to be happily employed with this other company – a company, I should add, that at least has decent revenue coming in? In our first real correspondence, he claimed to have contacted me because someone had told him that I liked indie games and giving indie studios a chance, and now I wonder if all that was merely a pretext? Did he really work for this company, or was it all just some weird little game to try to get me to get personal with him?
Obviously this isn’t the first time this has happened. This seems to be roughly a yearly occurrence, with some minor infractions spread out here and there. Back in March of 2012, I became friends on Twitter with a guy we will call Retro. Retro seemed nice enough and was really into, as you might guess, older video games. He even did a ton of videos and such on YouTube that he would try to get me to watch (which were admittedly well-done and fun to watch, though he hardly had any views on them sadly) and eventually he got to be on the show. In fact, he was the first real guest the show had. His personal issues though weren’t really related to that, but more that he got very creepy, started sending me very personal information about his life and his desires, and then getting sexual with the nature of his correspondence, despite that, though he obviously did not recall this, I told him initially early on that I wasn’t going for any of that type of stuff. So, he, too, had to go the way of Indie and get himself deleted and blocked so he could no longer cause any problems.
Then, back when I played “RIFT,” there was a guy I’ll dub G who was very stalkery and got overly personal and harassing after a while. With G, it got to the point that he would make new characters in the game to continue the charade, and when he was kicked out of the guild I was in for doing this to myself and other players, he created an alternate character, played them completely differently and acted like a different player, just to get back in and then get booted out again. Then, not satisfied with any of that, he tracked down my email, got blocked, then used alternate emails to find me, got blocked on all of them, and then left notes on my YouTube and other sites. Yet, at least his story has a somewhat decent ending: He later apologized, earlier this year in fact, for his actions and now at least he and I are on speaking terms and I’ll get the occasional, normal, casual email from him.
There are obviously other cases that I could cite here, but the thing is that when these things happen it really is terrible. It’s easy for someone on the outside to think that it isn’t a big deal, but the fact of the matter is that if you are the person being targeted by others, it is a big deal to you. Yet, my good friend Rob pointed something out: The fact is that if we play a numbers game and assume that 99% of people are at least somewhat normal and non-creepy, and only 1% of the folks out there are creeps, stalkers, and/or trolls, the larger a following you grow, the more of these creeps you will come in contact with. It isn’t a matter of there being more of them, really, but the proportion of them is increasing as your followers grow. So, if you only had 100 followers then you may only have to deal with 1 creep now and then. Yet, in my case, where this blog has around 4,200 followers, that means there are potentially 42 creeps somewhere in the mix there to deal with. Ultimately, it is true that having a larger following also means that there are more good people that I can come in contact with, and that is a good thing.
When stuff like this happens, though, I always consider simply deleting any social media accounts, any information about myself that exists online, really trimming out contacts from my inbox and in other venues, and quitting making videos, podcasts, and any other public media. It just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble. Yet, apparently there are a decent amount of people out there that would be really sad if I quit making these things. A few people told me that by disappearing and cutting out any fun stuff like that, I would be allowing people like Indie to win and proving to them that they will just get their way. Also, it wouldn’t just be punishing me, but it would punish all the people out there that actually have fun reading the blog, watching videos, listening to the podcast, or joining on on a live-stream. And honestly, I have fun doing that stuff too.
After some deliberation on the matter, upon the suggestion of my guest co-host Rob, I’ve decided that in the case of Indie, I would remove his episode from the internet entirely as well as delete all traces of it from my computer. So, if you were curious about Indie and wanted to go back and look him up, unless you kept the MP3 on your computer or some other device, you’ve missed your chance. And that’s good – he doesn’t deserve to be affiliated with the podcast in any way, shape, or form. And, for the sake of principle, I’ve gone and done the same for the Season 1 episode that Retro was in.
So, what will be done with these episodes now that they are gone?
I plan to have these replaced with two special episodes that will deal with Cyber Stalking, Cyber Bullies, and other forms of harassment. These are very big topics in today’s world anyway, and I think it is only appropriate that at least some good rise from the ashes of those two dark stains. These episodes are ones that I will plan to record sometime in the coming weeks, and it is possible I will draw from people that I actually know to have them come on and talk about their experiences. I might even make it a special show where I will get people to prerecord a message that they want played on the show, talking about their experiences or as a note of warning or hope for anyone else troubled by this stuff.
I am definitely curious as to what experiences others out there have had. Please, if you are okay with it, feel free to share them here in this article’s comments.