To me, this is somewhat of a bittersweet thing to talk about. I would imagine that those inside the industry are happy to know that the IGDA is planning on making support groups for game developers that find themselves, and worse sometimes their families, being harassed by people online.
I'm happy that people that are dealing with this issue now have a place to turn to that can lend them an understanding ear. Certainly the friends and family of those dealing with harassment can try to help, but I think that having professional help and also coming into contact with people that are going through the same thing will make a huge difference in terms of being able to work beyond the experience.
Of course, the bitter part of this is the fact that support groups like this are necessary at all to begin with. Although Fish is arguably the latest person in the industry to leave over issues of harassment, he's by far not the only one. There are others, like Jennifer Hepler who found herself in mostly the same situation a while ago.
Now, you can, and will, have people coming out and saying, "well, these people have said dumb things, and they also turn around and insult us as well, so you get what you give." Anyone who has already read my article on Phil Fish knows that I think that mentality is absolute and utter bullshit. If you have a problem with the way that a person conducts themselves, you attack their ideas, not the person themselves, and you also do so with arguments, not just spewing garbage all over the place.
As you can imagine though, these days there's a rather large cadre of people that prefer to simply make their displeasure known in the least constructive and loudest ways possible. When certain segments of the community (which? I hardly think it matters, I've seen it happen in a lot of places) find something to give you shit about, then you need to be prepared to be tormented on an almost constant basis.
The announcement of the support groups originally came from this Polygon article, which is well worth reading, even if it is really sad. I think that it proves the point of the utter necessity of this kind of thing though, and just how many might be simply harassed and not speaking out about it:
Stephen Toulouse, who for six years headed up Xbox Live's policy and enforcement, says the problem is omnipresent in gaming.
"I'm going to kill you""I have approximately 70 messages on Xbox Live right now and half of them are, 'I'm going to kill you' and 'I'm going to find you and destroy you' and I haven't worked (at Microsoft) in two years. Even to this day people who don't know I left Microsoft still come after me."
But Toulouse seems more amused than annoyed by the messages. It comes with being the head banhammer at Xbox Live for so many years. It's to be expected, he says.
"The root cause of the problem isn't in what we do, making games, it's that there are so little consequences to this wildly violent approach of communication that we are simply one audience of many that are subject to this type of focus," he said. "There's no real penalty right now."
How many more stories are out there, going unspoken? I think that the answer to that is probably a lot more depressing than the already depressing question.