MeToo movement brewing in eSports industry as scores of women allege exploitation

Anand Krishnaswamy
·4-min read

Over the last few days, the world of gaming and esports has been shaken. Many women have come forward with allegations ranging from unwanted flirting to blatant sexual abuse within the industry.

The incident that may have opened the can of worms this time occurred on 21 June when @cofactorstrudel revealed that she has been on the receiving end of some very inappropriate behaviour from Grant 'GranDGranT' Harris. The latter is a popular caster in the professional world of Dota 2, one of the richest Esports today.

GranDGranT has not only admitted to the accusation but also publicly apologised for it. Further, he was removed from his position as a part of Evil Geniuses (EG), the largest esports organisation in North America.

Many women are said to have contacted @cofactorstrudel talking about similar incidents of inappropriate behaviour by GranDGranT. Anthony 'Scantzor' Hodgson, a former coach for the Dota 2 team of Entity Gaming which is a top Indian Esports organisation, has alleged that GranDGranT bullied and harassed a previously fast-rising caster in the world of Dota 2, LlamaDownUnder. This behaviour is said to be the reason behind LlamaDownUnder quitting the scene and even mentioned that such acts were common as far as GranDGranT is concerned.

Within a few days, another popular caster faced allegations of sexual assault from his ex-girlfriend, Kelly Jean. This time it was Henry 'HenryG' Greer, a caster and analyst in competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

HenryG has, however, denied these allegations and claimed that Kelly Jean may have deeply rooted issues which lead to the misunderstanding between them.

The incidents did not stop with just the people involved in professional esports. Four different women have accused Chris Avellone, a critically acclaimed video game writer of sexual misconduct. Avellone has worked on several well-known games such as Fallout 2, Fallout: Las Vegas, Wastelands 2 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Omeed Dariani, the Chief Executive Officer of Online Performers Group has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards women. Online Performers Group is a talent agency that works with online streamers. This group, on their homepage states, that they were set-up to stop the exploitation of content creators. This accusation has been such a public relations disaster for them that Dariani has stepped down from his position of CEO.

The number of incidents only seem to be increasing with time. Twitch, a popular streaming platform, has not been spared either. The outrage has grown, and a new hashtag has emerged, #TwitchBlackout. This new hashtag with the mounting outrage has resulted in Twitch permanently banning several users who were at the centre of these allegations.

Twitch, in past, has been used by gamers to generate donations worth millions for humane causes. It came under the scanner as many of the incidents that people came forward with involved the platform as a means for these predators to target fans and aspiring gamers. Until these recent bans against the users who are at the centre of the accusations, it was largely believed that Twitch simply turns a blind eye to the behaviour of their users.

The gaming industry showed the possibility of having its own MeToo movement a few times in the past as well. Many accusations were levelled against several bigwigs in the industry back in 2014 and then in 2019. However, both times there was no real movement and things fizzled out soon enough, perhaps due to inaction by those in power.

This time may be different due to a variety of factors that did not exist earlier. The movement is happening within weeks of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests that seem to have captured global attention and imagination. The increased sensitivity could lead to many people, who may previously not have taken notice or had no opinion, to lend their support to the much-needed reformation in the gaming and esports industry.

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