Last week, a group of female gamers known as “Bully Hunters” was created. The organization was created with collaboration from FCB Chicago, a marketing agency. Their goal was to attack players who harassed women players in Counter Strike: Global Offense. They described themselves as “vigilante hit squad of elite female gamers.” The Bully Hunters would attack harassers of women from the game with their “skills and talent.” Bully Hunters was backed by some high-profile supporters: Twitch streamer ZombiUnicorn, a spokesperson for the campaign, as well as SteelSeries, Vertagear, CyberPowerPC, the Diverse Gaming Coalition, and the National Organization for Women. Their goal was to bring more awareness of online gaming bullying. A noble goal but Bully Hunters had suspicious activities from day one.
Their debut stream showcased footage that was prerecorded, excessive promotion of their sponsor, Steel Series, and a poor statistic showcase of harassment in games.
Just so you know it was stated at the very beginning, you may have missed it. pic.twitter.com/wTIJSZxqaS
— Nati 🦄 ZombiUnicorn (@TheZombiUnicorn) April 13, 2018
Many sponsors stopped supporting Bully Hunters after the first stream. They began to disagree and were misled with the methods of how Bully Hunters worked. Natalie “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova was another part of Bully Hunters that was heavily scrutinized. She is a YouTube and Twitch streamer. Many tweets, streamed footage included her using homophobic slurs and using offensive language. They were spread across Twitter and social media websites to discredit her as an appropriate spokesperson. Casanova defended her responses as they were in the past, particularly the stream footage which was 6 years old. She also defended her use of foul languages as they were responses back to online harassment.
After 5 days, Bully Hunter has been disbanded. FCB Chicago announced the disbandment of the organization on April 17th. All videos, websites, and social media pages have been deleted. The Global Chief Communications officer, Brandon Cooke, stated: “As this effort did not live up to our high standards, we decided to end this program, but hope the conversation it has raised around ending harassment in gaming continues.”
Everyone can agree that the gaming community can be improved. There are different communities for different games so its impossible to target every gamer. Online competitive gaming communities are notorious for being unwelcoming to women. However, creating a group of women players to attack players was a dangerous tactic that didn’t work. The way Bully Hunters were marketed as a serious, dangerous group of females but ended up being a joke before the end of the day. It makes them too serious without proving their abilities. All talk and no action, especially since the first stream footage was revealed to be fake.
Some trolls can escalate their negative emotions through gaming. “Not only does engaging griefers and trolls validate their negative behavior, it can also backfire and antagonize them, increasing the aggression towards their targets,” said Holly Greene, an assistant editor for Paste Games and has done work on Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other video game news publications.