The recent anti-bullying and harassment initiative ‘Bully Hunters’ has faced sharp criticism following its live streamed event which included scripted ‘bullying’ of female gamers, so much so that its high profile sponsors have ended their engagement with the scheme.
Not only was the live stream obviously set up and scripted (while feigning being a live and spontaneous example of the level of online abuse women gamers receive) it was also based on very questionable statistics, one which claimed that “3 million women had stopped playing games completely” because of abuse.
The sources for such claims turned out to be a very small scale non-reveiwed survey of less 1000 participants, of which 84 claimed abuse had caused them to stop playing games completely.
Certainly not the three million figure which Bully Hunters essentially lazily extrapolated and claimed accounted for the enitre population of female gamers in America.
The questionable statistical claims coupled with the poorly executed live show resulted in a wave of criticism and mockery of the initiative generally. Despite its supposed good intentions, the show, made the very real problem of online abuse seem comical more than anything else.
Then came accusations that the entire thing was just a promotional stunt, apparently devised by headset manufacturer SteelSeries, whose branding was prominent on the website and live show.
However, SteelSeries, and other high profile sponsors of the Bully Hunters program have now stated publicly that they were mislead into thinking it was something it wasn’t. SteelSeries full statement can be found here.
“BullyHunters was not a viral campaign stage-managed by us. We did not hire a marketing agency to create it. We didn’t have anything to do with its execution, content or messaging. And more importantly, we would never take advantage of an issue like bullying to sell hardware.”
We decided to support this campaign because we believe that harassment of any kind sucks.
But this was not stage-managed by us as some sort of viral campaign. We didn’t come up with the idea. No money was exchanged whatsoever. We provided headsets for charity and support. (1/2)
— SteelSeries (@SteelSeries) April 13, 2018
Another sponsor, CyberPowerPC, have yet to provide a full official statement on their partnership, but PR manager for the company made their stance clear during a live stream.
“What we signed up for, was something totally different in our minds. It just ended up being something completely different, especially the way they went about it.”
Two other sponsors, Vertagear and Diverse Gaming Coalition, echoed these sentiments. Vertagear claimed that they too were not properly briefed on what exactly Bully Hunters would eventually entail:
“The information that we received before the start of the campaign not only contradicted the execution of it, but we discovered after the fact that it was sorely lacking.”
You can read Vertagear’s full statement here.
Similarly, Diverse Gaming Coalition, an organization founded by Abbey Sager who suffered bullying and now through the DGC fights “for a change in online and real-life communities through modern concepts and pop culture”, also withdrew support.
“This initiative does not align with our mission and vision statement as a non-profit. […] We believe in their intentions as a company to promote social good, but do not think they approached it in the best way possible.”
You can read Diverse Gaming Coalition’s full statement here.