I Got Death Threats For Reporting On A Video Game Delay

Last Wednesday, I reported that No Man's Sky had been delayed. For two days, up until the game's developers confirmed the news, I received a stream of nasty messages, angry tweets and, as has become a standard part of gaming culture, threats against me and my family. Apparently I'm not the only one. No Man's Sky director Sean Murray tweeted on Sunday that he'd also received death threats for the crime of delaying his game a few weeks. Fans of the game — really, fans of the game's marketing — have been loud, passionate and angry.

This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who spends time on the internet, especially in the video game world, where every week there's something new to get mad about. Over the past few years, death threats ranging from silly to scary have been sent to all sorts of gaming targets: Call of Duty's developers, for nerfing a weapon; Anita Sarkeesian, for critiquing video games; Gabe Newell, for running Steam. Anyone who is outspoken about politics or who criticises the Gamergate movement is regularly subject to this sort of behaviour. On the internet, where words feel weightless and ephemeral, death threats are par for the course.

Still, it was unsettling to wake up Friday morning to a series of messages from someone who said he was going to kill me and my family for reporting on a video game delay:

Don't worry: I'm fine. I've never felt like this dude was actually going to come after me, and working at Kotaku forces you to develop a pretty thick skin. When you write about video games, you get used to trolls and threats. This can't even compare to some of the harassment faced by outspoken women like Sarkeesian, especially on Twitter. The social network is crucial to the careers of critics and reporters who use it to spread word of their work, develop sources and communicate with readers, but it is pathetic at dealing with harassers. I reported @BeachClasherMDR for these threats four days ago; as of this morning, Twitter has yet to do a thing - and won't do a thing.

UPDATE (11:31am): And now Twitter has suspended the account. Original article follows:

One line in that message is particularly revealing: "It's the only thing I live for." Whether or not he was exaggerating, that's the type of obsession that fuels so much of the nastiness in gaming culture. There are plenty of great gaming communities and, in my experience, most gamers are perfectly pleasant, but too many are unable to separate themselves from their products. Video game fans who are zealously attached to their favourite games — even, as in this case, a game that has yet to come out! — are prone to get aggressive when they feel like they're being attacked. Or when they get bad news.

As soon as I broke news of the game's delay on Thursday morning, I watched the No Man's Sky subreddit explode, filling up with messages about how it couldn't be true, how Kotaku must be trying to troll them, how we're always wrong. The subreddit's overworked moderators were quick to clean up many of these threads, but for the next two days it was bedlam. People tried to dig up reasons the delay couldn't have been real — "Kotaku's sources are anonymous, so it can't be true" — and even came up with elaborate schemes to harass GameStop employees across the US.

One Redditor, Gilchrist78, declared that he'd called 30 GameStops and confirmed with them all that the news was false. "NMS is NOT delayed," he wrote. When I commented that I was confident there was indeed a delay and that people really shouldn't get their hopes up, he doubled down. "So you have 1 source in Gamestop," he wrote. "I have 30."

No Man's Sky has been heavily hyped since its debut trailer shocked the gaming world at the VGAs in December of 2013. It's hard not to be excited about a game that looks like it will let us fly through the universe and land on an infinite series of beautiful worlds. The New Yorker has gushed about it. Murray has been on Stephen Colbert's show to show it off. And that was before it even had a release date, which was slated for June 21 until last week's delay.

What really exacerbated the situation last week was a series of threads on Saturday by a Redditor who worked at EB Games and said he'd received a poster with a new release date for the game: June 24, three days after the original date. Wishful thinking combined with blind devotion led members of the No Man's Sky subreddit to accept this as fact. Again they started flooding my inbox and Twitter with angry messages.

By Saturday morning I was nervous that the developers might wait until Monday or Tuesday to confirm the delay and that I'd have to deal with an entire weekend of these messages, but I soon found out that they'd be announcing the news on the PlayStation Blog that day. No Man's Sky was pushed to August. I've never been so relieved to see a video game get delayed.

What's most astounding about this whole sequence of events isn't the threats to me and to Sean Murray, nor is it the toxic elements of the No Man's Sky community, nor is it even the sharp GamerGater who insisted that the threat was fake because he doesn't understand how open Twitter DMs work. What's most astounding is that this has become the new normal. In a few days everyone will forget about it, and we'll be on to the next big outrage. And on to the next set of death threats.


    I just like to play video games...

      I absolutely agree. It's really difficult to tell people that though, because they see stuff like this and assume that if you play video games, you're a horrible person. I just want to have fun with some pretty lights and colours, not yell at people and threaten to kill them.

      Exactly! You know what I did when I found out? I was disappointed for about 10 minutes, tweeted about it and then bought Ratchet & Clank to tide me over. I'll probably buy DIRT Rally at the weekend and soon enough August will be here and we'll all have forgotten it was delayed. And I managed all this without threatening to kill someone! :)

      Oh wow you too? There are more of us than I thought.
      I will admit I was disappointed when Mirror's Edge: Catalyst was delayed again and again - but not to the point of sending death threats...

      Right? Would these people prefer something half-assed and released earlier than it should be all full of bugs? Although I guess that's just something else they could send death threats for.

    the no mans sky community is crazy, if you criticise or question anything you get attacked


        Someone's been playing Crusader King's recently.

      Silence! I kill you!

      But yeah, they're nuts.. What happened to being excited for a game meaning being excited for a game, and not a hunt for excuses to threaten and abuse people? I'm gonna blame Battletoads for some reason.

        You'll do what??

        That's it I'm hopping on my dragon and I am going to ram it into your FACE.

      no its EVERY gaming community. I have yet play a game in years in which the online community wasnt massively toxic. Its got to such a stage where I try not to be actively part of communities. And stick to youtubers like Mr Fruit who reminds us that gaming should be FUN.

        No, it's EVERY community full stop. Any community past a certain size that doesn't self-police well will have this. I've had death threats for pointing out that a cyclist is entitled to the whole lane on a multilane road. "If I see you in the middle of the lane, i'll run you off the road and reverse to make sure."

        There are a lot of people who have very little self-control or empathy.

          Yeah but cyclists have it coming, just like people in cars who go 40 under the limit :P

            ...as for people with beards, they're the worst. The WORST.

            Especially beardy people who play space sims.

              But at least they fly fast :P

                Charge the engines with beardonium!!!

                  Ah crap I need to go find some more to scoop.

                  TO THE JOYRIDEMOBILE!

              Oh you dirty bastard, Trikeabout! That was low, lol! :p

                Hehe, our learned friend Sir Gooky knows that I too have a hirsute face (although nothing like the pogonic masterpiece that adorns Gooky's!!!) and spend way too much time in SPAAAAAAAAAACE. And now you do too. :)

              My beard is faster than your ..... not beard. SO THERE! :-P

            NO THEY DONT. Caps intended. Even if it was meant as a joke. As a person who is almost killed at least twice a ride without fail by loser drivers who dont even know the road laws themselves. There is absolutely no room for humour on this. Given how many people have died/hurt on the roads due to such people it is no laughing matter.

              There is room for humour in everything.

              Especially when it comes to people in funny pants.

                Yeah no. Sure things like Last Week Tonight and Daily Show remind us the best medicine is comedy no matter how serious the topic but they both have something the average fool that jokes able hurting cyclists or the like doesn't have, skill. Comedic and otherwise.

          I swear there must be some actually measurable critical mass for communities though, where they reach that tipping point of being a good place to being a hate-infested shithole. Would love to see some smart dudes come up with actual numbers for it.

            Yeah. I reckon the best place to research this would be Rotary branches or amateur dramatics. Both seem to be microcosms of wider society, if that society is a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

        Splatoon. Great community.

          You are joking, yes? They went crazy at not having voice chat. They are no better.

            I wasn't really interested in the game so didn't get any of that. Either way, it's amazing now.

        world of warships asia server hs ZERO toxicity

        some small or private MMOs actually get along together !

        Last edited 01/06/16 12:54 pm

        Yeah I agree with this. I'll give you three examples off the top of my head.

        When it first started, RUST was a delight to play. Over the last few years though, RUST on pc has turned into one of the most toxic communities I have *ever* come into contact with. I actively avoid playing RUST now, because of this fact. This sucks too, because I really enjoyed that game :(

        Again, same reason as RUST. When it started, everyone was into Dino taming, everyone was into playing the game to explore it etc. Soon, it somehow swung into becoming a COD lite game where people just sought to grief and kill. Nothing wrong at *all* with PVP. I partake in it happily, but when it reaches toxic levels, with people actively griefing you over steam, then trying to track you down on Facebook (didn't happen to me, happened to someone in a clan I was part of), to bully you, it gets ridiculous. However, if you do find a private server on ARK and managed to get into a good community, it's one of the best gaming experiences you'll ever have.

        Really, you wouldn't THINK this would be that toxic. You really wouldn't but this is probably the worst out of the three. People get *so* serious over this game it's utterly ridiculous.

      Every gaming community has its fair share of crazies. It's not limited to NMS.

        Or even gaming! Anyone who's work is on display in front of millions of people is likely to get a few death threats because odds are there is a person with some serious problems that will see it.

    Be afraid human, we are coming for you.

    What kind of sick monsters are we dealing with.

      The type of monsters who sit in the 4 seat sections in a train by themselves just so they can put their feet up on the seat and noisily eat snack foods and leave their garbage wedged between the seats.

      Just your average run of the mill sociopath with the internet and a little too much time on their hands to fixate.

    I was hyped for No Mans Sky back when it was announced. But now? It don't care much for it. Between the long wait, other titles and decidedly lacking gameplay footage I've concluded that the game will look pretty but be rather boring to play for any period of time.

      HOW DARE YOU INSULT NO MANS SKY. I LIVE FOR THIS GAME... Whooaaa hang on. That's the article talking not me :P

      I'm actually in the same boat, I don't think I'll be buying it until I see more of it, see what mates think of the game etc. Guess we'll have to wait and see if it can live up to the hype!

    Maaan, that's messed up. I really don't understand people that define themselves by the products they like.

      They don't even like this product! How can they? They haven't even tried it yet!

      I also don't understand why people care if a game gets delayed. So what? You've lived your entire life up to this point without that game, what does it matter if you go another few weeks / months without it? Unless you're dying from some terminal illness and won't actually make it to the new release date, but I imagine that would be a pretty small segment of the market.

        I know I've seen some cases where people have booked their entire annual leave balance for a game release date that either got pushed back, or launched as an online-only product with dodgy servers that ended up being down for the duration of their holiday. Those people definitely sounded mad enough to kill.

        Thing is, they're probably just mad at themselves. For, y'know... not taking into consideration the basic realities of video games and the gaming industry. A 'flawless online launch' is the exception to the rule.

          Oh man the number of salty dudes who did exactly that for the Rift launch and could not fathom that they had to wait for theirs to be delivered rather than just having it instantly materialise on the 28th was... actually I can't decide whether it was hilarious or scary.

        A delayed release is way better than a broken game, it can be really crap to install a game then watch as it starts downloading a massive patch

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      And more importantly having a fundamental misunderstanding that a gamestop employee (or any retail staff) will only have a confirmation date that is completely dependent on the distributor. Like they would know any more than what they're reading off a sheet hahaha.

      Last edited 01/06/16 10:32 am

        "I can try, sir, but the computer doesn't have an option for [REDACTED GRAPHIC INSTRUCTION REPLETE WITH EXPLETIVES]."

    Not trying to stigmatise anyone but I wonder how many of these people issuing death threats have some sort of disorder or autism.

    I remember being back in uni and there was this one guy who always got awkwardly aggressive if someone criticised a game or anime that he liked. He'd just shout over a group of people or butt in on conversations that he wasn't a part of. I wouldn't be surprised if he was making death threats like this.

      That kind of amateur diagnosis just makes it harder for people who do have a spectrum condition but aren't raging entitled fuckwads. It's only recently becoming clear how many people that get by reasonably well or very well in life are on the spectrum.

      Maybe some ragers are socially awkward thanks to their brain wiring, but there are plenty of "neurotypicals" that are still complete arseholes. Seems like it's easier to blame a condition than the person.

      Facebook and Twitter are appalling at dealing with this behaviour.

        Yeah, this is why so many fuckwit parents make like difficult for the people who work in public education by demanding an unfair and undeserved slice of the far-too-limited money assigned to helping children with disabilities because they can get any hack doctor to diagnose their kid with "autism". Lady, you kid isn't autistic, he's a selfish, entitled little shit because you spoiled him and never taught him that the entire fucking world doesn't revolve around him.

        That's the thing: people these days can't tell the difference between autism and just being a douchebag.

          They do have a disorder. But it isn't autism.

          They are, for the most part, teenagers, with all the dissociation, entitlement and anger that implies (or 30-40 year olds living in their mother's basement, who are, for all intents and purposes, teenagers).

          Combine that with John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory and you have a recipe for disaster.

          Put an age limit on a community and most (not all, but most) of the bile vanishes (the basement dwellers!).

          Last edited 01/06/16 4:10 pm

      What difference would it make if they were autistic? Autism doesn't automatically make you act like a cunt and throw death threats around.

    Wait am I missing something? Why is it your fault? You just reported on the delay not caused it.

    I dont understand people

      Well, if it makes you feel better, they did also make similar threats against Sean Murray, that game's director :P

      Which just shows how utterly stupid these people are. They want the game so much that they're this pissed off by the delay. But if they kill the game's director, they'll delay it even more! HA! Jokes on them!

      Its simple, because he was reporting news they didn't like, they assumed he was lying just to get publicity or clicks or something.

      See, now it seems like a perfectly reasonable basis to send death threats.

      But don't you see the journalists are trying to DESTROY VIDEO GAMES with their discussions of the portrayal of gender roles reporting delays in release dates!

      Last edited 01/06/16 2:03 pm

    NMS peeps are crazy as hell. How can someone be so obsessed with one game? What thoughts go through a person mind that makes them want to wake up and log into a site to talk about the same game day after day after day for absolutely no reason?

    People need to chill out. This article has me worked up so i'm going to go back to playing some Biker Mice from Mars.

      I get being excited for a new release and poring through new info as it comes out. But yeah @decoy, I haven't seen this level of fanaticism outside of a cult!

    Remember the good ol days? When being referring to yourself as a gamer only made people think you were slightly weird instead of a potential psychopath? I miss those days.

      Are you talking about the pre 80s?

        Well, back then, being a gamer meant you were into D&D and therefore a Satan Worshipper.

    What’s most astounding is that this has become the new normal. In a few days everyone will forget about it, and we’ll be on to the next big outrage. And on to the next set of death threats.

    Spot on.

    Writing an article about this hives him the attention he wanted, gj

    The internet is home to some serious crazies. Like.. holy shit.
    I think actual mental conditions may account for a lot of the people that make these threats, though. I just can't imagine a normal balanced human being doing something like this.

      Yeah. This isn't actually something specific to gaming. Some people just seem to think that making death threats is the only way to get anybody to pay attention to them specifically amongst all the other noise, regardless of the issue.

      Look at that thing the other day with the kid who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. His parents are getting death threats, apparently. Why?! Yeah, they probably screwed up that parental supervision thing, but why would you make death threats over something like that? Or anything else, for that matter?

    them star citizen fanbois seem to have moved to a new space game..... they are terribad

    delayed games hardly really get to me

    Sooooo.... is the expected backlash why there's been no substantial news on star citizen in 6months?

      Oh I can't wait to see that particular shitstorm.

    Be afraid human, we are coming for you.
    We will find you.

    Who is this muppet? He sounds like some perpetually adolescent neck beard that's stuck in the same, "my dad could beat up your dad" argument since he was 12.

    That's pretty fucked up. I can see now why most Kotaku staff stick with stories about cosplay and whatnot.

      the cosplayer girls can get just as bad

        correction: the creepy guys who deal with cosplay girls get just as bad.

          haha, I agree, obviously people who disagree dont follow many cosplayer girls

          Last edited 01/06/16 12:59 pm

    Hang in there mate.

    Just know that there are people out here that appreciate what you do and not all gamers are this sort of supercrazy.

    Everyone should be taking a page out of your book and take a stand against people like this. As you well know, words are not weightless, not even on the internet, and a death threat is just as serious as if you said it in person.

    People need to calm down, I fell into this trap once, I was really hyped for Fallout 3, and I think it got delayed, I felt like crap after it was delayed, couldn't sleep for a day or two cause was so anxious. Now I know the signs and I don't get bothered by this stuff anymore (when there is delays on things I want)

    I'd say get a new hobby, but those angry individuals would blight that one, too.

    People be cray cray ... also I checked, that account (as of now, but who knows when) has been 'suspended' by Twitter.

    The veil of anonymity can be a good thing but unfortunately it also allows arsehats like these to spew vitriol pretty much consequence free.

    Reading this, it make me genuinely feel bad about wanting this game, yes it's disappointing to read about the delay but jesus fucking christ i would never send anyone a death threat over it.

    Isn't a delay normally... a good thing?

    Like... it means the publisher has enough confidence to keep paying the developer their wages and rent etc, while the developer still doesn't have a product out that's going to make their money back? That's a pretty big vote of confidence in my books. To keep paying people a living wage for something that you'd kind of hoped would actually be generating revenue by now.

    And it normally means that the finished product isn't likely to be as buggy, or unbalanced, as it otherwise would've been... right? A delay means that whoever's in charge doesn't want the final product to be buggy/unfinished. That's a GREAT sign. Because we've seen what happens when publishers care more about release dates than they do about a good, finished product.

    Last edited 01/06/16 11:03 am

      You're going to have to take your logic and reason and move on, sir. We don't appreciate your kind 'round these parts.

      It's better than releasing a bad game, but it's a stretch to call it a "good" thing.

      They should have just announced that they had removed space travel so they could hit their release window.

      If I've learned anything from star wars battlefront is you can just skip massive chunks of content and still get paid as long as you hit your release date.

    Crazy. This game looks like a bore anyway.

    Fly around alone to randomly generated planets filled with what? Grass? Trees? Some random resources to collect?


      But these procedurally-generated flora/fauna are slightly different to these OTHER procedurally-generated flora-fauna!

      And if you're very lucky, you'll be the first person to see them and be allowed to name them (eg: 'Bonerfarts')! Which will have zero impact on anyone else except providing them with frustration and disappointment that they weren't the first to name them! And their response will likely be instead to go find some other corner of the functionally-infinite cosmos to find as-yet-unnamed Bonerfarts to lay claim to discovering, much to the apathy and disinterest of literally everyone else in the entire world.

      Yeah. I'm not seeing much of a point from what's been on display, but what I DO find interesting is the space-combat side of thing which indicates that there might actually be constellation-spanning empires and such; actual people who you can engage with and tell more meaningful stories than, "I found a slightly unique thing, as did everyone else in the world, ever, thus making my 'achievement' utterly meaningless."

      No Man's Sky feels like a very potent display of the principles behind nihilism.

        And if you're very lucky, you'll be the first person to see them and be allowed to name them (eg: 'Bonerfarts')! Which will have zero impact on anyone else except providing them with frustration and disappointment that they weren't the first to name them! And their response will likely be instead to go find some other corner of the functionally-infinite cosmos to find as-yet-unnamed Bonerfarts to lay claim to discovering, much to the apathy and disinterest of literally everyone else in the entire world

        Actually, considering that the game tells you WHO named said creatures, their response will probably be to send you death threats for getting there first.

        Mr Weebl has shown us how the naming will work...


      You are obviously not a fan of Minecraft? :P

        Not as a solitary experience.

          Minecraft adventure mode offline is a soul-crushingly lonely experience.

            On the contrary, I find it very relaxing!

              I do initially... it's only when you reflect on what you've achieved or your intended goals and how you value them. Who's going to see this structure? Why am I bothering with making something pretty? Why am I bothering with it at all?

              It leads me down a dark path that has parallels in real life.

                I come to Kotaku to be angry about video games, not to read things that make me think sad thoughts!

                  It's all good. For the most part my narcissism keeps my nihilism in check.
                  I'm just sayin'... Minecraft makes me reflect on futility more than I'm comfortable with. :)

                Ahhh the nihilistic rabbit hole.

                I conquered four planets in this playthrough of Stellaris, hooray!... That's how I spent my last three hours?

                Why am I building the Trump Collective? Why am I even playing?... Why anything?.... Why?

      Throw in the PS4's screenshot button and you've just described something I REALLY want to play! Sounds like a great chill out game.

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