For gamers, there's been no more popular place to visit for discussion than NeoGAF. Launched in 1999, it was one of the original gaming forums, and has since become a primary destination not only for gamers looking to talk about their hobby, but also developers.
This week it's become a huge topic of discussion as the website has gone down, and fiery controversy has erupted surrounding site owner Tyler "EvilLore" Malka. Although this may appear insignificant, it has huge implications for the gaming industry, as the forum has been considered a go-to place for breaking big news pieces as well as developer commentary, enough that just about every major outlet, from Kotaku to The Verge, has covered this week's story.
As someone deeply invested in the gaming industry, I naturally found myself on NeoGAF a few years back, and have since then used several accounts to post thousands of messages on the forum. With this, I figured I would share my perspective on the whole thing.
Initially, I loved NeoGAF. Back in 2009 I began using it to engage in discussion about new releases, which would keep me in the know about trending topics. This allowed me to be on the cutting-edge of what would become big stories in the industry, from DLC implementation to game-breaking bugs as well as commonly Google'd FAQ terms that I'd use for high-visibility guides.
NeoGAF is known to be pro-Sony, and even has its own PS4 theme.
During my first few years on the site my main gripe was that it was heavily Sony leaning. While I was a huge fan of the brand from PlayStation to PlayStation 3, I found myself severely disappointed with the PlayStation 4 at launch. I ended up using my Xbox One more often as a result, and that simply wasn't popular among the forum community as well as its moderation team, leading to me being singled out whenever I said something negative about the PS4's early operating system features and software.
The bias was so lopsided that I was bannedby the famous pro-Sony mod "Bish"—for saying positive things about Xbox, such as excusing Microsoft for wanting to implement digital-online with the Xbox One (I wouldn't have minded, but understand the opposing side). Actually, G4/Rev3Games host Adam Sessler was similarly targeted during the same timeframe, and it got so bad that he left games journalism.
Read More: The Full History of PlayStation
Later, I was witch hunted for writing an article arguing that Sony's push for 1080p wasn't necessarily the best answer for every game as they end up having unstable FPS that can't hit 60. For saying this, a 20+ page discussion erupted that was filled with people trying to find my personal information and dox me, all for having a different opinion. It was a weird and discomforting feeling, to say the least.
This bias is actually well-known and documented, and in my opinion has done a huge disservice to an industry where competition breeds excellence. Of course, I've seen a few NeoGAF mods try to argue that competition doesn't actually propel products toward improvement, which is kind of insane.
But really, NeoGAF's biggest problem in recent years has shifted away from console wars to something much more dangerous: politics.
GamerGate signaled a new toxic era for NeoGAF.
Beginning right in the middle of 2014 NeoGAF exploded with discussion about Gamergate, a massive online controversy that stemmed from discourse about ethics in gaming journalism. If you aren't aware of what Gamergate is, I recommend reading about it on KnowYourMeme, as it's interesting, relevant, and understanding it at even a basic level helps give you an idea of where politics and society alike have been shifting these past few years.
As the chips fell where they may it became clear that the moderation team at NeoGAF was much more supportive of the social justice warrior's perspective rather than anyone who held a moderate or conservative opinion on the subject matter, to a point where it was normal to see nasty comments from both sides of the spectrum end up with a social justice warrior walking away unscathed, and anyone who said anything that fell outside of the far-left spectrum permanently banned.
It got to a point where, as the NeoGAF community began to liquefy into an echo chamber since opposing opinions were punished with bans, they called for all big public figures in the industry to condemn what were termed as "gamergaters", or those who didn't side with them. Several people were caught in the thick of this, one of the most notable being YouTube personality Boogie, who this week posted a screenshot of his ban message from back then.
Even the kind-spirited YouTuber Boogie2988 was attacked by NeoGAF.
Things have only gotten worse since then. With the last U.S. election clearly there's been divisiveness among Americans, but at least for the most part both sides have been able to convey their thoughts and discuss topics. Not on NeoGAF.
By the end of 2015 it was basically prohibited to hold anything but a far-left liberal opinion on NeoGAF. Disagreeing beliefs are smitten on the site, resulting in bans and an incredible amount of hate, as seen with what happened to Colin Moriarty last year.
A friend of mine, who works as security personnel for a college, got permanently banned for simply stating that he supports police officers and them defending themselves. His opposition, which was basically everyone else, said things like "f*** the police" and that police officers deserve only the worst.
Meanwhile, I was banned just a month ago for saying that Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey wasn't a Nazi in a thread where hundreds of users were comparing him and other conservatives to Hitler. Yup, during the past year it's becoming routine for anyone that the community disagrees with to be called a Nazi, including those that aren't willing to forcefully condemn anyone outside their spectrum. Here's the ban message I received:
You have been banned for the following reason: Go support ethnonationalists and racists somewhere else.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never
Most recently, with the Harvey Weinstein news blowing up, NeoGAF has emotionally rallied against anyone accused of sexual assault. Part of this is a noble cause, but the only problem is that anyone accused is guilty before proven innocent rather than the other way around. So, all it takes is one small story coming out and pages of discussion would erupt with a flood of emotion calling for the worst possible things to happen to said person.
Interestingly enough, NeoGAF owner Tyler "EvilLore" Malka has been no stranger to sexual assault allegations over the years despite being outspokenly feminist.
In-fact, after quite a bit of lashback he posted the following tweet:
The latest allegation is that Tyler walked naked into a shower with a woman who didn't give him consent. It all started with a lengthy Facebook post by the woman which immediately triggered a response that was heard around the internet.
Being that NeoGAF's moderation team is so strongly against such actions, within hours they all resigned, leaving a forum with thousands of posts per hour without a team to manage it. It goes without saying that the place quickly became a mess as users were able to post whatever they wanted without repercussion.
Without moderation the forum was out of control before going offline.
What wasn't really taken into consideration is the woman in question also stated in the post that soon after they had a long-standing sexual relationship (with her consent). At the very least this brings to question the context of the shower scenario, but that didn't matter to NeoGAF where now everyone wants Tyler burned at the stake.
Fast forward a couple hours and NeoGAF would go down, displaying a 503 error. Discussion would continue on Twitter where the general consensus was praise for the site going down among former users, moderates and conservatives, and even quite a few developers who had been harassed over the past few years for various reasons.
It's now been more than 48 hours and the site is still down. Tyler Malka said in an interview that he expects the site to come up later today and be "focused on gaming", but the damage has been done.
Ultimately, it was only a matter of time before something happened. NeoGAF has become an echo chamber of single-sided thought over the past few years, driving away the inclusiveness that it says it desires. In the same way the Weinstein news helped to call out a cancer in the film industry, this will help the gaming industry diagnose and treat itself.