The online harassment of gaming developers has hit a criminal level.
Hackers allegedly originating from the popular image-board website 4chan posted files to the Web on Thursday night that included personal and identifying information for Fez developer Phil Fish; his studio, Polytron Corporation; and Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn. This data, which was likely obtained illegally, included the information required to get into Polytron’s PayPal account as well as Quinn’s Dropbox cloud-storage account. Additionally, the hackers allegedly took control of the Polytron website and Twitter accounts. The hackers are apparently targeting Fish and Quinn for taking strong, outspoken stances against sexism and racism in games and in the industry.
Twitter has since suspended the Polytron account, and Fish was able to regain control of his website — although it is down.
In response to this latest attack, Fish announced that he is fully quitting the gaming industry. He said that he is selling Polytron and the Fez brand.
“No reasonable offer will be turned down,” Fish tweeted. “I am done. I want out.”
We’ve reached out to Polytron for more details, and we’ll update with any new information.
This is not the first time Fish has dealt with an organized Internet-harassment campaign. In July 2013, the developer canceled Fez 2 after getting hundreds of harsh responses on social media after getting into an argument with a critic.
A vocal contingency of gamers have had an issue with Fish ever since he spoke out on what he sees as a lack of quality in Japanese games. Many called him a racist for voicing that opinion. He also came to additional notoriety as one of the stars of the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which followed his efforts to produce and finish Fez.
Quinn first attracted online harassment for speaking out against sexism. This led to a smear campaign, allegedly organized on image-board WizardChan, against her and her game, Depression Quest, when she tried to release it for free on Steam. Most recently, some members from gaming communities like 4chan, Reddit, and N4G allegedly began targeting Quinn for a perceived lack of ethics.
We’ve reached out to the International Game Developers Association to ask if it has any advice for game makers experiencing harassment. We’ll update this post with any new comment.
Harassment campaigns have previously targeted other game developers as well. In 2011, fans emailed death threats to Dragon Age 2 writer Jennifer Hepler because she said that she hated playing through combat in video games. In 2012, a wave of gamer hate struck BioWare due to what many considered a disappointing ending to the sci-fi RPG Mass Effect 3. In 2013, Microsoft planned to make the Xbox One require an Internet connection, and one of its former developers, Adam Orth, told fans to “deal with it.” This led to another harassment campaign with him as the subject.