The Curious Case Of The 'EA Game Dev' Who Said He Received Death Threats [UPDATE]

Earlier this week, a man with "Game Dev @EA" in his Twitter profile wrote that he had received death threats from angry Star Wars Battlefront II fans. His story was covered by news outlets like USA Today, the BBC, and Yahoo.

Vice wrote an editorial about it, CNBC ran a headline about it, and the tweet was retweeted by hundreds of people. There's just one lingering question: does he actually work at Electronic Arts?

With around 5,000 followers on Twitter, BiggSean66 doesn't have a particularly huge audience or platform, but when he tweeted Monday that he was "up to 7 death threats, and over 1600 individual personal attacks now," he went viral.

Gaming and mainstream outlets picked up his story, writing about how the outrage over Star Wars Battlefront II's microtransactions led to gamers threatening BiggSean66's life. Hundreds of developers and journalists also quoted him, sent sympathies, and talked about the incident on Twitter, condemning those who felt the need to sent death threats to BiggSean66.

Yet, after speaking to several current EA employees, cross-referencing his details with Linkedin and Facebook pages, and reaching out to BiggSean66, I've become convinced that he does not actually work for EA. In fact, since I sent him several messages yesterday and this morning, he has changed his Twitter profile to remove all mentions of EA.

Left: BiggSean66's profile on November 13. Right: BiggSean66's profile on November 15.

EA says it also has not been able to confirm that BiggSean66 works for the company. This morning, the publisher sent me this statement: "We take threats against our employees very seriously. Our first concern is ensuring safety and support for our people, and since the reports first surfaced we've been investigating this internally. At this time, we're not able to verify this individual's claims of employment at EA, nor the threats made against him."


When I first saw BiggSean66's Twitter account on Monday, I thought something seemed off. His tweets appeared too bizarre and unprofessional to be coming from a real employee, and he would publicly comment on subjects that I couldn't imagine anyone at EA would ever dare talking about on the record.

For example, in response to my story last month about the collapse of Visceral Games, BiggSean66 wrote that the situation was "clearly quite a bit more complex than a simple EA hates SP games":

After digging into his old tweets, I became even more sceptical. BiggSean66 would often chime into other people's conversations, telling them he worked for EA and offering his perspective. He tweeted frequently about working at EA, without offering many specifics on what he did or what kind of position he had.

Although he was always gregarious and defensive of the company, he had a tendency to speak on behalf of EA in ways that struck me as questionable.

He also had a tendency to get into strange fights with people:

BiggSean66 created his Twitter account in early 2015, and almost immediately, he began claiming that he worked for EA, cultivating relationships with fans and even some employees of the company, like Battlefield community manager Jeff Braddock.

Some EA employees have also followed him on Twitter, especially in the wake of his Monday tweets about death threats. But out of 100,000 tweets, BiggSean66 didn't appear to offer many specifics about his identity or role, except in one tweet, where he posted a photograph of what he said was him and his wife (which we won't share here).

He would often tweet at people telling them to come say hi to him on EA's campus, in Redwood Shores, but after searching for several hours, I couldn't find any cases of him actually meeting or interacting with anyone as an EA representative. Earlier this year, he tweeted frequently about EA's June event, EA Play, but he then told others on Twitter that he had not been able to attend.

There were some contradictions on his Twitter feed, too. In July 2015, BiggSean66 said that he had started working at EA "a few months ago" and couldn't get time off yet.

But last week, he said he was about to hit his four-year anniversary, which would indicate that he started in November or December of 2013.

With no luck verifying BiggSean66's identity on Twitter, I started trying to connect the dots elsewhere. He had a YouTube account and Google profile, which seemed like a good lead. In it, BiggSean66 said he did "Data Entry & Analysis at Electronic Arts":

This was a start. I spent some time combing Linkedin and Facebook for people named Sean who worked in data entry and analysis at EA Redwood Shores, but only one person fit the bill, and his personal details didn't match with BiggSean66's photo or other information I'd found on the Twitter account. Then I found this tweet, in which BiggSean66 said he was a QA analyst:

Again, no luck on Linkedin or Facebook. I considered that his name might not really be Sean, but I still couldn't find anyone who fit his details or whose picture resembled BiggSean66's.

Contacting BiggSean66 also proved difficult, but thanks to a clutch assist from the Kotaku Twitter account, I managed to get in touch with him via Twitter DMs. I told him I was working on a story and really needed to talk to him, ideally on the phone.

He said Twitter DMs would be best, and that I was welcome to ask him my questions, "as long as it's off the record." I said OK, but his request wouldn't matter much, because after I sent over this question, he stopped responding.

BiggSean66 didn't respond to any of my follow-up questions, but at some point after receiving them, he changed his Twitter profile, removing all mentions of EA. He has also locked his account. He hasn't tweeted since Monday.

The debate about the economy of Star Wars Battlefront II has been ugly, and threats against developers, players and anyone else are no trifling thing. (I've been there, too.)

BiggSean66's tweet resonated with a lot of people because it feels true. Anger tends to swell in gaming communities. Furious, partisan players do sometimes cross the line and send threats. Game developers often are brow-beaten for design decisions they made, sometimes for decisions over which they had no control.

But it's not often you find a game developer's death threat go viral -- making its way not just to game sites but to large mainstream outlets -- only for it to turn out that he might not be a developer after all.

UPDATE (November 17, 1250 AEDT): The day following this story, we received a whole lot of reactions as well as some new information about BiggSean66. I heard from and reached out to a few dozen people, including BiggSean66's acquaintances and current and former EA employees.

There were two developments worth noting. The first was that BiggSean66 had a different social media page where he'd posted a few photos that appeared to be taken from inside of EA's offices in late 2015 and early 2016.

Problem was, three of those photos had been posted on the Visceral Games Twitter feed months before BiggSean66 posted them.

One of BiggSean66's photos, which we have not seen elsewhere, featured a sign from inside of EA's Game Lab, where the company brings in focus testers to check out new games in exchange for swag or gift cards.

Photo via BiggSean66

The second development was that several EA employees confirmed to me that there is nobody in the employee database matching BiggSean66's full name, which an acquaintance of his shared with me (and which, as I later found, he had tweeted to a few of his followers).

One former EA developer who worked at Redwood Shores told me that, as far as they could tell, there had been nobody named Sean in the QA department whose information matched with BiggSean66. 


Comments

    Sure, I won't be buying EA games because I vote with my wallet against shitty business strategies.
    But death threats against random staff?
    Just shows the level of entitlement and downright stupidity of the gamer community. Fucking grow up.

      You read the article, yeah? There's no proof and it's likely all made up.

      That's not to say that death threats don't happen, of corse they do. But that's rare idiots being childish little punks.

        Yeah I read the article. It can't be proven if he is working there or not.
        It can be proven that jerk-holes on the internet think it's ok to send death threats to people.
        And they will continue to do so unless there are real world repercussions.

          So you have documented screenshots from him that show death threats?

          You wouldnt be lying to us would you bud?

            This guy in particular there is no evidence for but the comment by aarna was more general. There are many known cases of death threats being sent to developers by disgruntled gamers.

      Agreed. Imagine being so upset about digital items that you send death threats. Sort your life out.

        Maybe they have mental issues. Or they were abused as children. Or lack an education due to factors beyond their control.

          None of those things make it ok to issue death threats to someone, especially over something so menial.

          The majority of child abusers were similarly abused as children (hence the 'cycle' people refer to), doesn't mean it's ok.

          Also, a lack of education? Does anybody really need to formally be taught that killing people (or threatening to do so) is not ok? Don't think so.

            Where did I say it was OK?

              You implied it. Semantics as a argument strategy is petty.

                I did no such thing. I simply pointed out why they may be acting in such a way. Attempting to understand the reasons behind particular behavior does not imply you agree with it.

                For the record, I disagree with this behavior.

          All of which do not excuse people from sending death threats.

        how about read the article and not reply to the headline

      Has anyone else reported receiving a death threat? Because the veracity of biggsean66's claims are questionable at best.

      What if no one was sent death threats and the community is only justifiably annoyed?

      It's all too easy to throw around dogwhistles like "entitlement".

      Read the story....

      A fraud is fabricating false outrage and using the gaming community as punching bag with a fake story.

      Dude you haven't read the article and are commenting!? lol.

      To be honest, we dont know he is even associated to EA. Seems like a person claiming to be, but seems like someone wanting attention.

    This just in: People on the internet talk shit. More at 6 o'clock.

      In other news, water proven to be wet when a bunch of children jump in a puddle. Here's Melinda with more.

    I'm glad people are taking the time to look at these things with a more critical eye instead of just jumping on the bandwagon.

    The fact this bullcrap has ha such strong mainstream appeal should speak volumes.

    They couldn't convince gamers this crap is ok, so now they are trying to convince others that gamers are the problem.

    Bloody ridiculous.

      gamers are part of the problem, well a different problem. What I have been witnessing in reddit the last few days (while SHOULD be somewhat justified) is nothing but a digital Hammer Horror lynch mob. While I havent seen deaths threats I have seem more than one post of people trying to cultivate hate and do targeted attacks on devs personal accounts. More than a dozens mass calling devs and or publishers to be fired, upvoted for 12, 000. Imagine being so entitled you think because some one who has made a game to entertain people, threatening to be fired because your idea of entertainment if different for others.

      most of the time these threats are made to people who are simply the public 'face', not necessarily the ones involved with the issues this moronic lynch mob thinks they are. hell so many gamers cant even tell the different between a dev and a publisher.

      as always, there is much to hate about EA but if so much of the community completely lose track of their humanity and simple respect of other human beings in response to EA stuff, I find both sides appalling.

      In short, there is room on both sides for fault. Just on completely different things.

        Of course, but right now we are in a position where the crazy idiots aren't encapsulating this issue, we can't allow people to turn this into a false witch hunt, once again putting the focus on phantoms rather than the companies that are central to this problem.

        It's disgusting and suspicious that this story gained such wide spread attention and coverage from multiple pro-corporate outlets at the same time, with neither the outlets researching the claim or EA stepping up to set the record straight.

    ... and then Jason Shreier saved journalism.

    that is hilarious, yet strangely not surprising. it just goes to show absolutely gullible the gaming public has become and the serious dangers of believing someone because they say 'I work for X'.

    I have seen so many ugly threats of reddit since the game has launched, sure the whole EA core of the game is vile (sadly overshadowing the great DICE core) but the public reactions have lost all sense of reality. Personally I have been threaten a few times now, in ways that wouldnt be accepted in a face to face meeting, all simply because when reading what I wrote didnt care about listening to rational thought.

    After reading all this, strangely my question was: if the guy doesnt really work for EA, were the death threats still real? because in some senses its beside the point who he was/isnt but if he still received threats thats pretty terrible. Though I am guessing he is just the type who would yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre.

    EA groped me at a party once, back in 1998.

      I work for EA, and I can tell you that unless a loot box was involved, it didn’t happen.

        Sounds like the looting of a box was indeed attempted!

      is that really a joke we need to be having in the light of all the extremely concerning developments involving children lately?!

        oh so sorry @blakeavon i've a box of tissues and roll of bubble wrap if you'd like to come secure yourself?

    Imagine having such a lame life that you need to pretend that you work for such a hated game developer.

    I wouldnt be surprised if this account was owned by EA to try and change the narrative.

      Some people just seek out drama though and seem to thrive on it, regardless of whether it's real or made up BS.

    That's like 60 tweets a day. Holy shit. I average like 2 a day. Damn.

    Falsely claiming to work for EA seems like a weirdly masochistic deception :)

    Trolling is usually in the form of the aggressor. But pretending to be a victim on behalf of a mega company.. what do you call that?

    I just have to point out whether any of it is true or fake it brings up an important issue. It is never okay to threaten another person. NEVER, only exception to this being self defence. And it's the problem I have with how many people have reacted to this controversy.

    You cannot expect people to listen to you or your grievances if you lose all moral standing by resorting to behaviour worse than a child.

    And really why would you want to? It's exhausting. Just chill out peeps

      I'll add to your self defence and include anyone that does anything untoward toward my children.

      That's a beating.

    Come to think of it, the fact that the community made a big fuss about a false claim shows how real and severe the issue of death threats are.

    And thank Jason for doing a fine investigation into this matter.
    Viral tweets that claim something to be true should always be viewed with skepticism.

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