[Gaming] When the Accused Sexual Harasser Is a Friend/Acquaintance

I have some hard thinking to do. If you’re not following @JessyQuil’s thread of women courageously speaking their truth about predatory men in the gaming industry (and streamers), you should.

However, I still have much to reflect upon as someone on the sidelines. Y’see, it’s EASY to say ‘I believe her’ when you don’t know the men being accused. You might know their name cos they’re well-known in this very small industry, but you’ve never interacted with them. It doesn’t REALLY affect you, so it’s an easy almost performative unfollow/block. (eg: Chris Avellone)

The next level of thought comes from ‘what if this is a creative whose works I enjoy?’ Do you throw away those CDs or uninstall those games? Can you divorce your enjoyment of the work from your opinion of the creative? (e.g. Jeremy Soule – whose accuser noted that he said her misery helped him be creative). And of course, the next step is the realization that there are a LOT of other creatives out there you could support who aren’t shitty/predatory, and that’s when you have to decide to put in the work to find them… cos in many cases, the ones you supported eclipsed them.

And now comes to the hardest part for the folks on the sidelines, what do you do when one of the accused is someone you consider an acquaintance at worst or friend at best? Someone you’ve financially supported for many years even though you really didn’t get anything out of it. Someone whose Twitch channel you subbed to since day 1 and was proud to be a mod for them. Someone whose wife you protected and babysat when she was drunk off her ass in a hotel lobby at a major convention so he could shoot the shit with other people nearby and continue his hustle.

And this is where I am. One of the accused is someone I considered a friend, although for me that bar is set fairly low to ‘anyone I’ve interacted with who hasn’t treated me like shit’. I recognize that the converse is rarely true, but I think I gave this connection far too much credit. I called him friend, but he was clearly no friend to anyone but himself and his wife and anyone who could increase his presence in the streaming and gaming communities. Because I’m nobody in this world and have nothing to lose here, cos streaming isn’t my life or income, just something I do for funsies, I’ll openly say to whom I am referring… Omeed Dariani, now former CEO of OPG (aka Online Performers Group) – he tweeted that he is no longer CEO while I was writing this.

I’ll admit it, I admired his stated business practices of wanting to protect streamers and make sure they weren’t taken advantage of by predatory sponsors and game companies. I’ve retweeted him often enough, publicly agreeing with his statements and policies to that effect. But now, he’s been revealed to be the biggest hypocrite of them all, and several of his leading clients have announced they are leaving as soon as they can. Naturally, they are under contract for however long and legally must honor those contracts in much the same way that Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album was released in 1980. The only wariness I will express is when did they know/realize and whether they re-upped their contracts after finding out. However, those are questions they have to answer to their communities and the accusers, not to me.

I am now reflecting on what I should do, as many of us are, because as much as things should be clear-cut, they aren’t, and those are valid feelings as you consider what actions you will take. I am recognizing that I was never treated in the same manner as the women coming forward because I wasn’t young or pretty, nor was I seen as an up-and-coming streamer, so I had the privilege of ignoring his behavior because it wasn’t directed at me.

In retrospect, I think I see a bit more of a sinister version of Harry Potter‘s Horace Slughorn. I just wasn’t one of the cool kids he wanted to promote, so he didn’t prey on me, but he was willing to use my connections where his own far more extensive ones had gaps. I remember the time last year when I hustled across a massive convention scattered across five hotels and several city blocks, trying to track down the right someone on the con staff he could talk to in order to get one of his clients into the con as a VIP but undercover cos they were an A-list celebrity outside of gaming and would get mobbed if they openly wandered the show floor. After spending a couple of hours going back and forth trying to accomplish this as a favor – and admittedly to curry favor and be seen as someone who’s willing to get the job done – he eventually contacted me with hardly a thank you to say he’d gotten the issue resolved via one of his industry contacts.

It’s harder to take a firm stand against someone or say ‘no, this is not okay’ when it’s steeped in drinking culture (a separate conversation), and the persona of a jolly guy who openly talks dirty and makes sexual innuendo as often as breathing. It’s pretty much his shtick. However, I do see the manipulative behaviors. You had to be okay with drinking culture, you had to be okay with the constant innuendos (and people noticed if you didn’t join in), and jokes about being blackballed happened fairly often. And the basic thought that you had to play the game to be seen as ‘in’ was pervasive. He got away with it because he wasn’t the oh-so-serious type. Everything was phrased as a joke, so if you objected, then you ‘had no sense of humor’ and you weren’t included in the inner circle. Therefore, I personally did not witness the more intense behaviors reported by his accusers.

The bottom line here is: I believe them.

I’ve seen enough just being on the outer circle that there is no doubt in my mind. I’ve reviewed my own interactions with him and while again, I cannot claim such predatory behavior directed at me, I now recognize the manipulative behavior where he used me in what little way he saw fit when his usual connections failed him. I remember how he would tease about upcoming job openings at his company with the implication that I should apply there, but of course such opportunities never materialized whenever I followed up with him later.

I’m glad to see big time clients are announcing their departure from his company. We all saw him flailing about on Twitter once the first accusation came out. There was enough gas there to light up an entire Victorian village. His first client is jumping ship… and here’s another first. I was his first Twitch subscriber… 74 months ago. I actually kinda enjoyed disrupting the streams hosted by his employees in the past year or so by hitting that sub alert while they’re talking about something else because they’d praise my loyalty. Now that loyalty tastes like ash, and if I could take that money back, I would… and donate it to a survivor’s charity.

So, I took the following actions:

I know Twitch won’t act upon my suggestion, but perhaps the person who reads those messages will consider passing it on to someone higher up.

In the meantime, yeah, I’m kicking this connection to the curb. I wasted too much of my life covering for him as a moderator when someone would talk shit, get banned, and then get on their soapbox about it later on. I saw the jokes about banning people and if there’s anything I have zero sense of humor about, it’s the abuse of power that way, even amongst friends. So bye, Felicia.

I’m sorry that every innocent employee at OPG is now facing the serious question of whether they should continue to work there. I hope you find other employment but understand that you can’t just find another job at the drop of a hat right now. I do not wish ill of you or your livelihood… we’ve all worked for shitty bosses before but had to do what we had to do in order to pay the bills.

I hope those who bravely stepped forward have been able to find some kind of peace in all of this and that things are better for them without him in their lives. I truly cannot imagine how horrific it has been for you, and I hope no one else ever has to suffer like you must have done.