The owner of the internet's biggest gaming forum has been accused of sexual assault

The owner of the internet's biggest gaming forum has been accused of sexual assault

The allegations of sexual harassment and abuse aimed at Harvey Weinstein have opened up a can of worms regarding misogyny and sexual assault in the film industry, and since the New Yorker's damning exposé, numerous Hollywood actresses and other important figures have spoken about their traumatising experiences. The #metoo hashtag has served to address social justice issues which have never been more pressing in moviemaking. But that doesn't mean that we should focus on cinema exclusively. There are many other industries in which the powerful are capable of silencing and exploiting the vulnerable. Even the typically-cheerful world of video games has suffered its fair share of scandal.

A sexual harassment allegation every bit as indicting as Weinsteingate has threatened to bury one of the internet's popular video game forums. NeoGAF, which has been running successfully for the last 18 years, went offline last week, after the owner and founder Tyler Malka was accused of sexual harassment.

The chaos began after film director Ima Leupp was inspired by the #metoo hashtag to make a post on Facebook, alleging that a former male acquaintance sexually harassed her in 2015 by climbing into her shower in her hotel room. Leupp apparently refused Malka's advances, since she was in a relationship at the time, and stated that Malka became extremely hostile towards her as a result of her rebuff.

She wrote "I couldn't come out about this situation because the perpetrator is a semi famous man who would have retaliated and I couldn't afford to defend myself. There are websites devoted to this person's sexual assault history." After concerned friends asked her to name name and shame the man in question, she told them to "Google Evilore" - the online handle of Tyler Malka.

Not long after this, screenshots of the Facebook post began showing up on the NeoGAF forums, only for the moderators to delete them and ban users posting them. According to one moderator on the site, Malka told the NeoGAF staff that the rumour "will be a never-ending clusterfu*k on [NeoGAF] now until the end of time, which inevitably involves you guys and gals on the mod team in some way, so I'm an open book here."

In light of this incident however, a number of mods and admins decided to leave the site in protest against Malka's behaviour. Meanwhile, many NeoGAF users posted "suicide threads" in which they disparaged Malka so they could get themselves banned from the forum. As a result of these factors, as well as the increased traffic in the wake of Leupp's allegations, the site shut down for maintenance over the weekend of 20 to 22 October.

Malka later released a statement in his own defence once NeoGAF was back online, writing: "An allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against me by an ex. It's not true, the individual making the accusation isn't credible, the story doesn't reconcile logically with the facts, and there's plenty of evidence and witnesses to corroborate that. It'll be a process. All allegations of this nature are serious, of course. I immediately talked with my mod team about the contents of the screenshot and clarified that it was baseless and explained some of the details concerning my former associations with her, and tried to ensure any concerns from the team were addressed fully and transparently to everyone's satisfaction."

He added: "On Thursday I heard that she had deleted the accusation from Facebook, and wasn't entirely sure how to proceed from there or how this would all play out in the public space at that point. Then, Friday morning, the screenshot made its way to NeoGAF and chaos ensued."

Malka also stated that he would be trying ensure that discussion on the forum remained relevant to video games only, and that users should avoid discussing political subjects which would prove to be divisive. Many NeoGAF users found this apolitical pledge to be suspicious and hypocritical considering the allegations. Malka has previously been vocal about his own purportedly progressive politics, advocating support for the Paris Agreement and gay marriage, and has also donated thousands to the American Civil Liberties Union and expressed support for woman affected by GamerGate - a previous scandal which involved allegations of misogyny and sexist hate speech in the video games industry. Yet despite this, a number of users have claimed that they have been banned from the site for making progressive arguments.

 

NeoGAF began as "The Gaming-Age Forums" for gaming website Gaming Age. As Gaming-Age outgrew its hosting, IGN took over hosting of Gaming-Age's forums in the interim, until the Gaming Age Forums were able to host themselves independently in 2006. Since then, it's been one of the most popular places to discuss video games on the internet. Yet after the sexual harassment accusations surfaced, a number of users have decided to migrate from the NeoGAF forum to a new Discord server. The future of the site and its founder remains uncertain.