Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco offers his take on the disturbing spate of accusations around harassment in the esports and video games industry, and lists some of the accusations and responses so far at the bottom of this article.
When I sat down at my desk to start work on the morning of Monday June 22nd 2020, I glanced through my social media feeds as usual, but this time was greeted with a couple of disturbing stories.
British streamer Tom ‘Syndicate’ Cassell had been accused of sexual abuse by two women (allegations he has denied). CSGO caster Henry ‘HenryG’ Greer had similar accusations cast his way by his ex-girlfriend Kelly Jean (which he has also denied).
The fact I wasn’t surprised… that disturbed me in its own way. I’d heard of several instances of assault and harassment in this industry – and others – over the years. Stories like the Yogscast harassment scandal. This article on Kotaku. Sexual assault allegations at EVO. The list goes on.
Isn’t it sickening that the latest news didn’t really surprise me? That this kind of alleged behaviour is almost becoming normalised? People seemingly abusing positions of power.
I made a note to further look into the Syndicate and HenryG incidents later on and to run a piece after finishing work for my day job.
But it disturbed me even further when I sat down to cover the news last night. When I scanned through social media, I found post after post, new stories of harassment from other women. Twitlongers of similar incidents. People coming forward in their droves, with nasty story after nasty story. Human beings in the sector I choose to work in. Industry friends like Heather Dower recounting incidents at events I had attended, but was oblivious to what had happened at the time.
I felt sick.
No, I couldn’t just write about the Syndicate news. This is an issue which is clearly much bigger than a single news post could possibly reflect. That’s not to take anything away from Natalie ‘ZombiUnicorn’ Casanova and KaitlinWitcher, who made the claims against Syndicate, but I felt I had to think about this issue in greater detail, to read through the other posts as well, to try and get a better picture.
Even now, writing this, I am struggling to find the words.
There are so many that have come forward. Multiple women have accused Destiny streamer SayNoToRage of harassment. Streamer Blinkx has claimed she was repeatedly raped by another streamer, Phantomsfx. Evil Geniuses have cuts ties with Dota 2 caster GranDGranT amid sexual harassment allegations. Other allegations have gone beyond esports into games dev.
There are so many stories. The New York Times reports that more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter over the past few days. Twitch is now looking into it. And Slasher said he’s making a list of the endless stream of horrifying stories.
It is harrowing having to read these, but of course I can’t imagine how much worse it must be to write it, relive it, to go through it in the first place.
While it is harrowing, the fact that so many are coming forwards is somehow relieving. The Me Too style movement is encouraging others to step forward. That these incidents are being brought to light is good. It is getting people talking. It is calling out bad behaviour that has no place in our industry – or any other. It is putting a spotlight on this very important topic that needs to be highlighted.
I applaud all of those who have stepped forward with their honest stories. They have somehow found courage through the fear, or anger, or hurt, and that can’t have been easy to do.
I’m genuinely sorry to anyone who has suffered and I hope they can find closure, to move on, to find a good support network to help them, if possible.
This is not to take anything away from anyone who has been affected, but there are also sadly those who will distort the truth – on both sides. And I feel that needs to be mentioned too, because every case is different.
I remember, back when I was a teenager, learning about a man who was wrongly imprisoned for years after being accused of rape. An accusation that was later proven false – the woman had lied in an attempt to ruin his life, for whatever reason. He will never get those years back.
This is something that came back into my mind after reading this account by Karasmai, a high elo League of Legends content creator. He claims an ex partner told one of his friends that he had sexually assaulted her, in a bid to ruin their friendship.
It’s also worth remembering that anyone can be an abuser, or a victim, regardless of gender.
Again, I’m not taking anything away from those affected. But there are many, many cases, with many forms of assault and different allegations, and we should be mindful of that.
I’m sorry this article is turning into a bit of a directionless ramble. This is a difficult subject and difficult to write about. Asmongold made a good five-minute video on the topic here, and it’s nice to see someone with a big platform speak out, so don’t just listen to my words, go and see what others have to say. Study the situation, share your voice, talk to family and friends about it.
I haven’t been brave enough myself this year. It’s been a horrible year with covid, with the racism and protests, in my personal life people close to me and in my family have had serious illnesses. And I haven’t been able to talk about some of these things.
I’ve stayed silent through the Black Lives Matter situation, not knowing what to say, or how to say it. That was wrong of me. I have friends and family from all different walks of life, of different backgrounds, of different skin colours. I feel like I have let them down.
What I’ve learnt from a lot of this is a reminder to find your courage and speak up on matters that are important. Matters like this. There are a few people I know on social media who can be casually racist, or sexist, with jokes they make. I don’t like it, but I’ve held back from saying things or calling them out, so not to upset other people close to us. No more.
I’ve been thinking the past two days how best to go about writing this article, and thought an honest, open opinion piece would work to just get my views off my chest.
I asked my wife what she thought about it all, and she said: ‘How can you encourage more women to get careers in esports when stuff like this is happening?’
It’s a great point. We moan about the lack of diversity in this industry, but with things like this happening, I don’t blame anyone taking one look then deciding not to get into esports.
I also think the increasingly digital world we live in is changing how we approach topics like this. We’re in an age where it’s not unusual for people to send each other nude photos on their phones, where you can pay people for nudes, where you can access endless videos of porn – including violent porn – at the touch of a button. How many minds is that distorting? How many watch and think that’s normal?
For many people growing up today, interacting online is the norm, and meeting up in person is the exception. Honestly, to me, as someone who reached his teens without the internet barely existing, that’s seriously fucked up. It’s no excuse for what’s happened in some of the stories outlined above, of course. Just an observation on how things are changing and how it’s affecting people’s lives.
The internet can of course be a tool for good. It has given a lot of people a voice. It has allowed these women to step forward and share their stories with easily accessible platforms. For their posts to get shared and seen by thousands of people within a matter of minutes.
Maybe now this is partly why the Me Too movement is becoming more prevalent. And hopefully why, in years to come, harassment like this will decrease, or be stamped out for good. Let’s call this shit out – all of us – and help kick it out. Just as we should call out any bad behaviour in esports.
When I was thinking about all of these stories that have been published, an old prayer popped into my mind. I’m not a particularly religious person, but it resonated with me and helps me find courage in difficult times. If it, or this article, helped even just one of you, then my job is done and I can’t ask for more than that.
“God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.”
List of UK-focused accusations and responses
- Streamer Syndicate accused of rape/sexual assault – accusations by KaitlinWitcher and TheZombiUnicorn (response by Syndicate here)
- Caster HenryG accused of rape and abuse – accusation by Kelly Jean (response by HenryG here, and subsequent response by Kelly Jean)
- Account of sexual harassment encounters at industry events by esports exec and start-up founder Heather ‘Naysayerz’ Dower
- Caster Joe Miller accused of sexual misconduct, harassment and inappropriate behaviour here, here, here and here (no response from Joe yet)
- World of Warcraft player Method Josh accused of rape, grooming, soliciting graphic images of minors and other forms of sexual harassment here, here, here, here, here, here and here (Method Josh has not publicly responded to the claims)
- Method CEO and co-founder Sascha Steffens accused of predatory behaviour by former Method member AnnieFuchsia and Swebliss (Sascha has denied the claims here and here)
- Method management accused of covering up or not acting on the aforementioned behaviour by multiple sources (claims and response from Method founder Scott McMillan in this article on Method imploding here)
- Swipe Right PR accused of putting an employee in an unsafe situation by Code Red Esports campaign manager Mitsouko Anderson (response by Kirsty Endfield, founder and director of Swipe Right PR, here)
- Paul Chaloner quits esports following claims made by James Banks
- YouTuber MiniLadd accused of manipulating minors here and here (response by MiniLadd here)
- Event talent manager Declan Murphy accused of manipulative behaviour and cheating by broadcast producer/creative director Natacha Jones, as well as other anonymous accounts (Declan responded here)
- Welsh former MNM and Navi Rainbow Six player, Pie, was accused of sexual assault
Other past reports made prior to June 2020
- Enclave Gaming lead social media manager Scott Henderson accused marketing executive Jonas ‘Valgard’ Schurmann of sexual assault (a claim that Jonas refuted and responded to here). Scott later apologised in March 2021, saying his accusation was not true, and Jonas responded with another statement
- Yogscast CEO departs over accusations of inappropriate behaviour
- Gross Gore vows never to talk to women at events again following harassment accusations around Runefest
- ‘This criminal behaviour needs to get out of society’ – UK FGC host Logan Sama on disturbing reports from EVO after-party
If I’ve missed anyone, please comment below or DM me on Twitter
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.