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.


    Totalbiscuit quit social media cause toxic peopke on them, and he said in an BBC interview he cant explain it cause in all his Cons, Game shows, media events and eSport events he ghas never been threaten or verbally abused or anything even coming close... I doubt anyone has ever walked up to him and said "I hate you"... but online people have gone out of there way to track his members of his family to deliver death threats against him.

    What really gets to me is, that after the story was confirmed that the game is getting delayed, not one of these idiots who make idle death threats would stop and think that what they did was wrong, or to go back and apologise. Threatening harm to someone else is just a part of their existence when things don't go their way.
    One of the biggest issues is that these sort of people feel entitled to everything, precisely as it was first described to them, and if it doesn't 100% match that initial description they have been wronged and must seek to make things right in their world again.
    How do individuals like this ever expect to function in society if something as minor as a game delay triggers such an irrational response?

    This is just sad. The veil of anonymity strikes again.

    I'd love to see how these scumbags would react face-to-face...

      Road rage shows us how that works out.

      Yeah. Infantile, inexplicable, unjustified, explosive rage isn't just in gaming.

        Road rage is an interesting one as a majority of that is driven by anonymity but more in the opposite direction.
        The car in front of you is anonymous which makes some people angry, it isn't another person trying to get home to their family it is a bloody ford slowing you down.
        So the explosive rage happens where there is no human interaction and then is too late by the time their is actually another person involved.

      I'd love to see how these scumbags would react face-to-face...

      Oddly enough I feel like that's half the motivation behind this stupid chest thumping. This makes a lot more sense if they believe Jason is pulling serious bullshit that he only thinks he can get away with because he's hiding behind a keyboard. As near as I can understand it they think he's needlessly damaging the games public image, desperately jumping on a rumour, making it looks like some half baked project run by a group of clowns who can't meet a deadline, all for the sake of click-bait articles.
      They probably figure by threatening him they'll snap him out of his the power trip he's on, making him realise he's not bulletproof and then admit that he's just a hack internet writer who tried to turn people against a poor innocent game for the sake of a few ad dollars.

      That's stupid and paranoid but it makes sense on some level. Their reasons may be ridiculous but they seem to think people like Jason are what's wrong with the world and that he needs a reminder that being safe behind a computer doesn't mean he's free from any consequences. How many of us can honestly say we don't feel that way about the people making these threats? I know I wouldn't want to actually see it, but part of me wants this guy to be scared. Part of me wants to see him doxxed even though that's a crazy over reaction.

    Yes.. it's become the new normal. It's unfortunate that the internet, once a sanctuary from the shit fight that is out there IRL, has become in many ways worse. Back in the early days of internet access, when it was near impossible for the average person to get online and local dialup bulletin board services were even quite a niche thing, the vast majority of people online were intelligent, open-minded individuals with generally a good head on their shoulders. Sure, there were trolls back then too, but it was not the norm.. and even those trolls were of a higher calibre and certainly wouldn't resort to death threats.

    Yup, I dislike the internet more and more as it becomes more and more common place.

    I bought a Thermomix and it's a useless piece of shit. There, I said it.

    Come at me.

      M8, I would be sharping my knives but I have a thermomix so i don't need them anymore. It slices, it dices, it turns raw sugar into icing sugar.
      I would mess you up but I can steam, stew, boil and heat as well so I don't have the time.

      World's best custard maker though.

      (I'm being serious. It's friggen awesome at making custard)

        You haven't met my wife.

        I was going to add "and at least she doesn't randomly explode in the middle of cooking", but then I remembered she's got a fantastic temper and has rage quit the stove before. :)

        Last edited 02/06/16 11:01 am

    Remember when we use to say "don't feed the trolls"?

      Remember when trolls were just antagonists looking to get a rise out of people and stir up a little chaos, and not just another synonym for sociopath?

        Did that troll succeed in getting a rise and causing chaos?

    I'm psyched for No Man's Sky and I was looking for reasons that the delay was misreported (why would physical stores be advertising the new release date before hello games' official website/playstation's website etc.) but when it was confirmed it was just like..."oh, okay cool" and then I started thinking about what other games I'm gonna play between now and then.

    I remember seeing the first trailer for the game like two years ago and being like "I'm gonna get this game" and then losing track of it for a while, and then watching a bunch of interviews with Sean Murray, so I've been on and off the hype train for a while now - what's 2 more months?

    Welcome to social media, you must be new here

    The internet. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

    You should not have to deal with that! Unfortunately idiots are often the loudest people. Looking forward to the day when there are good procedures for dealing with these kind of unlawful comments (threats are against the law... I hope).

    I wouldn't like to see this behavior slowly accepted as par for the course and a communal rebuke, while heartening, would also further marginalise these people.

    Both No Man's Sky's delay and Captain America's bombshell highlight the sense of entitlement some fans hold and verbalise, usually without possession of the full story, all the facts or complete context.

    But death threats? Just way over the line, no matter who it is directed to and why.

    I bought a PS3 in late 2099/early 2910 when The Last Guardian was announced. If that game doesn't release in 2016, based on the ridiculous rationale some of these idiots operate on, I'll be well past death threats, I'll be wiping out most of the Southern Hemisphere...

      This upcoming E3 should prove very interesting. I'm expecting the release date for The Last Guardian to be announced then, and for it to be in October. Also, I expect PSVR support to be announced.

    Ah social media. Giving voices to of people that should not be heard. Worst invention in the history of man kind.

    People like these are why people are blaming shit to the video game industry. Thanks assholes

    I faart in your general direction! your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

    I hope, even though it most likely won't be, but I hope NML will be a big fail. Just to see these aggressive online abusers cry. It's a delay, shit happens. But as usual, people who have no clue get angry and they get angry at the wrong person. Kotaku has been a reliable and trusted gaming source, yet people will still not trust what you say. They would rather trust someone on minimum wage in a constantly reported bad working environment at EB/Gamestop who themselves probably doesn't get updates from the publisher or head office.

    Twitter may have "investigated" the account, but maybe they should read their own rules of behaviour. Any reasonable person would consider what Beach Clashers said to be abusive behaviour.

    TWITTER'S Rules:
    Abusive Behavior
    We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

    Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

    Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
    Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
    if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
    if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
    if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
    if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.

    TWITTER must be longhand for TWIT

    Last edited 01/06/16 4:03 pm

    No Mans Sky is just a prettier version of minecraft. Still dull under all the bells and whistles.

    And 3. 2. 1.

      This here's Kotaku AU son, not US. Don't hold your breath for that firebombing you were looking forward to. :)

        Dang oh well just quietly I am pretty keen to give this game a nice little thrash.

          I'm getting it, too. I just have to make sure I keep expectations low.

            yep couldn't agree more. Its like the less I expect from it the more I will enjoy it, hence why I haven't been watching or keeping up with all the new game play videos and such.

    Hi Jason, I consider myself to be one of the second generation of gamers; I started in the 80s and have been a fanatical gamer ever since. And I just want to say that these scumbags that infest the scene nowadays are not real gamers!

    I have always believed that gaming is about having fun, and having respect for your opponent.

    At least, it always was like that until the rise of internet gaming, and the anonymity that these cowards hide behind. There once was a time when your opponent would most likely be in the same room as you. You couldn't insult or threaten them, because they could just stand up, walk over, and hit you upside the head.

    But now...
    We have a whole generation who have grown up knowing zero accountability. They can say what they want, and get away with it. Or course, this attitude now pervades the whole internet. It is a slimy, filthy, degenerate cocktail where the lowest common denominators drag everything down to their scumbag level.

    It is a world where loud-mouthed little kids, immature teenagers, pathetic hairy man-babies, stupid fools, ignorant morons, psychos, trolls, misogynists, socially inept ugly bastards who can't get a real woman, fringe-dwellers, pariahs, loonies, religious extremists, racists, cranks, quacks, whack-jobs, nut-jobs, dumb slobs and general losers rule. In the kingdom of the damned, the scummiest is king.

    I'm not altogether sure how we can fix it, short of requiring everybody online to register their full name and address. But that idea would go down like a lead balloon; I'm not sure I would like it myself. But really, how can we restore law and order to the wild frontier that is the general internet and specifically social media? How can we instill a sense of accountability?

    Until we do, the trolls and bullies are going to have the upper hand.

      I disagree that this can be blamed on a generation. I tutor high school kids and they are fine (at least the subset whose parents have money for that). Apologies for a short reply to a full, well worded opinion, I'm putting too much energy into writing today.

    I think this story is the best thing I've read on Kotaku and I read Kotaku often enough that I feel I have to capitalise its name whenever I write it. Only good thing to come of this delay (oh, and the game can only get better) A follow-up would be a look at why gaming is the medium with the biggest hype train by far, I'm on board, but imagine a book written this way. There are books published in text messages. Feature length films screened in theatres have been adapted from that source material... I read that somewhere (probably here?) What if people txt'd back? There could also be parody piece on games that were once game of the year material only to be ruined by a delay and become a terrible game in the following year. Jason Schreier you are my hero for today. I hope great journalism like this becomes the new normal. We've gone through a rough patch, this site is a rare solid source and I'm not just talking about games journalism.

    This death threats, go kill yourself stuff is not a gaming thing. I have had both on YouTube from subjects as diverse as golf to politics and I don't try and attract that type of attention (always try to keep it civil and polite). This is about the enormity of the internet and anonymity. You can't take it seriously because that is what they want you to do though they have no intention of doing anything.
    It sucks a little to begin with but I barely notice that type of thing now.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now