Saturday, December 3, 2011

Service Interruption: GASM Origins

Note: Before I began this post, I asked persons that could be hurt by it if they wanted to have their identities revealed or if they'd like to be anonymous or given a pseudo-name. I believe I have met the requests of all those mentioned but if any believe I have erred, they can contact me and I will make changes. A result of insuring as much privacy as possible and the subject matter is that this post will be lengthier than some others. This post is not a deviation from the blog's intent. It serves to provide background information about certain events that occurred during my time using AGE services.

Bullying and harassment is the secret shame of the online community including Aeria Games.  In my time playing Shaiya, fourteen players confided in me that they were victims of sexual harassment/discrimination.  Some of these known to me were targeted by the same aggressor, but just as often not; the number of predators within the AGE community is greater than what most people wish to admit.

Of the fourteen people who contacted me, two were males and one is deceased as a result of the harassment. I never made it a habit of talking to known abusers but I know what happened to two of them: one was never banned and left AGE services of his own accord for a private server; another eventually went off to a different server.

Under all circumstances I always told players to report incidents of gender discrimination and sexual harassment (and if necessary local authorities). Every MMO I ever played had a system where you could report incidents of misconduct. It stood to reason that while I had never experienced sexual harassment in game that there would be a way to report it. Yet when I was sexually harassed in game I could do nothing. Except run and hide. I disappeared knowing that a friend would bear a greater burden of my abuser’s ill intent. I never sent a ticket. I never talked to anyone about what happened except my friend. I ran away from my problems hoping they’d go away. My exertions took me to the Lailah server.

People have asked me why I respond the way I do when I find out someone was sexually harassed or sexually discriminated against. The answer is simple: I’ve been there and I know how you felt and I know that sending a ticket was not as simply as “screenshot, go to the AGE Contact Us page, fill it out, click submit.” 

Sending a ticket never even registered as a valid thought for me and when it did my friend told me a ticket wouldn’t help because GMs wouldn’t do anything. I sat there at my computer screen feeling terribly sad unable to figure out why I felt so bad. For two weeks I convinced myself there was nothing wrong with me and that the person was just kidding. For two weeks I put up with his bull because his other victim said “eventually he’ll forget about us.” I waited two weeks before I couldn’t take it anymore and I left. 

During my time away from Teos, I missed my guildies and friends tremendously. Eventually I became resolved to not let someone ruin my game play anymore. I’d like to think it’s because I loved my guildies too much to allow anything to keep me from interacting with them but I don’t want to sound misleading. I missed my Teos guildies but my Lailah Fury friends and guildies gave me the backbone to go back to Teos. Sure as I will publish this post my abuser did infact approach me again. And for the first time I submitted a ticket for his actions. I didn’t expect anything to be done initially because of the nature of the ticket. All he did was KS me. It might have been intentional. It might not have been. At the time I believed that nothing was done because enough people hadn’t reported him. I took my screenshot, I blocked him, and I felt happy so I never once bothered to pursue it even though I knew that it wouldn't be too long before he found someone else to pick on. My sense of empowerment was short lived.

July of 2010, I became aware of many of my guildies on Teos being sexually harassed and stalked by a new guildie. I never blamed myself for why it happened. I blame myself for not realizing it was happening until it affected so many. On some level I blamed the community because I believed there wasn’t enough support to encourage players to report these incidents. I am aware that AGE's Terms of Service says you can report misbehavior. AGE's Terms of Service does not make any guarantees that anything will be done. More importantly the unspoken message is if you do not use their ticket system you are guaranteeing that AGE employees are not aware of the problem.

To combat the problem, I made two threads addressing the issue and a group to help provide the community with support when reporting these kinds of incidents. I proposed a revision be made to terms of service to include sexual discrimination. Myself and others figured other companies similar to AGE could include it why couldn't they? I made a guide on how to report sexual harassment, and why you should. It's one thing to tell a player to report it and another to actually convince them to do so once they hear rumors about poor customer service or GMs having favorite customers they won't ban ever. 

I created GASM because at one point the guide was rampant with negativity that was not conducive to encouraging someone to report sexual harassment and to accommodate the number of people messaging me on and off AGE forums. One single place with a wealth of information seemed like a good idea. To this day, and with the help of two AGE affiliates, GASM was able to evolve into something of an anonymous email tip line.

I realize that in making the threads and group, I gave birth to rumors and myths. Once and for all i'd like to clear up certain misconceptions. I would not have made either thread had I not spoke to a boy who thought it was ok to tell a woman to engage in sexual activities to provide herself with Aeria Points (amongst other things) because he didn't know it was sexual harassment. I would not have made GASM had it not been for the fact that at the time, a then community volunteer refused to ticket a player that sexually harassed her via AGE regulated medium. I made the guide because I know what it's like to experience sexual harassment and not report it. 

This post is in honor of the 16 days campaign. With events taking place between November 25th and December 10th, I've participated in 4 days worth of festivities and I look forward to doing more.


  1. It's interesting...

    You're complaining of sexual harassment, however I noticed that you used to fawn over the attention that males would give you within the game and the SB. You also have/had a very risque avatar on the forums.

    Not calling you a hypocrite. Just saying that it's odd that someone with those qualities about them would be such an advocate.

    On the same note: I likewise agree that sexual harassment is wrong and should be reported at the proper levels.

  2. In game I did block a number of players who demonstrated overly and sometimes aggressive advances of a sexual nature to me IF when asked to stop they didn't. There are a number of people who have attempted to gain my 'favor' or dissuade me from saying 'no' with various in game items. I have turned down such items numerous times.

    On the forums, I have not ever encouraged amorous affections towards me. Especially since some forum regulars/users who frequent SB are not always the "good guy" they appear to be.

    As for the avatar(s)... Under most circumstances they were usually part of a profile theme. Everything from dancing and burlesque to sword fighters and super heroes.