Observer Observations

Normally, video games empower the player. Give them a sense of dominance and direction of where to go. What to do. A feeling of control.

Throw that notion out the window.

How about a game where it’s like being tumbled around in a washing machine? You as the character get tossed around in every possible direction with absolutely no way of keeping your view straight. At the mercy of this contraption that you’re trapped inside. Targeted by the random chaos in this small pocket universe.

I was provided a key to try out the demo for Bloober Team’s upcoming game, Observer. Revealed last year during E3, here we had our first look at the game in action.

For those of you who aren’t aware of Bloober Team’s resume, you’re missing out on a mind-bending experience. Founded in 2008 – the studio spent most of its formative years dabbling in different genres such as puzzle, action, and strategy games. It wasn’t until Layers of Fear‘s 2016 release that we saw this deep dive into the topic of psychological horror. Players took on the role of an artist, exploring his memories and reliving his descent into insanity as his family falls apart around him.

So what do we have going here? There’s an introductory narration by the main character of Observer, painting a picture of this strange cyberpunk dystopian future.

The year is 2084.

If they told me what the world would become, I would not have believed them. First, there was the nanophage. A digital plague that swept across the land, killing thousands upon thousands of augmented souls. A heavy cost for meddling with our minds and bodies. Then came the war. The big one. The Great Decimation. The West killed the East. The East killed the West. There were no winners.

Except for CHIRON.

The corporation seized power and forged the Fifth Polish Republic. A crooked empire of blood and ash. There was no one left to oppose them. But still, we endured. And so it goes. The rich get richer, as the poor rot away in their hovels, desperately looking for ways to escape reality.

I am what they fear.

Time to go play Detective. Your job is to investigate a lockdown in a nearby apartment complex.

It seems promising in the fact that there’s potential for a less linear pacing of events. In Layers of Fear the events presented to you unravel at the same rate each playthrough. The sensory experience of when someone gets captivated by a part of the story, or frightened at something on the screen.

Observer has to evolve if Bloober Team wants to hit a grand slam with this new game.

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When it comes to how the demo played out, my most prominent gripe has to be it was too short. Plus, I didn’t have a controller so I had to guess what was what when it came to keyboard mapping. It keeps Layers of Fear‘s signature mechanic of taking artistic liberties when the player character navigates an area. Holding down the action button to open doors also makes a return, as well as the up-close zoom when you examine an object. Rotating around and looking at an item from different sides. New to Observer is the Bio Vision and Electromagnetic Vision mechanics. These tools in our detective’s arsenal give him the ability to analyze locations from a different perspective, and come in handy in picking up blood trails or scanning electronic data that’d be normally overlooked.

You approach Apartment 102 the detective doesn’t have much luck getting anything of use from the occupant there. At most, the dweller sounds mildly surprised to hear a cop has finally come down to their part of the neighborhood. Knocking on the door of Apartment 103 greets us with a response from the middle-aged male tenant living there. Telling our detective character he was concerned about the ongoing lockdown – this tenant ends up giving us an actionable lead when it came to suspicious activity in the nearby area. Apparently the couple that lived in the neighboring Apartment 104 had some sort of commotion happen in the past few days. Then we see something new from Bloober Team. Our detective character gets dialogue options when he inquires about the couple further. You can either pick to learn about the man or woman’s backgrounds or inquire to the tenant if this was a domestic violence sort of situation.

During the tail end of your conversation, the tenant makes a passing remark that he swears someone is bringing animals into the apartment complex. Swearing he could hear growling noises during the middle of the night.

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Swinging open the door to Apartment 104, our detective walks into a seemingly narrow foyer. At the end of it is an aged wooden desk with junk on it. A lone oscillating fan cycles back and forth on the edge. On the other half of the desk is a computer case. Side of it is open, with the inside guts and components facing the player. Looks like the process of taking it apart happened recently. In front of the detective is an employee ID card. Snagging it for a closer inspection tells us more about this female occupant that the tenant from Apartment 103 informed us on.

The place looks like a dead end. But off to the side of this room was a curtain. Our detective pulls it back revealing a more open space in this particular apartment area. We’re greeted with a bloody mess, with a male victim laying in an oozing pile up against what looks like a hot tub. Rushing down to his side to assist, the detective makes a note of the clinging-to-life condition this victim is in. As we see this man more closely the tattoos on his head and cyber augments attached to the neck comes into focus. We get the chance to ask questions about what went on with another dialogue options menu. Regardless of what you pick, it’s no good. All this helpless man can do for us is cough and try to stay conscious. The detective’s efforts end up being for naught. He can’t even call back to dispatch to try and arrange medical attention. At his wit’s end, the detective swears to the dying man that he’ll get to the bottom of whatever gruesome brutality went on here.

In a state of desperation – our protagonist proposes one last idea. He pulls out a long metallic wire from his right arm. At the end of the line is a hook.

The detective is going to mind-jack his way inside this dying man’s head.

Mindjack

From here on out, the demo takes on a more traditional Layers of Fear format. No longer having access to our detective vision powers of any kind, the player is thrust back into the narrow foyer of Apartment 104. But something is different about it. Something is off. You hear a loud CRASH through the left side window as a TV flies on in from the outside. Then, time seems to reverse itself. The shattered glass returns to its undamaged form once again.

A door (that wasn’t there before) on the right side of the foyer throws us back into the entrance of the complex. Everything is dead quiet. A quiet but firm demonic gibberish can be heard, bellowing out from the direction of Apartment 102.  Off to the side stands a portal into some sort of technological hell dimension. As you walk to the front of it the demon voices get louder and a window to an underworld of shadows is before the player. You try and open Apartment 102’s door. No good. You reach for 103’s handle to get a BANG BANG BANG greeting you from the other side. Retracing your steps back to the front door of Apartment 104 hoping to get some answers? No luck. As the door slides open, an unfamiliar corridor reveals itself within. Walking into this place you see a facet dripping a stream of water onto a chair beneath it.  It turns off on its own as you step by. A window on the far left of this new room reveals another room on the other side. Suddenly your view is distorted and you can hear strange moaning. When you come to your senses seconds later you find yourself in this room you were just looking into. It’s still in the window, of course. But now you’re also in that room. A nearby television seems to give up on trying to make any sense, and all you can see on the screen is a glitch pattern spewing out.

That familiar sense of being afraid to turn around comes back to me. Layers of Fear had that feeling, and Bloober Team managed to bring that over into their Observer demo here.

Dread

Reality bends and your character finds himself at the edge of a pitch-black hallway. A door handle emerges from the ether as you march towards this unknown. On the other side you see a kitchen come into your view. Swing open one of the cabinet doors and stacks of dirty dishes are piled in on the other side. Another, pots and pans. The fridge is empty, but everything else is a grime-laden mess. Stepping out from the far kitchen window, an ominous wooden bridge draws your curiosity… which is EXACTLY when a bird SMACKS into the pane before your eyes.

If you turn around out of reflex at this jump scare, it’d become apparent to you that you’re no longer in a kitchen. At this point you can’t keep it straight where the hell you are. A cliff-side with rows upon rows of windows to your left and right, with a door straight ahead at a section where it looks like reality itself is tearing apart. Running towards it and trying desperately to push this nightmare along, a flock of birds clouds your path.

Running and running still. Trying to no avail to grasp the handle…..

Televisions

Before you know it you’re back in what looks like one of the rooms you trekked across previously. But the rules of reality are melting. A bucket floats in mid-air, coasting on by your face. A cavalcade of television screens play old police footage in a rapid looping of images. Following the path forward you find yourself in a prison. Turn around, open the door you came in from – BAM a pile-on of floating objects hovers and surrounds you.

Tossing and turning, you stumble your way into the throes of darkness.

Remember the animal noises that guy from Apartment 103 was complaining about? You get to hear this beast for yourself. Roaring deeply, it stomp stomp STOMPS in the distance. You manage to catch a shadow of this creature. THUD. Now you’re back in the beginning area of the apartment complex. Out of the four directions available to you, it’s possible for the player to just wander here for infinity. But this is where the game has a bit of a puzzle. At the very least they’re checking in with you to make sure you’re at least paying attention to your surroundings. To escape, you have to follow the path that the TVs broadcast.

You end up in an interrogation room. Locked inside, you grab a lone spoon sitting on the table. It’s chained up.

And so are you.

Bounded

The demo ends with you struggling to break free of these chains. That monster sounds like it’s coming your way. You wrestle back and forth and manage to knock the interrogation table back. As it goes to hit the wall, reality crumbles and you’re sucked into a light vortex.

Story-wise Observer has a lot of opportunity thanks to the Cyberpunk backdrop. While there’s a clear return of the “question your senses” caliber that Layers of Fear had, there’s indicators that Bloober Team are reaching further with Observer to make sure this game isn’t simply just a walking simulator.

What I saw shows promise.

Again I need to emphasize this demo wasn’t long at all. You can go from start to finish in ten minutes easily if you know what you’re doing at the beginning. My retelling of the experience only looks wordy because of the sensory overload being thrown at the player in the second half. Acting like a simulation of dreams themselves, the way things unfold around you is both fluid and rapidly susceptible to change at a moment’s notice. All you can do is submit yourself to it and go with the flow.

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Okhlos: Omega Review

The ancient Greece of our history always had a sense of awe about it. Not just in the majestic architecture or nuances of their politics, but the religious influences and the art that came out of that time helped cement this sense of myth and magic.

That’s the world you fall into in this indie game.

The greek term ὀχλοκρατία (okhlokratía) means mob rule. This is the core of gameplay in Okhlos: Omega. Developed by Coffee Powered Machine and published by Devolver Digital. The Omega aspect of the title indicates that this is essentially the “final cut” version of Okhlos. After iterating on the game through a series of updates this final version adds some polish with: gameplay tweaks, deeper customization options/hero selection, and additional enemies to face.

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Your narrator is the great poet Homer – as he tries to recall the odyssey of your riot through the world of an ancient mythical Greece. There was peace between the mortals and the gods. Until one day, when a meeting of philosophers comes to an abrupt halt when the foot of Zeus slams down from the heavens and crushes your colleagues. As a witness to this slaughter you vow to get revenge for your comrades. By making an angry mob.

You scuttle your mouse around the screen and attract bystanders to join your cause. You need to maintain your mob’s morale meter and keep it in the green, or else they’ll lose interest and wander off. Or die. Filling it up all the way unleashes Mega Chaotic Mob mode – satisfyingly giving your mob the power to decimate buildings on the map. These sections are filled with a swarm of enemies the mob needs to slay before they can proceed to the next level. In-between these levels are shops where you can exchange mob members for heroes or other units.

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Citizen units have no special abilities but they still pack a punch. Equipped with a standard baseline of stats (HP/Attack/Defense/Speed/Morale) which get modified when it comes to the other contingents of your mob. The Philosopher unit is like your life-bar. If your player character dies in battle you take control of the next available one of its kind. When you run out of them it’s game over. Warriors are your main avenue of offense, while Defenders focus on defending the mob. The Slave class isn’t something to underestimate given their ability to carry items. When you come across bombs, invincibility pick-ups, hunks of meat to restore health, and ancient helmets that can summon a horde of ghosts to fight at your side? You’ll want a slave to grab it for safe-keeping. Adding flavor to your mob are the occasional Animal unit that get caught up in the fray of insanity. While they can’t attack, it nevertheless makes your angry riot group have a bit of diversity.

The Heroes of Okhlos: Omega are the main attraction of your mob. They give you the edge of success in combat. Some of them boost your various stats, others have special ranged or healing abilities, and on some occasions you can find something outlandish from the rest. To put it another way: you have your classical heroes making up most of the roster (such as Antigone/Prometheus/Electra/Oedipus), but the game isn’t afraid of taking artistic liberties either.  “Tarios” and “Ruigios” bear a striking resemblance to the Super Mario Bros. while cameo characters from other Devolver Digital games like Enter the Gungeon, Hotline Miami, and Omnibus also have appearances. I managed to come across this rare hero named Glitchos (who looks like the Missingno glitch from Pokemon Yellow), adding it to my party after winning a mini-boss fight. Little did I realize how destructive it would be. Glitchos gave my mob the ability to have their corpses explode when they die. In theory it sounded like a novel idea. Out in the battlefield? Not so much. When the heat of battle was on I swear the explosions caused splash damage to other members of my mob party. It was impossible to get anything done at that point and I had to restart.

But that frustration is part of the adventure of Okhlos: Omega.

PROPEROkhlosLocations

The hub area known as the Agora is the staging ground for the mob’s journey. You can pick which leader will helm the forces, along with an array of starting heroes to give an advantage right from the get-go. Your trek takes you through Delphi, deep into Ephesos, with a stop in Sparta, a visit to Atlantis, a tour across Athens, traversing the lava of Lemnos, and finally in the heart of Hades underworld. At the end of these stages the traveling mob has their might tested. Face-to-face against one of the Greek gods of myth your horde battles them in a duel to the death. There’s variety in these conflicts. Each of the deities has a set of moves and maneuvers that can demoralize your party and cut them down to size fairly swiftly. If you’re not careful.  The best weapon against this is carefully timing your mob’s defense stance to block the attacks from these gods.

A fight that stood out to me the most while playing Okhlos: Omega was the clash with Ares at the end of the Sparta level. The mob enters his arena to be greeted with his sons Deimos and Phobos standing in the way.  Ares himself won’t even bother coming down from his high throne until you manage to slay one of the twins. Prioritizing is key as his offspring put up a formidable challenge. The real climb in difficulty was reaching Mount Olympus and killing Zeus. This was only possible after defeating Okhlos: Omega once before, opening an additional eighth world on top of the original seven. It acted as a sort of New Game+ mode to get people back another time.

In addition to the formal boss fights there’s a series of mini-boss areas hidden within (almost) each level. You need to collect certain items early on to access them, carrying them as your mob goes along until you reach the penultimate stage before the final brawls (mini-boss is somewhere in stage X-2 or X-3 of a level, whereas the normal boss fights are always in X-4). Here’s a guide to all that. You can get a secret ending this way if you manage to kill the hidden Doctor Who characters in all of them.

Speaking of which, there’s another ending on top of the battle against Zeus. But I’ll save that from mention so you can check it out for yourself.

OpeningOkhlosStory

But at the end of it all, I did enjoy Okhlos: Omega. There were many moments of frustration as my mob was left up to chance whether or not we were going to succeed. Yet balancing that out was enough of a reward through hero unlockables and satisfying sense of progression overall. It’s a game of strategy and timing that you can’t blindly button smash and hope for the best. I realized that when it dawned on me “maybe I should let go of the shift button” and not run all the time.

You die? It’s game over. No matter how far along you might’ve come, you’re sent back to World 1. You can cheese it though. If your mob gets decimated and things aren’t looking in your favor – there’s a quit option. Using that let’s you start over at the beginning of a level and try again. Despite that, you might realize your mob composition is not salvageable as it is and have to start over anyway.

It’s about stepping outside the mindset of an individual, to think as a unified group. There were times it was best to scrunch the mob together. Other instances had the optimal response be spreading everyone apart. While that may sound simplistic on its own, Okhlos: Omega puts your fighting mind to the test. Can you make these snap sorts of decisions on the fly and on demand?

If you’re up for that challenge like I was, check it out on Steam!

If you want to know all the cheat codes, there’s a list of them here.

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The Legacy of DaddyOFive

It has been a busy few weeks. If you have no idea what the DaddyOFive controversy is, I recommend starting back here.

When Mike and Heather Martin decided to do an Invisible Ink prank on their children back on April 12th, nobody anticipated the internet-wide firestorm that would ensue in the weeks that followed. While it seemed innocent from the outset – the yelling and screaming of the parents on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel seemed to put the fear of God in the hearts of those kids: Jake, Emma, Ryan, Cody, and Alex. With 760,000 subscribers, the YouTube money was flowing in. The internet took notice of this out of place situation and began digging deeper into what was going on. This led to Philip DeFranco doing a few videos highlighting the ordeal. It put the DaddyOFive family in the spotlight of millions of people.

When something snowballs to the point where it’s on Good Morning America you know it must have gained a lot of momentum.

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Then it became known that there was another side to this story. Rose Hall, the biological mother of Emma and Cody Martin, spoke out in a interview with ChambersOfHeart, revealing that she was concerned about the safety of the children and was fighting to get custody back from Mike and Heather. It came out that she lost Cody in July 2014 after Rose was allegedly duped into signing away majority custody to the Martin couple. Rose seemingly had no choice but play along with whatever demands Heather and Mike made of her in order to satisfy this arrangement (under threat of perjury). This climaxed at the beginning of December 2015 when Emma was taken away from Rose’s house by police, seizing whatever little means of contact the biological mother had of her children after that. Mike Martin’s step-brother is on Rose’s side. Mike Martin’s ex-wife Amy came out on Rose’s side (talked about earlier).

It seemed uncertain what was going to happen. The judge (with a questionable track record) who originally dealt with the custody proceedings in the first place had retired.

It came as a shock to many when a new update came out with the case, pushing the story to the public’s attention once more.

Tim

On May 1st, Rose Hall did a video with her lawyer Tim Conlon and gave an update as to the status of the situation. She obtained emergency custody around the same time that Heather and Mike were doing a segment on Good Morning America this past Friday. They are currently getting back into a routine of normalcy with Rose, away with the DaddyOFive household. Frederick County Sheriff’s office assisted with the matter in removing Cody and Emma from the home (later on this is revealed to end up being their school in a literal sense, but “the home”  of the Martins in particular). Cody in particular was reluctant to leave at first based on the narrative that Mike and Heather had fed to him (that their biological mother “threw them away like garbage”), but when Rose showed Cody a memento of his that she kept all this time he began to cooperate. It calmed Cody down and helped him remember that Rose loved the kids. For the first time in a long while, both of the children were reunited with Rose’s side of the family. Mike was reportedly reluctant to cooperate with authorities, refusing to hand over the kid’s necessities such as clothing and medications.

Substantiating Ms. Hall’s side of the story are domestic violence ex parte charges against Mike Martin. While these aren’t exactly charges brought on by the state, it’s a petition that alleges domestic violence that allows Ms. Hall to get a emergency protection order against DaddyOFive for the sake of the children. When it expires this Friday is when either a more permanent order is granted or the court will extend the time to hear evidence. More information about what goes into this sort of situation can be read over here, if that’s your fancy.

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More details about what happened were revealed by ChambersOfHeart in her update video she did the evening after Rose’s video was released.

Shortly after a Thank You video Rose did with Chambers, the person known as @based_mama told the both of them she found a lawyer. When first briefed on this story, the lawyer thought @based_mama was pranking them and hung up. This lawyer, Tim Conlon, called her back a short time later after doing some research of the case for himself. He was willing to take it.

Within a few days it became clear that Rose was going to need to come up to Maryland in order to handle this DaddyOFive situation. She was going to need money for gas. The GoFundMe funds were still frozen at that point in time, so Chambers started a quiet fundraiser via Paypal to get enough money together for Rose’s immediate travel expenses. They kept this to themselves because they didn’t want Mike or Heather to be notified of Rose’s plans ahead of time. Overall they managed to put together $110. They needed to get this cash to Rose within the day, and the mandatory two to three days necessary for these sort of transactions was too long of a wait. Chambers had the luck of, not only sharing the same bank as Rose, but having a branch of the bank chain in her own town. So when other forms of transfers didn’t work out (Moneygram/Wire), it all came down to this bank. Luckily, Chambers was able to get in touch with the manager at this bank, who told her as long as she had Rose’s bank account information and cash, a deposit was possible. At the end of the ordeal Chambers was able to transfer $120 to Rose safely in time.

When Rose got up to Maryland, it was discovered Mike and Heather had a moving truck in front of their house.

“They were getting ready to up and leave their current location,” Chambers said in her video.

When Rose went with Baltimore PD and the authorities to retrieve Emma and Cody, nobody was around at their house except Mike. As previously mentioned, Mike Martin was uncooperative from this aspect and so the authorities had to figure out where these kids went to school on their own. Once they managed to do so, the officers went and obtained Cody and Emma from school. The second round of money to Rose came into play when she had to go back to Maryland after a brief visit back to North Carolina so Emma and Cody could see that side of the family again for the first time in a long while. Chambers was able to send $120 to her for that trip.

As the person behind the GoFundMe aspect of everything, Chambers took a lot of time in the video to go over the nuances of what exactly happened there as well. When Mike and Heather made opposing GoFundMe campaigns of their own it ended up complicating Chambers in her crowdfunding endeavor. At first, there were accusations that the GoFundMe was a scam. This led staff to reach out to Chambers and request verification that her story was legitimate. She put out a big update and linked to the petition as a result. Chambers put Rose as a beneficiary to the GoFundMe and sent an email invite to her to get the ball rolling on that. A few days passed and this change didn’t go through, and Rose had not yet been verified. Rose trusted Chambers with her personal email account, allowing her to go in and check things for herself. Both of these accounts end up sending emails to GoFundMe staff directly, and they eventually report back they could not verify that Rose is the biological mother of Cody and Emma. In return, Rose and Chambers sent GoFundMe her bank account information, photos with the children, and birth certificates for both of the kids. It was an emotional and intense evening for everyone, but thankfully for them by the next morning the account was verified.

Chambers finally gets in touch with Tim Conlon directly and chat with him about their plan of action. Tim tells her that: he doesn’t plan on “touching any of that lady’s money,” use the money to take Cody to Disneyland and support the kids, and flat-out that he’s doing Rose’s case for free. Chambers emphasized the fact that Rose still needs more funds. For the deprogramming therapy that Emma and Cody are going to need as a result of the traumatic experiences they’ve been through, medicine that the kids were taking while living with Mike and Heather, and for the Hall family to get themselves set up with the children in a stable living situation.

Reunited

Jumping back to Mike and Heather, according to Chambers they disappeared with the three other boys after Cody and Emma were reunited. A criminal investigation had been launched, CPS was looking into it, and Chambers had no idea what the deal is with that. It was rumored that Heather lost custody of the 3 other kids, and her ex-husband Rickie Zopp was trying to get them back. According to Maryland judiciary case search, the reopened divorce proceedings between Heather Martin and Rickie Zopp were cancelled/vacated on May 1st.

Chambers goes on to emphasize that Rose Hall is not taking any interviews at this time. Tim Conlon does not want his client misspeaking in her overwhelmed (and camera shy) state. According to him, Mike and Heather’s lawyer are using any recorded interviews she has done as evidence in the proceedings.

There’s still a long legal process ahead. Cody and Emma both need time to recover from this ordeal. Cody especially, while Emma was able to bounce back fairly quickly.

Leading up to this point, we still had the back and forth dynamic between DaddyOFive’s channel and Phil DeFranco.

First was the apology video from Mike and Heather Martin on April 22nd. I was finishing up my earlier piece around the same time this came out, so I didn’t get a proper chance to discuss what it was at the time.They wore their Sunday best for what would be a high production value response to the ongoing controversy.

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Heather introduces the video by telling “Team D.O.5.” this would be a different video than they usually do. Reflecting on the “worst week of their lives,” Heather finally admits on camera they made terrible parenting decisions and a desire to amend that.

Whoever edited this together decided to use very abrupt transitions that fade sections of the video in and out from black.

  • First Fade [0:19]: Mike speaks for a majority of this section. When he does, he doesn’t make eye contact with the camera as much. Mike says the past week allowed both him and Heather to “jump out of character” and see how they came across to the public. “I understand how everyone feels. I *acknowledge* and I respect how everyone feels about this,” he says. Heather starts to open her frowning mouth to try and interject, but Mike continues. “And I do agree that we put things on the internet that should not be there. We did things that we should not do.” Heather seizes Mike’s moment of pause to take over. She says when looking at the videos from the perspective of a mother, that the actions depicted in them appeared to put the children through turmoil. That’s all we hear as the video fades to black.
  • Second Fade [1:09]: Heather says that the kids were excited that people were watching them and that their aim was to see how high of a view count they could get. Mrs. Martin says what started out as harmless turned into a routine of filming content that prioritized “shock factor,” slipping away from a perception of reality. Camera quickly cuts to black again.
  • Third Fade [1:33]: Heather says the impression the kids are getting from this controversy is that they’re to blame for some of it. She reaffirms that it wasn’t, saying Mike and herself needed to make better decisions as parents. Mike opens his mouth to speak but the camera fades before we hear what he had to say.
  • Fourth Fade [1:44]: Heather states that they were able to give them more stuff than they could before the YouTube channel, and in their minds thought that was the best they could do for them.
  • Fifth Fade [1:53]: When the camera cuts in this time, we see Mike wraps his arm around Heather. She says they’re all now in family counseling (despite saying that was already a thing in the Keemstar interview) because they “need it” to get through the media response to the situation, and help give the DaddyOFive children a better understanding of their parents’ failures.
  • Sixth Fade [2:12]: The only thing in this section is Heather expressing a desire for the kids to get back to normal lives.
  • Seventh Fade [2:21]: Mike speaks again. “I just wanted to take care of everybody, I just wanted everyone to be happy,” he says. Mid-way through that sentence, Heather interrupts. “We just wanted you guys… we wanted them to be happy. We just wanted our kids to be happy and we went about it the wrong way.”
  • Eighth Fade [2:32]: Heather says their focus is minimizing the backlash the children receive for their bad decisions – realizing now the type of ordeal they were all placed in. “We’re just really sorry to them,” is the last thing we hear from her. The ending of the video is in itself a final fade-out that cuts off Heather as she’s speaking mid-sentence.

You can see her lips moving, but you’re unable to hear any words coming out.

In contrast to any of the previous videos the Martins finally accept responsibility for DaddyOFive’s content. This is the last of the five stages of grief. Their initial “BLOCKING ALL THE HATERS!” piece responded to the public’s worries with complete dismissal and denial that anything was wrong. At that point, Mike was telling the public that what their family did was what they considered normal. Mr. Martin tells the public that he thinks it’s respectable people would respond so strongly to abuse concerns, but then states it’s not happening there and that folks are wasting time. Heather says they were already investigated by Child Protective Services because of the YouTube channel, and said they found nothing. She tends to stay in the background when possible, only sparsely contributing to the video while Mike is doing most of the talking. When Heather does talk, she tries to reframe the argument and justify the channel’s content.  The children go along with Mike’s speech and the direction Heather takes it in, and the camera is just focused on them as they talk. Their rebuttal is YouTube lets their family buy more candy, video games, and luxury stuff to have in their house. According to Mike and Heather, the kids have complete control over what goes up on the channel (while Cody and the other younger children make remarks that suggest they don’t even get to see the content on YouTube sometimes). Jake claims the first prank was his idea, while Alex says Mike got into the habit of vlogging in the first place when he picked up the kids from school. He goes on to say that the fact Mike makes the kids write sentences as punishment is something he doesn’t think is abuse.

“At least you’re not beating us like most parents,” Ryan says.

Mike instructed his Twitter followers to share the video wherever possible as a means of quashing dissent. He laments at the fact he didn’t have a clip of Cody saying people who didn’t like the YouTube channel shouldn’t watch it. Mr. Martin uses the size of his fanbase as a means of discrediting any dissent.

eatit

On April 18th there was ChambersOfHeart’s interview with Rose Hall, and the subsequent reaction video Mike Martin posted of Heather’s breakdown while listening to it there was anger. The narrative that the DaddyOFive channel was trying to maintain throughout the past year was shattered. No longer could Heather quietly imply that Cody and Emma were her biological children, for example. But still even then, the only form of addressing it that the family knew was “getting the camera” and make a video. Attempts at bargaining were made in the Keemstar interview, with Boogie’s attempt at offering a peaceful resolution, and in Mike’s own tweets. During their talk with Keem one of the main discussion points at play is a negotiation attempt for Mike to find a middle-ground with the public. Heather took over the talking role more than she had previously. Mike Martin insists that his family has a sense of privacy, despite the very open nature of the blogs. Both himself and Heather were faced with direct questions about their treatment of Cody, and the reasoning they gave for why the kid couldn’t go to Disney World was conflicting. Most importantly the Martins acknowledged some of Cody’s reactions in the channel’s videos were genuine. Keemstar wanted a mental health expert to have access to the DaddyOFive house while they were filming, so that person could make sure the children were okay. At that point Mike and Heather seemed to agree to that, while later on Boogie would reveal that Mr. Martin would decline to get that sort of help. The depression stage of grief comes into effect with “Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations [sic]” being released. The key difference here is the title of the video. Whereas the earlier one with Heather crying was named “False accusations are killing my family,” this one uses a past-tense verb to imply that the controversy was irreversible now. The reality sets in that DaddyOFive and his wife have a lot of explaining to do, leading Mike to straight-up deny that any of it was real. Despite the fact that he said something to that effect in the Keemstar interview. He says the videos were all the kids’ ideas and that they were for “entertainment purposes only,” as a disclaimer. Mike says he was afraid to say they were fake because that “kills” YouTube channels. Mike was afraid of letting anyone down. Heather says the “real” fans that stick by the DaddyOFive YouTube channel after this controversy are the ones that “get it.”

It stands as the finale in a series of reactions from the Martin couple.

FiveStagesOfGrief

Myself and others made a public effort to assist Frederick and Baltimore County authorities in locating archives of the videos. This was after the Baltimore Sun put out an article on April 24th talking about the situation, with a section dedicated to that perspective on the investigation. When it came to the Child Protective Services aspect of it, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Human Resources said they couldn’t comment on that. Generally speaking, law enforcement from the Montgomery, Baltimore, and Frederick counties were made aware if the videos. Frederick County’s sheriff’s office in particular was making sure that the videos were shot within their jurisdiction before taking any action.

Baltimore County Police were having a hard time locating a complete archive of the channel’s videos:

Baltimore County Police Officer Jennifer Peach said Baltimore County police are also reviewing the many videos that the couple uploaded to YouTube, “but we’re having a hard time because many were removed or blocked” and were filmed indoors, making it difficult to determine the location in Maryland.

Thus necessitating the public’s urge to help.

Philly D would dip his toe back into the DaddyOFive subject himself. Starting with a series of tweets directed at Baltimore Police’s twitter account directing their attention to the archive.org back-up of DaddyOFive’s channel, topping that off with a video highlighting this aspect of the investigation.

An important thing to remember about the DaddyOFive situation is that two of the videos up on the official YouTube channel were taken down for violating site rules. “INVISIBLE INK PRANK! ( EPIC FREAKOUT )” uploaded on April 12th 2017 was removed for harassment and bullying. “Alex SLAPPED Emma in the FACE” uploaded on October 17th 2016 was removed for the same thing.

When the controversy was unfolding, people saw this coming. DaddyOFive went into lockdown, putting all the videos on the YouTube channel to private.

“I’m sorry everyone but I have taken down/demonetized all videos my family’s safety is more important than fake videos,” Mike tweeted on April 19th.

This created an artificial demand for DaddyOFive videos. People’s curiosity was reaching a peak because of the drama and controversy that was unfolding – but when they’d go to look further they’d see DaddyOFive’s channel was empty. Luckily, someone by the name of @YourselfSuit was able to archive the entire video collection. He even uploaded an evidence reel highlighting moments of interest on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel.

I had first discovered YouTube was removing mirrors of DaddyOFive videos on April 24th. A separate user by the name of @Sinatra_Says had gotten hit that same afternoon.  On May 3rd @YourselfSuit had announced that YouTube took his evidence reel video down for a community guidelines strike. After a vocal Twitter campaign the video was put back up with an age restriction attached to it. It wasn’t limited to just @YourselfSuit either. JoySparkleBS would get several videos flagged as a result of alleged privacy violations.

The strikes against small YouTube channels had evolved beyond just mirroring the videos and spiraled onto commentary videos that had merely used clips at specific points.

This is seen in the case of Ragestew’s channel. While he made a video on May 3rd explaining his ordeal, I reached out directly to get his side of the story.

 I made a commentary video about DO5, similar to the few others I have  on my channel. In the video I showed clips of what I believed was child  abuse, all from videos from DO5’s channel. The clips were the same ones used by Philip Defranco in commentary videos, and many other big youtubers. I made the video to bring awareness to the situation. I was condemning the child abuse, since I went through similar things in my childhood.  Youtube took the video down after a few days and gave me a strike for having child abuse in the video. I appealed it by saying the clips were used in a transformative way, to bring awareness and make criticism, and the appeal was rejected. I’m angry because these clips were all from DO5 channel who uploaded this stuff daily for over a year, and Youtube never did anything about it. I make a COMMENTARY video talking about the videos being fucked up and showing clips, they give me a strike.

Given the timing of the initial mirrors being removed from YouTube alongside a separate piece of news in the DaddyOFive story, many would suspect these two factors had correlation.

These mysterious strikes could have come from the same folks who crafted the DaddyOFive apology video where the Martins are dressed up in their Sunday-best attire.

FallstonGroup

Helping the Martins is a PR firm known as the Fallston Group. This first became known via Tisha Lewis with FOX 5 in DC in the afternoon of April 24th. On the 25th, I had concerns that they were responsible for removing a key document from Scribd that was crucial to Rose’s part of this overall story. Unfortunately I have nothing to substantiate this beyond my own suspicion. Those aren’t unfounded given the portfolio of past clients this organization has assisted: the Chief Public Information Officer for the Maryland Transit Administration, the President of the CEO Club of Baltimore, the Public and Government Affairs Manager of AAA Mid-Atlantic, a PR Executive and Former Mayoral Press Secretary for City of Baltimore, a Former Baltimore Police Commissioner, the Chief of Staff at Maryland General Assembly, and the President/CEO of Hamilton Bank are just a few of the companies that Fallston have been involved in.

It begs the question of why help a family of YouTube “pranksters” at all? Fallston thought of that too. On the 28th they released a blog called “Why Help DaddyOFive?” on their website. Within it, they revealed the group was first contacted at the end of the previous week (around April 21st). The team went directly to the home of the Martins in order to assess the situation, speaking to the family for three hours. According to Fallston they had a choice of either walking away from this family who made problematic content on their YouTube channel, or assist them in their confusion to get them the help they needed and on a better path. At the end of the day, helping DaddyOFive lined up with Fallston Group’s mission on helping people who are in a time of crisis. Things were square as long as their clients are willing to accept responsibility for errors in judgement they make. Fallston makes it clear they don’t condone the content posted on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel, but they wanted to help share their experiences and resources to the Martin family to make sure this ordeal had some sense of management going forward.

They admit that Fallston Group helped Mike and Heather make their apology video. According to them it wasn’t scripted, with the cuts and fade-outs that happened in-between while the video was rolling were done in order to eliminate redundancy.

Fallston Group adds this paragraph.

There is no question the Martins, in light of the public concern, took another look at the content they had shared through the eyes of people who don’t know them personally, and upon reflection, recognized the error of their ways. They now fully understand that they crossed the line and they describe how what started out as family fun quickly escalated into shock value for the purpose of viewership and subscriptions. They were caught up in their own characters and popularity – they were blinded by YouTube fame and again, upon reflection, made some very poor decisions.

Fallston goes on to talk about how devastating internet backlash is, and how the safety of the kids is a high priority.

But even so – they say it doesn’t replace their accountability.

WhatDrivesMike

What Drove Mike

As we learned in the update from the earlier piece, much of Mike’s upbringing is reflected in the way he parented the DaddyOFive children. According to his step-brother James Britton, Mike Martin learned most of his harsh behaviors from the way his step-mother Audrey treated him.

Cody and Emma were singled out in this aspect, being the only ones with their names on the family punishment board. You can see it for yourself in “It’s raining inside my truck Vlog” at 4 minutes 30 seconds. Mike shows it because his fans were asking about it, saying the numbers written down represent the number of sentences that the children have to write. The subject matter of these sentences correlates to the punishment. “Lieing [sic]” means they have to write “I will not lie” 50 times. An unclean room means they have to write “I will keep my room clean” 100 times. If the kids aren’t getting ready for school at what Mike considers an acceptable pace, they have to write 100 sentences. Cody and Emma are a part of a “level system” that signify their privileges. 3 is the highest, and the tally marks represent points they have. If they lose all the points, they drop a level.  There’s proof that the other kids had to write sentences, such as Ryan’s punishment of 1000 for hiding Pepsi cans behind his bed.

While it’s not even mentioned in the video, there’s a color coded spreadsheet in the bottom-left corner of the board. This is where the kids school performance is shared with the rest of the family.

PunishmentBoard

I was shown an image of one of Cody’s bruises. This picture was allegedly taken back when he returned from a trip to Mike’s, in the time period where Rose had joint custody. Based on my own knowledge of the family’s situation there was a clear pattern of punishment within the household before the YouTube channel was even a thing. His ex-wife Amy (who I spoke with in my previous article) recently did an hour long interview that went over many of these habits Mike had. Early on in their marriage, there were signs of him being easily possessive and jealous. He was clingy, and wanted Amy to be with him at all possible times. Mike told Amy he was depressed and had bi-polar disorder, along with ADHD. But given the amount of medical experimentation that was done on him in his youth, he became reluctant in his adult years to seek any treatment for this. Amy says many of the behaviors Mike exhibited during their marriage mirrored the relationship between Audrey Martin and Charles Britton as it was described in my previous article. While on the surface, according to Amy, Mike and her 3 year old son got along fairly well and were buddies. But over time there was a progression of strict authoritarian parenting as a means of vying for control. Much like Heather would try and take position of Cody and Emma’s “real mother,” Mike demanded the same sort of position out of Amy’s son. Further mirroring the DaddyOFive behaviors, Amy noticed Mike would inspect her son’s backpack when he got home from school. Drinking was also a factor in their marriage.

If you were to pick any DaddyOFive video at random from this list, you’d likely choose one where Mike is shouting. He had a tendency to do that.

According to Amy, Mike had talents at making videos and photoshop. At night he’d record freestyle rap on the computer. It was Mike’s way of expressing his own feelings and coping with his own shortcomings. The person who Amy was on this podcast of had his own thoughts. Mike’s fear of abandonment because of his childhood echoed into his adult years very clearly in the YouTube videos. After pulling off a prank on the children, Mike would beg for their forgiveness and force them to essentially accept this apology of sorts he’d put out for his actions.

These concepts together made the DaddyOFive channel. It’s Mike’s outlet where he expresses his frustrations and shares his life with the world. A man who still holds onto some of the things that he encountered as a boy, reflecting it back on a new generation as an adult. It’s not a matter of defining what’s real or fake – no matter what, these videos happened.

TheRealRageMode

Mike Martin had a YouTube channel in the days before DaddyOFive came into existence. According to the Socialblade page this gaming related channel was created back in July 2008. An archive of a viewer comment on one of DaddyOFive’s videos says he has been a viewer since his TheRealRageMode era, and the single comment left on this channel’s discussion page matches the writing style of Mike’s twitter. According to Mike’s ex-wife Amy (who confirmed his YouTube channel’s name and that it was a thing), he had a video series called “i’m bored” that consisted of Mike going around their house “talking shit” (according to Amy) and not doing anything. The channels that TheRealRageMode subscribed to included DaddyOFive and the DaddyOFive Gaming channel.

700000

As someone who did not graduate High School and couldn’t hold a job, Mike Martin wanted fame. With DaddyOFive he got it. 100 thousand subscribers. 200,000. 300K. 500,000 by December 2016. It kept on climbing. He was hungry for the numbers. Mike had his eyes set on one million. If we travel down the road of Mike Martin’s Twitter account we can see the changes that took place over time. Specifically when it comes to the video uploads in particular, there’s a very quick uptick to a daily regimen of content on their channel. If you look at the number of uploads between September and March, DaddyOFive was consistently releasing over 30 videos a month across his channels.

RinseRepeat

Rinse and repeat. 200 times.

Mr. Mike Martin had a routine. It never seemed like such a thing would happen based on the one-off randomness of his initial presentation for “prank” videos in July 2016, but nevertheless a method to this madness had appeared.  For every new video he would upload, he’d notify everyone that it was coming. Then he’d top it off with not one, but two tweets when the video was up. An automated one posted via a notification bot, and a manual one where he presented the public the new video on his own. Day in, day out. Like clockwork. But this machine wasn’t perfect. Sometimes he’d wind up his first tweet only to be blocked by unforeseen issues with uploading and YouTube. That devastated DaddyOFive. He thought it was a big let-down if there was a mistake. Generally speaking there’s a clear pattern of behavior when it comes to Mike’s desire to not disappoint his fans. He didn’t want to make videos too short, pressured if an uploaded was too late, and took negative responses personally. DaddyOFive would even upload on the road to stick to his self-imposed schedule.

Topping it all off were audience driven polls that helped Mike decide what to do next. There’s at least five of them from what I found (They don’t show up in the archives, but they do if you click back to the original links and check for yourself).

If none of that is a sufficient indication, on December 19th 2016 Mike Martin had a giveaway contest. The basic idea of the rules was that you had to somehow standout on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel. It was a competition vying for attention. Mike got showered in it.

getmyattention

“Alex and Ryan got pranked so bad that they cried wait till you see tonight’s video it’s hilarious,” Mike once tweeted.

To Mike Martin, his kids were YouTube content. Their pain was what DaddyOFive considered preview worthy material. The shock value had to keep ramping up (like saying his wife pulled a knife on him) so people would keep getting drawn in. The recurring theme of hard-line parenting his kids was something that Mike himself bought into when it came to enticing viewers. DaddyOFive sometimes answered questions about what people saw in the videos as if they were supposed to be taken in a serious capacity. Mike Martin pushed this notion that they were bad at listening. He tried to blur the line between what was real and what was fake fairly often. When he sent Cody to Military School (as a “prank”) on January 28th he even prefaced it by saying Cody was acting bad that morning and confirmed it as such on Twitter after the video was uploaded.

Cody was used as clickbait. When I say that, there’s countless examples backing that up. Clickbait. Clickbait. Clickbait. People came to expect it. It made Mike laugh.

ClickbaitYouth

There are a variety of replies to Mike Martin’s tweets that happened way before the recent controversy first began that reveal the dynamic between the household and the YouTube audience.  When Cody had scraped his arm in school that February and Mike had decided to yell at him with a music track in the background for the audience, someone tried to warn him about the severity of the situation. His upsets were people’s entertainment. Viewers sometimes joined in on the ragging, while others bought into the gimmick as if Mike was showing an accurate depiction of their household. The fans loved a fighter. They loved seeing him ticked off. On at least one occasion his fans suggested he get a beating. People would go as far as to diagnose Cody in their replies and these comments went by without a word from Mike.

“i expect cody to be bad always,” someone wrote.

#TeamDontMilitarizeCody was a hashtag somebody actually used at some point. Other kids like Jake had their own stereotypes as the bully or bad guy. People were heartbroken to see Emma get pushed around on camera. Blind to the fact of if Alex crying in the corner for half the video was real or not.  It only took the channel until late September 2016 (a few months since their start) to get accused of having clickbait titles. But at the same time people thought Mike Martin looked genuinely angry with how he reprimanded his children. That all the yelling he did seemed unnecessary.

DaddyOFiveFanMail

DaddyOFive Fan Mail

If Mike Martin throws himself at the mercy of his audience, and his demographics tend to consist of mostly children – what direction was the channel going to go in? In absolutely no way do I condone some of the behaviors in the video, or the actions that took place within. It comes down to the dual nature of Mike. The kids related to the immaturity and the childish humor.

It all boils down to the YouTube videos themselves at the end of the day. We could go over the exterior factors for an eon, but the best way to see this is in practice.

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People have been going over the YouTube videos with a fine-tooth comb to analyze and better understand the full extent of what’s going on in the DaddyOFive videos. A YouTuber named Sylvibot has recently reviewed around 70 of them and attempted to find examples of abuse going in the Martin household. Not only was she able to find that, Sylvibot went as far as to say she found a consistent pattern of behavior when it came to Mike Martin’s actions in these videos. While this focuses on Sylvibot’s video in particular, you can find more analysis videos in this playlist.

This focus on Cody is due to his oppositional defiant disorder and the reactions he makes as a result of that. According to Sylvibot’s observations the DaddyOFive fan club thinks Jake is the coolest of the children (see “JAKE GETS A GUN!” and “JAKE GOT MORE GUNS!!) while Cody is ostracized as strange (see “Why Did My Son Do This!”) in contrast. They’re worried this mentality carries over into real life when the family meets fans in person, and that the parents attempt to justify this by giving the DaddyOFive kids gifts and other rewards for their participation in this channel. Sylvibot says the reason these kids aren’t saying anything is wrong with their home life is because that’s the only life they know and don’t want to risk anything that could disrupt that, no matter what. What concerns her is the suicidal thoughts that Emma expresses in some of the videos, and the self-harm Cody demonstrates in others. Trapping the children in this abuse is the fact that none of the kids are allowed locks on their doors even though they specifically request it. Mike doesn’t know how to respond when the children have worrisome thoughts.

Slyvibot highlights a level of inconsistency when it comes to the reprimanding Mike does between Cody and the other children. That is to say, Cody is allowed to get away with much less than any of the other boys. But moreover even when it comes down to them, Alex and Ryan express their discontent with the amount of leniency that Jake has in the household. The point where parental intervention is needed the most is when Jake or any of the other kids push Cody to a breaking point. Instead of intervening, Mike Martin just films it and laughs it off instead. He acts as if Cody was in the wrong in the first place.  An example used is the “prank” where Cody gets put up for adoption.

DaddyOFiveFanArt

“This is why everyone says I need to bust y’all’s ass,” Mike says.

In “Cody Bad at School,” Sylvibot highlights another example of these moments where Mike’s misguided parenting comes into play. DaddyOFive yells at him in the morning before the kids go to school because he didn’t clean his room. When the kids come home in the afternoon and it’s revealed Cody scraped his arm until it bled, Mike films his entire shout-down at the lad. Cody tries to explain to Mike why he couldn’t focus in school, Mr. Martin just says the world doesn’t revolve around him. Sylvibot makes a note that it drags on for way too long, as if Mike was doing it for the sake of content. This goes as far as Mike having one of the other sons hold the camera while he sits down with Cody to have a heart-to-heart chat with him. He even laments about his mother (presumably Audrey) being harsh on Mike at a young age.

Sylvibot says it’s made evidently clear that this channel is not made by the kids at all.

She goes on to talk about the whole “Cody not going to Disneyland” debacle. It’s loomed over him throughout several vlogs on the DaddyOFive channel, and all the build up is for naught when it comes to the time of the actual trip. Cody is shipped off to the Grandparent’s with the family dogs. The reason he didn’t get to go changes throughout several videos. Heather claimed “he put poop everywhere several times” initially, whereas in their interview with Keemstar Mike says the toilet overflowed, and finally in their “False Aquisations [sic]” video Mike says he was afraid the child would get lost. The inconsistent reasons given for Cody’s inability to go Disney World reflect the inconsistent punishment that is doled out to the kids.

This imbalance speaks to the core of Mike Martin.

TwoMikes

2:54 of “LAST night in the old house,” he does this as a joke.

There are two Mike Martins. In more ways than one.

The top layer is the Mike that gets seen in the videos in a battle against the Mike of reality. As far as DaddyOFive viewers were aware – the reactions of the children in the videos was just good acting. This is the layer that covered everything that lay beneath the surface of the YouTube channel. If Mike Martin treated the DaddyOFive kids like he did the viewers and fans, this mess would have never happened. Out of all the videos up there – how many of them were the audience in on? How many were they not?

“BLOCKING ALL THE HATERS!!” forced Mike to confront that.

The middle layer is the Mike that harshly disciplines the children, at odds with the one that wants to be their best friend. At [12:30] in this video he slides down the stairs on a cardboard box. The appeal of DaddyOFive was a part of him knew how to have some fun. That’s why there’s an entire channel of his dedicated to video games. It’s that creativity that brought forth his ghost adventures series. There’s a sense of reluctance the kids have, every time Mike switches back and forth between these modes. What do you think is going through Mike’s or Cody’s head when he smashes Cody’s Xbox? At what point do pranks like putting Cody up for adoption and pretending to send him to military school cause more harm than good? Further, what’s the long-lasting impact of putting up videos where the kids go “psycho” on each other? For every silly string, water gun, and stink bomb goof immortalized for eternity – there’s a serious meltdown, whooping, and moment of shame close by.

In a video titled “USING CODY FOR TARGET PRACTICE!” what lessons do you think that teaches? One of the most controversial videos on the channel was “Alex SLAPPED Emma in the FACE,” in which Mike approved Alex giving a hard SLAP to Emma’s face and making her cry.

The bottom layer is the Mike that works on his videos day in and day out for his family, sparring against the Mike that does it for the personal fame and elevation for himself. As seen in the Good Morning America interview, these two things were at odds. That is to say, Mike Martin thought the success of his DaddyOFive YouTube channel would make the children proud of him.  Mike himself admits that he’s not a doctor or a lawyer, and he says the only way to success he saw was this YouTube channel that got traction by happenstance. He thinks the closest thing to heroism is uploading videos like “ALEX BAD AT SCHOOL!”, “Alex was BAD on the BUS”, “ALEX HITS DAD IN THE NUTS!!”“CODY BAD IN SCHOOL!!”, “CODY GETS THE BELT!!”, “Emma BIT a CHUNK out of Cody!”, “JAKE BEATS UP RYAN”, “Jake BEATS UP Alex”, “Ryan MISSED the BUS”, and “Ryan gets a SPANKING!” online. In a vlog that was mainly celebrating Emma’s birthday, Mike decided to title it “LOST CHILD prank” because for a short two minute segment the family pretends to abandon Cody in the mall.

“I’m a dad, and it hurt my gut to hear you say what you just said.” T.J. Holmes of ABC said. “Do you really think your kids…. you aren’t a hero to your kids before this?”

“I didn’t feel like it.” Mike confesses. “I swear to God I didn’t feel like it.”

But Mike Martin wasn’t the only parent helming the DaddyOFive YouTube channel.

WhatDrivesHeather

What Drove Heather

Heather implied in a DaddyOFive Q&A video that she was the biological mother of Cody and Emma Martin. When responding to a question if either of them were adopted, Heather said “No, unfortunately not,” in response. She goes on to say their “Nan” had red-hair. That Heather’s mother  is a ginger. This would be a striking contrast to the statement given in “Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations [sic],” where Heather reveals that the family is a blended one.

She goes on to claim some sort of ownership as the mother of Cody and Emma.

And someone had some interview with the kids biological mother. And ya know, it broke me down because they said “we have their REAL mother”…. I’M their real mother.

As explored in my previous article on this subject, Heather was the main point of interaction between Mike Martin and Rose Hall. She initially told Rose that she understood having his biological mother in his life was important to him, and yet Heather would end up pulling the rug out from under Rose. As we’d find out in Rose’s update video with Tim Conlon – Heather apparently told Cody that Rose “threw him away like he was garbage,” but here in May 2015 we can see Heather telling Rose that Cody was distancing himself from his biological mother.

A puppet show of emotions, and Heather was in charge. But it turns out that control extended beyond the family’s social interactions.

irrationaldecisions

Mentioned this in my last article. Re-posting it here in case you forgot.

When it comes to understanding Heather Martin’s background, we have to look a little bit deeper. She’s the person in charge of the upkeep and expenses for this whole show. When it comes to purchasing merchandise for the channel? She takes care of it. Who bought the house’s security alarms? Heather did.

These things are in her name. From the YouTube channel to the house the family first lived in when they started.

The house the Martin family lived in at the start of the DaddyOFive controversy (now) is actually a rental.While in itself a rental is not a controversial thing (despite my initial assumption, they do mention the fact they’re renting very briefly in this video). People do that all the time. But following the money back it reveals an important aspect of the bigger picture.

The point boils down to the fact DaddyOFive’s channel makes a big deal about this new house. “OUR NEW HOUSE,” “The movers STOLE my TV,” “First Vlog in the NEW HOUSE,” “First NIGHT in the NEW HOUSE,” “LAST night in the old house,” and “First FanMail in the NEW house,” all showcase the process of this transition. Taking place on the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 22nd of November, along with December 1st and 2nd, respectively in the order of the title’s mention. Mike praises his security system is top-of-the-line because apparently YouTubers “need” that no matter what.  In particular you can see the amount of stuff the Martin family has obtained by the point of the First Vlog video. Big fancy windows, televisions in the kids’ bedrooms, Mike even comments on the excessive size of the house at one point when Cody is banished to the “East Wing” by DaddyOFive.

At the same time as all of this, Heather Martin was dealing with bankruptcy proceedings. Two years after the automatic stay is lifted on her home in Baltimore, happens to be the exact time that her and DaddyOFive moved into their current house. That is to say the earlier address of Mike and Heather Martin’s DaddyOFive YouTube channel was foreclosed. You can confirm it’s theirs by looking at the business registration paperwork for DaddyOFive that has only Heather’s name on it signed in August 2016, which lists the same address as the foreclosed house. By the end of September 2016 we see that the Martins had begun the process of renting their current house seen in a majority of the YouTube videos. There’d be no mention of how this was possible in the November 2016 DaddyOFive vlog where the family is introduced to the house for the first time. They’d have time to show us around the place, certainly. Mike even comments on how nice the house is. But nothing about how it was bought.

Why would the Martins want to appear rich, then?

NewHouse

For this section, I recommend reading the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 from the American Bar Association. At no point in this section am I asserting what’s legal or illegal, only shedding a better light into the background circumstances of the DaddyOFive YouTube channel as it applies to Heather Martin’s sole ownership of it. For informative purposes only. The documentation used in this section is taken from the PACER files related to t

Between the end of March 2008 to mid-July 2008, Heather Withrow-Zopp (Martin) filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy with her husband at the time, Rickie. They had a mortgage on their house and their car somewhere in the ballpark beyond $200,000, and a number of smaller bills and expenses piling up (a lot of medical, some jewelry, and over $100 to Blockbuster) alongside that. It’s pretty straightforward. The couple decided to forfeit the car and the house, went through credit counseling, and that was that.

On it’s own there’s nothing remarkable about it. That is, until you consider the complicated route Heather’s second bankruptcy had gone down. Some important things to make a note of in this are the fact that Heather was seeing Mike Martin by 2011 and they were officially married on January 18, 2014.

By December 10th 2013, Heather Withrow found herself once more in the bankruptcy hot-seat. This time she filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy alone. She owed over a grand to the IRS since 2010. Over $4000 in utility bills, thousands of dollars owed across 7 different credit cards, and over $3000 in cell phone related charges. To get the point, in the interim since her last bankruptcy, Heather let the expenses get away from herself. In these documents we come to find out she got credit consultation via the internet. Her filings stated at that time she was unmarried and Mike was not living in the household.

Heather Withrow didn’t report that Mike was part of her household income on her Chapter 13 filings, and there’s doubts if she hasn’t her reported new household income/expenses are accurate.

What’s relevant here is that Heather’s original Chapter 13 plan lays out the time period that this debt would be paid off in (60 months). But moreover, there’s a typo in the paperwork submitted that day. They would submit a new plan at the end of January 2014, after Heather officially married Mike. In this amended Chapter 13 plan, she forgot to sign it. February 3rd. Trustee objects to the plan, wants it amended with pay stubs for 60 days prior to the filing, wants the house surrendered. March 25th 2014. Numerous objections from the Trustee: failure to dedicate all disposable earnings in several places, failure to properly provide payments to entities owed to, failure to properly include all owners of the property the family was living at, and discrepancies in the attorney fees are just some of the errors observed in the objection. May 20th. Many of these discrepancies are still outstanding.

It’s not until July 1st 2014 that we see the final confirmation and approval from the judge. In any of the paperwork filed after Mike and Heather got married, but before this confirmation, he’s never mentioned once. It’s like Mike Martin doesn’t exist.

According to uscourts.gov in regards to Chapter 13:

Married individuals must gather this information for their spouse regardless of whether they are filing a joint petition, separate individual petitions, or even if only one spouse is filing. In a situation where only one spouse files, the income and expenses of the non-filing spouse is required so that the court, the trustee and creditors can evaluate the household’s financial position.

The last document in this Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is an address change. Even at this point when she has moved with Mike and the kids to their rental home, Heather Martin goes by the name of Withrow. Despite the fact that on the paperwork for the DaddyOFive YouTube channel, she signs it as Heather Martin.

I am not in a position to deem what’s legal and illegal, but given the circumstances of Heather’s bankruptcy background it leaves room to question where the DaddyOFive profits really went. Someone with demonstrably very little accountability to their money management is in charge of where funding goes for five children’s profits from a YouTube channel dedicated to pranking them. Heather Martin can’t claim ignorance because her background is in accounting (6:00 of this video establishes that).

HeatherPrank

If you wanted to know how aware of DaddyOFive’s content Heather is, we can look towards her opening speech in a December 2016 video “A SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR DAD” she made for Mike’s birthday.

“We’re a lot of fun, we’ve a lot of jokes. And we prank each other and we do all this stuff. And we love you guys, and most of you are very good to us. The kids absolutely love YouTube and love all you guys. They always wanna know what you guys are saying about their videos, and how they’re doing. But on a serious note, DaddyOFive gets so much shit for his channel and the content and things that are on it. And one thing you guys need to realize is – everything he does is for his kids. He’s probably the most amazing dad I’ve ever met in my life. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband. He plays with the kids, he’s always coming up with fun things for them to do. They wanted to go into this YouTube stuff and they really wanted to make this channel. He was leery at first because it could go one way or another, and he did it because his kids wanted to do it, and they are excited about it. And they make videos and they watch their own content and laugh at it. This is just the kind of family that we are. They’re so fun, and they’re so creative.”

“They fight. They argue. Tell me that you don’t argue with your siblings, and fight with your siblings. I mean everyone does. I have two younger sisters and when we were growing up, we always fought with each other. I know DaddyOFive has been getting a lot of hate lately, and getting a lot of people talking crap, and saying how bad of a dad he is. Look at the big picture of things and not just the little things that you can pick out of our content and try to flip it six ways from Sunday. Most of our fans actually understand our channel and know that having five kids is crazy.”

Heather Martin is more involved in the content then she implied in recent videos and television interviews. It was something that was carefully monitored by her in the comments sections of videos and overall aware of.

When it comes to the YouTube channel, there are times where we get to see MommyOFive take a role in the videos.

HeatherNMike

First, an example of calm. When it comes to “MY WIFE BROKE MY TOOTH!!……almost” the opening of the video has Heather lamenting at the fact her children can’t do their chores (she’d later yell at Mike about the same thing). Peppering swears throughout the early parts of the video that go on talking about this, it eventually leads to a scene upstairs where Mike calls Cody a bad kid, and Heather implies Emma is stupid. We see the Martin couple out and about in public with no kids. Heather takes Mike out to Five Guys for lunch, they go to the movies, Mike tags along while Heather browses vacuum cleaners, and they go to a steakhouse for dinner. Without the DaddyOFive children, a day in the life of the couple seems fairly mundane in comparison to their usual chaos.

What happens when when we throw the kids into the equation? We see it happen in “MOM HAS A MELTDOWN!!” when Heather yells at Mike about chores and other responsibilities, criticizing him for being lazy about his contribution. Her conniption started over a load of laundry, as seen starting in 7:22 in the meltdown video. It drags on for a good three minutes – with the wear and tear being visible on her face.

“Do you have sand in your vagina?,” was Mike’s retort.  After joking around about putting up Emma for adoption, then Mike, then Heather, her reply at [21:07] is “Nothing in this house would run without me.”

Heather Martin is very liberal with her use of kitchen knives. In “PRANK ON MOM GOES HORRIBLY WRONG ( ENDS IN FIGHT ),” a wet Heather pulls a knife on Mike when he sprays her with a super soaker gun for a prank. She was unreceptive to the humor and the exchange devolved into a more heated argument. Heather chases Mike around the house waving around a knife in her hand. In “PSYCHO WIFE PULLS KNIFE ON HUSBAND!!,” we see that Heather is in charge of many household chores and buys clothes for Mike, all the meanwhile putting up with his attempts to annoy her while she does her routine. The knife part comes in due to the fact that Heather is not only willing to tolerate and humor Mike as he films her, she escalates it. Grabbing a kitchen knife from the counter, Heather isn’t afraid to whip it around at him so DaddyOFive backs off from her.  If you go to [14:12] of the video you’ll be taken into another intense moment where Heather is shouting at Mike and waving a knife at him.

HeatherUtensilsThere was that one time Heather ran around the house chasing Jake with a spoon. In “Cody Gets Kicked Out!!” Heather says she doesn’t like Cody. In “Lost Child PRANK” she calls him a dickhead. In “Booger Prank Meltdown!!” she urges Cody to fight back against the other kids more aggressively. In the video where Cody gets put up for adoption, Heather plays along with Mike and threatens to take away all of Cody’s stuff “for real,” making it clear that it isn’t part of a prank. Heather calls the kid a demon. In “Getting Ready For Disney!!” Heather tells Mike to be angry at Cody for the fact that he wasn’t going to Disney World, whereas Mike himself was simply upset at that. She claims Cody would make everyone miserable, and says he needs to behave himself and whatever is going on with him is not normal.

“He’s crazy. Crazy ginger snap,” Heather says when describing Cody. She had previously told Rose that she tried to be good to all the children.

MommyOFive has her own YouTube channel that was done in the same spirit as DaddyOFive. In her first video “Tin Can Challenge,” uploaded in October 2016, Heather says she intended on posting once a week. She states that she didn’t know what to post since most of the stuff the family did was posted over on the DaddyOFive main channel. Heather ends up uploading on a monthly basis instead. While there are only six videos on that channel there’s enough of the same theme identifiable. They outsourced one of the giveaway winner announcements to MommyOFive’s channel. Along with another challenge video, people got to see her do a test run of Playstation VR and a vlog where she burned herself cooking.

The main point of interest to MommyOFive’s YouTube channel is a prank video called “PRANK GONE WRONG DAD PULLS A GUN!!,” released February 24th 2017. Using Jake and Ryan as actors,  Heather walks the camera she’s holding around the living room to show us the other recording devices around the house she had set-up. The group had planned to stage a break-in into the family house that evening, setting off the alarms to make it look like an intruder got inside. This intruder (Jake in a ski mask), was going to urge a panicked Mike to “hurry up and turn off” the alarm system in a deep gruntish voice. Heather is meticulous in the placement of these kids, telling Ryan when he should get the camera based on what she predicted Mike would do in response. She giggles into the camera beforehand, telling us this was her “delivering” to the audience after people hit the like button on her last video enough.

GunBreak1

At [2:55] the alarms are blasting. Mike exits from his bedroom with a gun in his hand. Heather is screaming frantically in what sounds like a legitimately horrified tone.

“WHO THE FUCK IS IN THE HOUSE,” Mike shouts from his position of cover behind a kitchen wall. One of the younger kids peers out from the basement and expresses their worry at the commotion, but Mike snaps a finger at him to get back down. Pointing a firearm at Jake and his own wife, DaddyOFive screams at this intruder to get the f*ck out.

Heather quickly tells Mike it’s Jake. Mr. Martin looks around the room to realize he’s been pranked.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL,” Mike screams. Heather was laughing a bit beforehand but this had caused the room to go silent. “ARE YOU FUCKING RETARDED?!?” he says in a follow-up.

DaddyOFive is furious, turning around to slap the camera out of Ryan’s hands.

“I’VE GOT A FUCKING GUN AND SOMEBODY COULD’VE GOTTEN SHOT. YOU’RE PLAYING FUCKING GAMES,” he yells.

GunBreak2

Mike doesn’t find the humor in it as Heather and the kids are chortling. He’s still got a serious look on his face when he checks the safety on his pistol. Mike shouted at his wife that she can’t trigger the alarm like that because the cops will show up. An onlooker from across the street had peered into the window as a result of this chaos, and Heather tells Mike he needed to put his gun away. Text messages from the alarm company were coming in, and all Heather could think about was how hilarious it was that Mike was “screaming like a fool.”

GunBreak3

[5:25] Mike and Heather have a sit down. Heather has this playful look on her face, where she says she knows she was bad in a non-serious fashion. In between the cut in the video, the cops had shown up at the house according to Heather because they had set their alarms off. She’s still half-hearted while Mike yells about the consequences to her, and what could’ve gone wrong. Heather says since she paid for the alarm she was going to take the blame for the prank.

“It was funny,” Heather shrugs. “It would’ve been even funnier if one of them gingers rolled down the steps,” she said. “Squealin’.”

Heather’s closing argument was the prank is “mild” because the kids only almost got shot.

HeatherCloseUpStabEverything Mike Martin did? Heather either stood by and allowed it to happen, or she fanned the flames of the situation to up the shock value. Mrs. Martin turned the family’s drama into a business. When Heather told Rose that Cody was excelling under her care in December 2014, what do you think she’d say now in retrospect? In light of every kick to the face, every shout-down recorded for a YouTube audience, In light of pretending to abandon the boy in a mall. every time he was bullied for the sake of YouTube entertainment.

That is not an assertion of fact, that is the reality. Watch Mike Martin give a stamp of approval on it for himself.

One doesn’t need to accuse of Mike or Heather of being in the wrong at this point, they flat-out admitted it the moment they uploaded their PR-friendly apology video on April 22nd.

Someone who uses invisible ink to write messages doesn’t want their intentions to be known to prying eyes. Heather Withrow didn’t want the courts to know she was also Heather Martin, so she signed bankruptcy documents under these separate names. Seeming to conceal the fact that Mike Martin in fact existed. Putting her signature on the DaddyOFive LLC paperwork, Heather was free to quietly stand behind Mike as he brought in the money from the YouTube channel, open to spend on whatever she thought was best. That agreement worked out for Mike because his mother Audrey was like that with her husband Charles.

The words written down with an invisible ink pen quickly vanish when exposed to the passage of time. By jumping from 0 to 100 and chasing Mike around the house with a kitchen knife, it’s harder to judge when Heather is serious about something. The sentences are written down but they lack a lasting impact of any value. That’s also Mike’s job as a parent. In December 2016 when Heather made that video message assuaging the fans of any controversy concerns, it clearly didn’t last. Here we are in April/May 2017 with the DaddyOFive couple dealing with the same issue.

Invisible ink just leaves the user with the question of – what was the point of doing that in the first place?

HeatherInvisibleInk

Why?

Future

When it comes to understanding the lasting impact of the DaddyOFive controversy, we’ll be looking beyond the immediate circumstances of the family itself. The fate of the Martins is up in the air right now. The situation is too unpredictable to make that kind of a call. The YouTube channel couldn’t last a year with their cycle of controversial content. But the impact of what it shows the public about what goes on online is sure to be talked about for a long time.

Ashley Taylor first got involved when she saw the video by Phil DeFranco on the subject, initially thinking it was just another YouTube drama being blown out of proportion. When she looked into it deeper, Ashley came to realize the extent of what was happening on the DaddyOFive channel. It was “sickening” and unbelievable to her that they had success for their content. As an actor in the NYC area, she had a unique perspective on things. Beyond the immediate need to rescue the children from the father and step-mother, child performers on YouTube in general need regulations for their work much like what Hollywood is afforded. For film and television they have protections that deal with the extent of working hours, conditions, and amount of income (15%) that’s guaranteed to go to the children.

ProjectSaveCody

Taylor organized a letter writing campaign to Governor Hogan of Maryland to help raise his and the public’s awareness to this issue. You can see what that entails in a video uploaded by her on the 25th of April, along with a playlist of some of the participants who joined in alongside Ashley. Another one of these projects is something called C.O.D.Y. (Children Online Deserve Your protection).

The Down Low of DaddyOFive

(UPDATE 2: 5/5/2017) Follow-up article released. Goes over everything that’s happened since publishing this piece.

(UPDATE: 4/26/2017) Last night I had the pleasure of talking to James and Laura Britton. I was taken back at that conversational sincerity and felt a bit lost with words. Nice people. Their family was wonderful.

Mr. Britton is Mike Martin’s step-brother by the fact that Mike’s adoptive mother Audrey Martin married James’s father Charles Britton. James emphasized to me that he would not participate in any sort of witch-hunt, but given Mike Martin’s actions there needed to be consequences for that behavior. Mr. Britton believes the Martin family should’ve gotten straight to the point in their apology. What James saw was what he calls a “poor excuse” of one. He feels they revealed too much of their hand in the numerous appearances they made.

But to back it up a bit: Mike and James at one point in their lives were inseparable as step-brothers. He tells me DaddyOFive was passionate about drawing, and highly creative with the games he and James could put together.

“He was going to be in the limelight,” James told me.

While his prediction might have come true, it wasn’t exactly in the way anyone had anticipated. James Britton first became aware of the DaddyOFive situation after his kids watched Boogie2988 talk about it. He explained to me that he could identify Mike Martin by his laugh. Something that was in-grained into memory from his earlier years.

When it comes to the disciplinary styles that Mike uses on the children in the DaddyOFive videos, James told me those sorts of things came from Audrey’s influence. She was very possessive over her husband Charles, especially when it came to money-related matters. Audrey was described as an aggressive sort of person who tended to be excessive when it came to punishment (making Mike Martin write sentences over and over, etc). Mike had a tendency to blame everyone except himself when it came to his personal dilemmas. While he was an articulate child, Mike was incapable of coping with certain situations properly. If the school system wasn’t failing him, it was the teachers, or the students for something as minute as being too loud.

Audrey Martin died of a brain aneurysm in her mid-30s. Personally, Mike had a hard time coping with the loss. That was a turning point for the family: Charles had to give up the house, Mike went to live with his Grandmother, and James moved in with the person would become his wife. Mike’s younger sister Cortney went on to live with uncles. When James and Laura tried to reconnect with Mike and Cortney years later, they were against it. The Martins said they thought they were better off without them.

James wanted me to pass along a message to Mike directly, under the assumption he’d be reading this. “Good luck,” he wanted me to say to Mike. James says he’s going to need it when it comes to the hole he’s dug himself into here. He made it clear to me that they sided with Rose Hall on the custody dispute.

“I believe Cody and Emma should be with their birth-mother,” James said to me.

James Britton said his step-brother Mike Martin wanted fame, and he certainly got it. But it might’ve not been the sort of fame he was looking for.

(Below this line is the rest of the article, as initially published)


The subject of child abuse is a complicated and serious matter. In the past week the YouTube channel known as DaddyOFive has come under fire for the content of their videos. Primarily the public is concerned about the psychological abuse and damages that these videos depict.

The purpose of this article is to go over the different aspects of all that.

Imagine waking up to your father spraying silly-string in your face. Imagine him wearing a hockey mask and pile driving you awake one morning. Imagine living in a state of constant fear that whenever you got a new gaming system or tech device, it might be smashed into pieces in front of your eyes. Imagine that every time you fight with your brother or sister, there’s a high chance that it would be recorded and shared with hundreds of thousands of people.

Such was the DaddyOFive lifestyle. It might be “just a prank bruh” but the reality of it is that these actions are real.

DaddyOFiveMartinFamilyPhoto

The DaddyOFive YouTube channel features five children: Jake, Ryan, Alex, Cody, and Emma. Father of the family Mike Martin served as the head of this household, with his wife Heather standing behind every action he took.

There was a third parent that lived in this home – the camera.

Viewers on YouTube got a front-row seat to these people. The children acknowledged Camera as a fact of their clan. It watched them just as much as people online watched this family. In the heat of dramatic DaddyOFive “pranks” and vlogs, you can see on the faces of these kids that they don’t want to embarrass themselves while Camera had its eyes on them.

It’s this relationship with the public that brings us to the reason why there’s controversy with DaddyOFive in the first place. They’re not a YouTube channel about a dysfunctional family where they vlog their daily lives and pull pranks on each other.

The pranks are their lives.  The line between what’s real and what’s staged is almost non-existent, and that becomes blatantly obvious the more you look into this YouTube channel . Alongside that comes the concern about the well-being and safety of the DaddyOFive children, as they endure a daily routine of schemes and hijinks orchestrated by their father and mother.

A comment from someone in Child Protective Services put it best. “These videos are promoting domestic violence. Even if the parents do it in the best of attention, you are teaching the rest of YouTube and your own children that causing violence and distress is okay, as long as it is a joke,” they said.

The DaddyOFive situation has been acknowledged by the relevant authorities. Most notably, council member Craig Rice of Montgomery County had stated his awareness of the DaddyOFive ordeal on Twitter. He corrected a commenter by saying the family lives in Fredrick County, and not Montgomery. Craig went on to say the DaddyOFive situation had reached the offices of state authorities and agencies.

DaddyOFiveContents

As far as video titles in of themselves are concerned, many of the items on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel are focused on the children as a subject (1) and/or in some sort of escalated situation (2).

Here are the top 50 videos (with links to mirrors) that match these criteria alone: Dad DESTROYS sons PS4, Kid gets a BLACK EYE, Kids get the BELT!, Alex SLAPPED Emma in the FACE, LOST CHILD prank, Cody BEATS UP Alex, Dad SLAMS kid, Kid FIGHT ends in BLOODSHED, Kid gets ATTACKED in the shower, Dad BEATS Alex,  Kid ELBOW DROPS brother, Jake makes Cody PSYCHO, Jake BEATS UP AlexJAKE BEATS UP RYAN, JAKE CRUSHES CODY!!, Cody POOPS on the FLOOR, Kid DESTROYS brother’s room, Kid STEALS brothers XBOXKid goes crazy and beats up Big BrotherKid gets Knocked outkid DESTROYS Dads xboxKid Goes PSYCHODad goes on a RAMPAGERoom DESTRUCTIONKid RUNS AWAY from home, Dad assaults sons face with boogersDad DESTROYS Sons iPhoneKid has a MENTAL BREAKDOWNKids get kicked outKid starts a FIRE, IS JAKE GAY??, PSYCHO WIFE PULLS KNIFE ON HUSBAND!!, CODY GETS THE BELT!!, I’M SENDING CODY TO MILITARY SCHOOL!!, Cody BIT Alex, Cody gets BULLIED, Alex TERRORIZES Cody, RYAN CUT A HOLE IN THE CEILING!, RYAN GETS EGGED!!, FINDING CODY A NEW HOME, Emma BIT a CHUNK out of Cody!, EMMA BEATS UP CODY!!, DAD FORCES SON TO THROW AWAY HIS TOYS!!, Our house got ROBBED Prank, Ryan gets a SPANKING!, Dad POOPS on Cody, Dad blows up on Cody, Mom BEATS UP Dad, and USING CODY FOR TARGET PRACTICE!.

That does NOT even account for the “FAIL” category: Chucky prank FAIL, DAD BUYS A NEW HOUSE PRANK FAIL!, EXPLODING ketchup prank GONE WRONG, GHOST PRANK GONE WRONG!!!!!, Kid gets KICKED IN THE FACE (PRANK GONE WRONG), PRANK ON MOM GOES HORRIBLY WRONG (ENDS IN FIGHT)

Take a second look at some of those FAIL video titles. Which of those seem innocent? Which of those seem to be more serious?

DaddyOFive and MommyOFive both approve every video that goes up on the YouTube channel. There’s proof that Mike is the one that tends to render and post them, while his wife Heather looms from behind.  The crude nature of the titles is intentional as a means to appeal to immature and young, impressionable audiences. The kids’ beating each other up was “awesome” to Mike. He once explained his tendency to yell was because he was half-deaf. But don’t think Mr. Martin doesn’t care about his image. People digging into the DaddyOFive catalog have come across at least one instance where Mike edited audio after the fact to lessen the severity of his inappropriate behavior. There’s questions as to what he censors when it comes to the kids, as best exemplified in this one instance seems to indicate that Emma Martin wanted to leave Mike’s place to go back to her biological mother’s house.

The DaddyOFive children deeply and truly loved the family YouTube channel. Every kid wants to be a popular viral internet celebrity. They all tolerated video after video of getting yelled at or pranked on by other members of the household simply because of the viewership their suffering had garnered. One of the things that often weighed heavily on them is that the other kids at their school could see this and think the family is messed up. Mike Martin had created content where the entertainment value was propelled by the children suffering some sort of misfortune or conflict.
But there was no way out of this by then. The abusive behavior had been incentivized beyond a point of no return. Mike Martin’s long-term goal was for the channel to raise enough money to buy him his dream car. By the time any of these people in the DaddyOFive family had an inkling that this routine was unhealthy, they were already in too deep.

The YouTube channel was all about himself, according to Mike. It’s his journey, built on the backs of sharing the personal day to day lives of the children in the house, regardless of their consent.

Back on that point.

DaddyOFiveYouTubeChannel

For what’s advertised as a family YouTube channel, there sure is a lot of Mike going on.

(He made the photos you see above)

The DaddyOFive Twitter account is entirely run by Mike directly. He surfaced for the first time from the far corners of the internet in July 2016. The brand’s identity revolved around him and protected it as such. In these earliest days, DaddyOFive was a gaming channel on Twitch.

The start of the pranks on Mike’s children came on July 8th:

I may have just done a prank on one of my kids and there might be a video coming soon maybe idk lol

At the end of the month came the vlogs. By mid-August 2016 these coalesced together to become laughing at his kids distress for the lulz.

His account spoke on the channel’s behalf. For something that’s allegedly a team effort, many tweets suggest Mike wanted the limelight to himself. It was more I than We.  For example, in an image titled Team D.O.5. one would expect to see the whole family. Instead it was just Mike. But when he wanted to elevate his social status further, they were a means to an end.

@DashieXP please follow me my kids love your channel,” Mr. Martin tweeted.

Follow me, because my kids. However, at the same time Mike is more than happy to mock their emotions, for YouTube money. Emma’s crush on Dashie was used for prank content, yet Mike gave a much higher degree of respect to filming his own emotions. Cody was singled out here as well.

While the children weren’t allowed to have personalized social media accounts of their own, Mike Martin used the platform as an extension of his own desires. It was a tool to embarrass the children further, where possible. Depict them in whatever positive or negative light he saw fit. But the tendency fell to new videos depicting kid’s emotional strife, tears, discomfort, conflict, and adversity. Mike wanted the audience to normalize the anger, angst, and antics.

To the viewer, these kids are eating shit literally and figuratively. For the sake of entertainment, the spotlight was on Cody for poop one week and piss the next. DaddyOFive’s followers came for that type of content, and Mike encouraged it. He once retweeted a fan video that highlighted Cody hitting his sister. At what cost does their YouTube Play Button Award come with?

A straight-jacket.

ForEntertainmentPurposesOnly

“For Entertainment Purposes Only”

While the DaddyOFive’s channel collection of videos was made private as a response to this controversy, a mirror of everything is available at archive.org.

The presentation of the video needs to be separated from the actual way events unfold within. Compilations of DaddyOFive’s most controversial moments are popping up on the web. The people making these have a plethora of examples to choose from in this debacle. There’s playlists dedicated to this sort of thing, with one example being a 21 part series dedicated to the topic of Cody Martin getting upset. In itself that builds a strong argument that DaddyOFive’s channel singled out Cody more so than any other family member.

Here’s a list of six different videos that suggest some level of emotional, mental, or physical abuse is taking place inside the DaddyOFive household.

  • August 2nd 2016, “End of the World PRANK”: The thumbnail for the video is Cody’s face screaming with a nuclear explosion behind him. According to Mike in the introduction, the prank entailed using an emergency broadcast recording from YouTube in order to trick Alex and Cody into believing a nuclear holocaust was coming. The focus of the video ends up falling on Cody because Alex caught onto the ploy. When it comes to watching the prank unfold, the video cuts away to the kids watching the alert on TV. Mike or Heather integrated the clip into their device setup to make it seem more convincing. Someone flips the channel to a different station and a separate fake emergency broadcast is blaring. Cody looks confused, concerned, and puzzled at everything. “ARE WE GONNA BE OK?” a worried Cody asks. “No, do you see that?!” says Ryan. “ARE WE GONNA DIE?” Cody responds, heightening his concern. “Yeah!” Different warnings are shown playing on the TV, increasing in their threatening tone and severity as the video plays. Cody cries and hides under his blanket, freaking out. The other kids seem to be in on it at this point. The oldest one calls Mike, and you can see a subtle smirk on his face as Ryan turns and goes up the stairs. “Dad I’m really scared,” the eldest kid half-heartedly says. Cody frantically asks what’ll happen to the family pets. “I’m so scared,” he says repeatedly. “At least I get to record the last of us,” the kid holding the camera replies. Part of the prank is the eldest son staying on the phone with the father, telling him he sees masses of vehicles driving down the street. Using “they” to describe this ominous apocalyptic force, the eldest kid informs Cody that Mike told him “they” are invading people’s houses. The eldest son throws Cody into a panic by telling him these invaders have guns. “Dad says he went to the shelter already. He said we have to stay here until someone gets here.” Cody has a meltdown, begins balling his eyes out. “I WANT MY DADDY!!,” he shouts. The two boys go up to Cody’s room and rush him to put his survival clothes on. BANG BANG BANG is heard strongly from the front door. Cody screams in shock at the noise. The two boys demand the frightened lad hide under his bed while they answer the door. Mike (finally) shows up and hurriedly gathers up the kids to go in the car. Cody seems genuinely relieved to see him. Shoving everyone in his vehicle to continue this drawn-out gag, Mike assures the kids there’s apocalyptic alerts blaring on every media outlet possible. “THE WHOLE HOUSE IS ABOUT TO GET BOMBED,” Mike shouts. Cody asks what’ll happen to the family’s dogs, and DaddyOFive tells him they’re done for. He ends up taking the kids to a park, saying there’s a shelter there. “I want Daddy! Daddy!!!,” Cody says while rushing back to the car. “No! I can’t be having all you kids with me, I’ll make it better if I don’t have 5 kids. I’ll see ya later!!,” Mike tells him as he begins driving off. But then he comes right back. Laughing. Everyone tells Cody it was just a prank.
  • September 17th 2016, “Kid starts a FIRE”: Thumbnail shows Cody surrounded in flames. Heather Martin opens the video by explaining that Cody had experimented with fire recently, leading to Mike and her giving him a talk about the dangers of it. In the very next sentence she says it makes for a believable prank. Heather had a friend pretend to be Cody’s teacher and call her house to leave a voicemail, claiming that Cody had lit toilet paper on fire with a lighter. The first half of the video ends up being an argument where Cody is aware his parent’s shouting is a ruse, and in return Mike and Heather scream at him in denial of that. Half-way through, they finally cave and admit to it being a prank, laughing at Cody. Visibly upset, Cody grabs a kitchen chair or two and slams them on the ground. He attempts to retreat to his room to calm down but a smirking Mike and jeering Heather follow him with the camera. Cody tries hiding under his blanket for refuge, but Mikes tears them away. Still giggling at his frustration, Mike snatches Cody’s shirt as the lad has his face turning away from the camera in one last effort at some privacy and Heather belittles him that he needs to “take a joke.” Directly requesting his parents for some time to himself, they shoot the idea down and keep the camera rolling. “TAKE A JOKE! YOU’RE THE ONLY IN THE HOUSE THAT CAN’T TAKE A JOKE AND GOT TO ACT LIKE A BUTTHOLE!” Heather shrieked at the cowering child. Crying into his pillow, Cody is upset that the situation depicted him as a crazy person.

FromKillerInTheHouse

  • September 25th 2016, TABLET DESTRUCTION prank”: REMOVED for violating community guidelines. Thumbnail showed Cody visibly upset and shouting. Earlier that week, Cody was featured in a thumbnail where he’s getting kicked in the face. Mike tells us in the introduction that Jake was going to smash Cody’s new tablet. Unbeknownst to him, Mike had purchased a second tablet that day for the purpose of this ruse cruise. But according to Mr. Martin’s Twitter, the tablet’s destruction was something that definitely happened. The tone of the video is highly serious, as it’s made clear through Mike’s and Jake’s body language that they were invested in this. In targeting Cody and making the situation appear legitimate. At [1:28] for no reason whatsoever Mike unplugs Cody’s xbox in the middle of a game he was playing. Cody is puzzled and agitated at this random act, and Jake roughs the youngster up by pushing him out of his chair. Mike refuses to leave the room after Cody requests it. “No! We came in here to get the tablet going,” Mike responded. Cody actually makes an effort to accommodate his father’s wishes. At [2:07] he tries to return to his previous activity. “BOY I’LL SMASH THAT DAMN XBOX,” Mike threatens Cody. The child becomes flustered at the illogical reasoning his father has here. After a back and forth argument, Cody tells Jake to be careful with the tablet and put it in its case. Doing the complete opposite, Jake informs Cody that he’s resetting the tablet and putting everything under his name. Mike completely ignores the fact Jake is clearly upsetting Cody, and the only outlet for Cody to express his frustration is hitting Jake with objects. [4:46] Cody tries to escape the bedroom and cool off, but Mike is blocking the exit. Instead of allowing him to leave, Mr. Martin resists and pushes Cody into a bookcase. Among the fury, Jake throws the tablet at the window. Mike mildly scolds him for that as the device lands somewhere behind the TV. Fishing it out from back there while Cody makes an attempt to intervene: Jake takes the tablet, slams it on the ground, and slaps it on the walls of the room. Cody breaks down crying as a result. It’s unclear at this point if it was because of the escalating situation that happened leading up to the tablet’s destruction, or the destruction of the tablet itself. In a tearful state of misery, Cody locks himself in the bathroom to try and get away from the crowded area he had been essentially trapped in up to this point. While Mike is screeching at Cody to open up the door, Jake is taking a hammer to the tablet to finish the prank. His father returns to the room and feigns surprise at this action. “I can understand giving a little bit of hell, but really?,” Mike shouts at Jake. Mr. Martin finally gets Cody to open up the bathroom door, and the two argue about what had just happened. [7:20] shows Cody in a peak state of frustration and upset. Pretending to still be going along with this prank, Mike deflects as Cody tries to explain his emotional state to him. Forcing the kid back to his room he acknowledges the camera for the first time. “You don’t need the camera for this,” Cody tells Mike. The father slides out of Cody’s room and into Jake’s to “yell” at him. At [10:00] we see Jake smirking victoriously. Mike turns the camera on himself and expresses a face of silent laughter at Cody’s reaction.
  • October 13th 2016, “Jake makes Cody PSYCHO”: There’s not even a prank involved in this video. As outlined by Jake in the introduction, the only thing he planned to do was go to Cody’s room and sit in it. That’s exactly what he does. Without saying a word to him, Jake sits on Cody’s bed pointing the camera at him. Silent. “What?” Cody asks. Over and over. When Jake doesn’t answer, Cody shouts for Mike to come into the room. Jake throws a pillow and slams a toy robot off of Cody’s table. Cody continues to desperately yell for Mike, eventually getting a reply to “SHUT UP” as he was trying to work. This is a 24 minute long video. At the 3 minute mark, Cody starts to tear up after being stressed out about what was happening. By the five minute mark, Jake is attempting to access a private drawer of Cody’s, and the child fends off his older brother’s attempts to open it. “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Mike says as he finally enters the room. Focusing entirely on Cody, he yells at the distressed child to “get up off his ass” and come to Mike if he had a problem. This back and forth between the two continues, and it becomes clear by the tone of the words exchanged that Mike was mad at Cody instead of Jake altogether. Finally shooing Jake out of the room, the eldest son does so momentarily before proceeding to barge back in. He opens Cody’s draw to provoke the child’s ire even further. Slamming it shut, Cody hugs his entire body around this drawer to serve as a barrier. Mike arrives back in the room just in time to see Cody begin shaking profusely [7:45] as a physical reaction to the amount of stress he was under. Mike laughs at the sight of his exhausted and infuriated son. He tells Cody that he can’t take him seriously when he’s “wiggling like a fish.” Jake goes on to bully Ryan while he’s playing Xbox. When he leaves the room, Jake sneaks back in with Alex. They shout obscenities at Ryan’s friends in the voice chat, disconnect the system, remove it from Ryan’s room and stash it somewhere else in the house. This entire video is essentially Jake fighting his siblings and pushing them to get angry. Mike stands by apathetically and just let’s it happen. What was the point of this video? I don’t even think Mike watched it before he uploaded. Cody has a breakdown later on starting at 18:10, and Mike sits there incapable of calming him down in any capacity. He just films it.

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  • November 2nd 2016, “LOST CHILD prank”: It’s impossible for Mike Martin’s pranks to take a holiday, as he hatches a scheme for a YouTube video on the same day as Emma’s birthday.  The first 17 minutes of this video is actually a vlog. Breaking the mold of DaddyOFive videos, this particular one doesn’t structure itself around the prank as its peak. In addition to that, this vlog takes us outside the Martin household and follows them in a public setting. The standard sort of yelling and explosive behavior doesn’t apply here. What does carry over into this new backdrop is the singling out of Cody. In the simple act of finding out what food the kids are ordering [8:26], Mike still finds a reason to be critical of Cody’s choices. The contrast is prevalent more so as the vlog continues. In one minute Mike is talking about something with the YouTube channel and some sort of bracelets they had made, but the next his attention is laser-focused on Cody’s every move at the dinner table. It casts a shadow on the rest of the meal intended on celebrating Emma’s birthday. [17:08] is when Mike and the rest of the family hide from Cody while he’s coming back from trip to the Mall restroom. What starts out as a walk turns into a frantic run from the can, as Cody looks around quizzically attempting to reunite with his parents. He calls out for his mother, and you can see the boy’s lip quiver as a sense of dread sets in. Cody begins asking strangers if they’ve seen his family, only to find Mike and the rest of the gang reappear to tell him it was just a prank. Heather chides him, rubbing the mockery of it all in. “Now he’s all salty,” Heather says when describing the look of betrayal that came across Cody’s face when he realized his parents had pretended to abandon him in a shopping mall for a cheap laugh. Clearly distraught at what had just happened, Heather bluntly explains the whole family hid on purpose just to see his reaction. As if the boy was incapable of understanding that on his own. [19:01] Cody takes a moment to explain the potential consequences and dangers of what they had done. “Really? Alls we did is hide behind the Coke machine,” Heather snapped. “So what? It’s called a prank. We pranked you. Stop being salty.” As the family leaves the mall, Heather and Mike belittle Cody for being upset about the prank. “That would’ve been hilarious,” Heather told Cody when he said he was about to wander off looking for them. At [22:35] Mike corners Cody by a mall game machine and sneers at him that he’s been “bad” the whole time the family was out that evening. “What’s your deal?,” Mike told Cody.
  • February 24th 2017, “CODY BAD IN SCHOOL!!”: A visibly tired and irritable Mike Martin greets us with the camera while prepping Cody and Emma to go somewhere that morning. It’s never really explained. Cut away to Emma and Alex ascending the stairs with the camera to see if Cody cleaned his room. A defiant Cody smacks Emma and camera kid with headphones to fend them off. An infuriated Mike attempts to quell the conflict with little success, and he howls his way up the stairs to inspect Cody’s bedroom.”They don’t need to be recording in my room, get that camera out of here,” Cody tells Mike. There’s more arguing, with Mr. Martin yelling at Alex to tell him to “BACK OFF,” from him and Cody. Mike threatens Cody was going to “lose his level” if the room wasn’t clean by the time the children went to school. Video jump-cuts to that point in the day. As the kids are getting ready to leave, Mike is irate when Cody tells him that he didn’t have time to finish cleaning. At [4:55] Mr. Martin tells the audience in the interim he wasn’t recording their day, he heard Cody rough-housing and making noise upstairs. But more importantly, this raises the question of the camera being a parenting tool in the Martin house. It lingers in the silence of us watching Cody quietly zip up his backpack and put on his jacket before departing for school. After dropping them off, Mike comes back home and takes a tour of Cody’s room. He laments to us his regrets that he might’ve shaken the boy’s confidence at school for the day. [7:20] in the video, and we’re at the end of the school day. “They all better pray to God that they all had a good day,” Mike remarked. He begins demanding school charts from each of the kids. When getting to Emma, we see the young girl’s face go petrified. “I forgot it at school but i did good today I promise,” she says with a wide-eyed assurance. When Cody returns from his room with his chart, Mike snatches it out of the boy’s hands. I shit you not, DaddyOFive added dramatic background music to this section of the video. Where he’s reading the personal notes Cody’s teacher wrote, for the whole internet to hear. We then learn Cody spent his school day scratching at his arm to make it bleed instead of focusing on his school work. “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU SCRAPING YOUR ARM TO MAKE IT BLEED? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR HEAD?,” shrieks Mike. Cody denies it, but Mike grabs him by the arm and shoves the camera lens into focus on Cody’s bandages there. We see an angry Mike berate a clearly embarrassed Cody for the next few minutes. “I DIDN’T GO TO A MEETING AND WORK THINGS OUT WITH THE SCHOOL SO YOU COULD JUST DO WHATEVER YOU WANT,” Mike exclaimed. “This basically says that you didn’t do SHIT. All day, and was BAD as HELL. THIS HAS BEEN YOUR WORST DAY OF THE WHOLE ENTIRE DAMN WEEK.” Hanging his head in shame, Mr. Martin orders Cody to get his personal items out of the upstairs room – as he had lost the “level” Mike had been referring to here. The distressed youngster tries to explain the difficulties he had in the classroom, and Mike wrote them off completely. “The world does not revolve around you,” he said to Cody.” [12:47] “You have issues? That’s your problem. That’s how the world works. “The world don’t give a damn about your issues, the world don’t give a damn that you can’t focus. You think the world gives a damn you’re crying right now? No.” The rest of the video hold this tense atmosphere, as we see Mike’s attempt at parenting the DaddyOFive children.

There’s an established pattern of behavior on the DaddyOFive YouTube videos. A YouTuber by the name of Mister Metokur has an analysis of this up on his channel, where he goes over the tone and mood of the videos themselves. He provides a series of instances of emotional abuse (many of which are different from my own) when it came to how Mike treated Cody Martin.

This is what led YouTube’s Philip DeFranco to shine a spotlight on the situation. It was based on the concerns people already had.

DeFranco began on April 17th with WOW… We Need To Talk About This…, bringing attention to the DaddyOFive YouTube channel. He tells us the vlog/prank channel that heavily involved the family’s children was receiving blowback for an invisible ink prank video. Heather Martin devised a scheme to dump this ink all over a bedroom floor and blame Cody for the mess.

The original video he’s referring to was uploaded five days earlier on the 12th according to DaddyOFive’s Twitter. YouTube removed it “for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying,” but mirrors exist for the sake of providing context.

(UPDATE: Well. They were. YouTube is taking mirrors of DaddyOFive videos down.)

While the introduction is sweet, the carrying out of this prank is nothing short of harrowing. Escalating into screeching, shouting, and excessive swearing from Mike and Heather to the child. Cody repeatedly explains to them until he’s visibly red in the face that he had no idea what they were talking about, while the other DaddyOFive children look visibly uncomfortable and stressed all the meanwhile.

“What I saw in the video […] is emotional abuse,” says a licensed therapist that responded to the situation.

A psychologist had this to say, when Inside Edition reported on the video:

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere told Inside Edition, “It may have been well-intentioned and maybe they thought it was funny, but I saw it as something that was very difficult for the kids to go through.

After publishing this to YouTube, there was a public outcry of concern from viewers. One of these concerned parties was worried that Cody had suffered bleeding after he was shoved into a bookshelf during the TABLET DESTRUCTION video. Denying it and saying it was red ink (that just happened to be in the same place on Cody’s pillow where his nose was), Mike Martin would end up replying to people’s unease with a video. BLOCKING ALL THE HATERS! uploaded on April 16th addressed the invisible ink prank. While the video itself was made private, the Twitter thread from DaddyOFive on the subject shows people were already very concerned about what was going on here. Mike and Heather Martin treated the allegation of child abuse as if it wasn’t of any concern. Under the eye of the camera, the DaddyOFive kids say they are not traumatized. And that people are just jealous of their YouTube channel. Heather takes it further and accuses the “haters” expressing their worries as the problem to the family. Onward further still, she claims the family was already investigated by child protective services and says to the viewers that nothing was found.

Phil takes the time to explain that he’s biased when it comes to reporting child abuse stories as he was a victim of that himself, but he assures viewers he still tries to go about it as fairly even as possible.

Philly D followed up with the story, releasing “YouTube Abuse Scandal Apology And Why It Fails To Fix Anything” on the 18th. He tells us the media traction was gaining on the DaddyOFive situation, getting coverage from a multitude of outlets.

We have had a family meeting and reviewed many comments and concerns. We discussed different alternatives for our future videos and ways we can improve. We deeply apologize for your feelings of concern. We DO NO condone child abuse in any way, shape, or form. As many of our friends and family would tell you we are a loving, close knit family and all enjoy making YouTube videos and having fun together. Thank you for your love and support. Sincerely, TEAM D.O.5

Phil himself was able to find more instances of the children being the subject of ridicule and attack by their own family within the 24 hours since his original video. He noted that the DaddyOFive audience was going to come to the defense of the channel, and the increased attention would cause the subscriber count to spike.

The DaddyOFive channel had attempted to continue their regularly scheduled programming in spite of this ordeal. The family went to Disney World without taking Cody. Mike seems disappointed to announce that fact to the audience, but Heather is more than willing to embarrass Cody by telling everyone he allegedly smeared poop everywhere. According to Phil, psychologists see this as a warning sign of OCD, PTSD, anxiety and depression. Heather Martin expresses her desire that Cody would be “normal,” and whatever his mental issues are were something out of the ordinary. Heather Martin calls Cody crazy.

Keemstar

KEEMSTAR is a YouTuber who reports on drama news related to other channels on the website. As a means of juxtaposition to the side of the argument DeFranco was taking with DaddyOFive, Keem reached out to the family and uploaded an interview with them on the evening of the 18th. When considering the idea of taking a break, both Mike and Heather asserted that they didn’t want to disappoint the fanbase on the YouTube channel. When it came to talking about Child Protective Services and their investigation of the channel, Mike and Heather allude to the reasoning being for a video that none of the recent criticism had uncovered as of yet (as well as their content library up to that point). The kids were interviewed individually, both in the household and at the children’s school. On top of that – friends and acquaintances were questioned, according to Heather. The alleged conclusion of that was there had nothing actionable although they found DaddyOFive’s videos “distasteful,” apparently.

After uploading, a lot of feedback on Keem’s video was negative despite the fact he asked the questions people had and didn’t dance around it. The video itself would be talked about by DeFranco the following day.

But before that, the DaddyOFive story would receive an unexpected twist.

On the evening of the 18th, a YouTuber by the name of Chambers of My Heart had uploaded an interview with Rose Hall and Crystal Reynolds. The former is the biological mother of DaddyOfFive’s Cody and Emma, and the latter is Rose’s sister. We’ll go in-depth about that discussion at a later point in the piece. In short, they are incredibly worried for the safety and well-being of these kids. “If my kids are listening to this I hope they know I never forgot about them, and I never gave them away. And I love them and I miss them every day. And I wish I could give them a hug and kiss,” she told Chambers.

If you jump to [23:39] in the video, you can hear Rose’s, Crystal’s, and their family’s reaction to Cody and Emma appearing on Inside Edition in a report on the DaddyOFive scandal.

I reached out to Chambers and asked them how they managed to find Rose.

I made my own video on the ink prank and Rose left a few comments on my channel telling me who she was. At first I thought it was a joke until I followed the link to a montage video of photos with Cody Emma and her. I then gave her my personal cell and we had a small conversation over the phone. I asked her if I could interview her. She said yes and brought in her sister too. Once the interview was complete, I was on twitter and came across the link to a live stream between YouTubers talking about the DaddyOFive situation. I began spamming the live chat with request to get in exclaiming how important it was for me to do so. Eventually, I was allowed in and explained what was going on. During the stream I uploaded the interview onto YouTube and VidMe, and it started to get around as the stream had been going on for a few hours by then. A few more of the bigger youtubers dropped by (MrRepzion, Andy Warski, Jeff Holliday) and they all pitched in to get a hold of their contacts to spread the word. Before I knew it, the interview was showing up everywhere.

Posted on the evening of the 18th was a short clip titled False accusations are killing my family, posted exclusively via Mike Martin’s Twitter (YouTube Mirror). The Martin family is gathered around the living room, Heather is crying profusely while Mike is filming them all. He tells the children to listen to the interview done by Chambers of My Heart. The first intelligible words out of Heather’s mouth are her telling Mike she wants to make a video, and plans for filming. The fact they decided to record such a sensitive moment aside, Heather’s focus was on making a video.

A third DeFranco video DISGUSTING! Deleted Video Exposes HUGE Problem In DO5 YouTube Scandal came out on April 19th. After summarizing the events that transpired in the previous installments, Phil points out the Child Protective Services in Montgomery County were unaware of DaddyOFive’s videos until they had been brought to their attention by the public.

Phil then talks about a deleted video on Mike Martin’s YouTube channel that showcases another example of child endangerment and irresponsible parenting. Within the DaddyOFive clip, we’re introduced to a game devised by Mike where the kids flip a water bottle in the hopes that it lands up-right onto a table. If it doesn’t, the participant gets slapped in the face by the other child playing.

Emma lost.

“You know you don’t hit girls.” Martin said at first. “BUT SHE’S YOUR SISTER SHE DON’T COUNT.”

Alex slaps his step-sister in the face. The *SMACK* sound as it happens is a clear indicator that it was hard and point-blank contact.

“OHHHH MY GODDDD,” Martin said to the camera in reaction.

Going on to highlight the Keemstar interview that took place with the Martins, Phil points out to the viewer that Mike claimed the videos are edited to make the situations appear worse than they actually are. Heather spoke in more detail about Cody, saying the child’s reactions were “sometimes” real and other instances were exaggerated. DaddyOFive goes on to say that Heather’s claim that Cody smeared shit on the walls was not true. Mike says the “HE PUT POOP EVERYWHERE” excuse was a replacement for the real reason and that he apparently didn’t want to embarrass Cody. DeFranco points out the contradiction that Mike didn’t want to embarrass Cody, and in lieu of that gave a highly embarrassing fictitious ordeal that is as equally embarrassing instead.  In the Keemstar interview Heather is willing to discuss private aspects of Cody at length, such as her concerns that he had a tendency to wander off on his own. She goes on to tell millions of people that Cody goes to a counselor, and that the family has gone themselves. DeFranco provides the counter-example of Heather telling Mike that she wished Cody would act “like a normal child,” and clearly saying to the viewers that neither of them know what’s wrong with him. When it came to Mike pushing Cody into a bookcase in the Tablet Destruction video, Mr. Martin claimed it wasn’t intended to harm and only a result of reflex.

DeFranco then talks about Family Destroyed Over False Aquisations [sic] which came out early in the morning of April 19th, currently the only available video on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel. Mike says the videos are fake, despite his previous statements claiming they were real.

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Martin says he puts “For Entertainment Purposes Only” in the video descriptions. The problem with that assertion is that there’s clear indication that these disclaimers were added only after the recent controversy began with the DaddyOFive YouTube channel. Mike says he used keywords like “fake” in the description, whereas DeFranco counter-argues with evidence that Mike used “real freakout video” as well.

DaddyOFive apologizes for the situation getting out of hand. But then he keeps going. He tries to pin the blame entirely on Philip DeFranco in the face of indications for concern from the community showing up as early as October 2016. Phil was not the first person to complain about DaddyOFive’s behavior. A youngster YouTuber made a video condemning DaddyOFive back in February. Mike tells viewers that the controversy has caused danger to his family, they’ve received death threats, and that someone tried to run his wife Heather off the road. The problem with that claim is that a source familiar with this DaddyOFive situation checked with police and they were told that no complaints about death threats or anything of the sort were received.

At the end of the video, Phil DeFranco reveals that the biological mother of Cody and Emma Martin had recently stepped forward and tell her side of the story.

Up to this point, we had only known the elements of the DaddyOFive situation from the perspective of the YouTube channel. What Mike and Heather Martin showed everyone is all the public had saw.

KEEMSTAR made an effort to let the Martins respond to the controversy in an interview. He wasn’t the only big YouTuber to do so, either.

A YouTuber by the name of Boogie2988 tried to offer his assistance to Mike Martin and his family during this tumultuous period. You can watch his video on the topic to understand how personal it all was to him. His initial approach was to offer guidance on how to navigate the situation from a public relations standpoint, but it quickly became clear to Boogie2988 that this situation is not normal. According to him, Martin was going to need to make a 180 degree U-turn from his style of content. The kids were going to need to be seen in a happier environment in the videos, and have a child advocate come into the home to evaluate everything is safe. Not only in the day-to-day lives of the family, but help set a positive tone for filming as well.

“Mike can be very evasive,” Boogie told the camera. He was talking about the same DaddyOFive that previously embraced Boogie2988 as an idol.

Boogie told viewers Mike Martin had reasons and excuses to deflect every ounce of advice he had to offer. This came after Heather’s commitment to KEEMSTAR that she would make something happen. Even if the circumstances had DaddyOFive’s children filming in a 100% fake sort of arrangement, child advocates would be essential, he said.

“Today’s the day that I’m walking away from the situation,” Boogie concluded.

Keemstar himself, who was heavily defending DaddyOFive initially, could not deny cause for concern after the Alex slapping Emma video came to his attention. He sounded really disappointed, highlighting in his response video that Mike Martin had no sense of proper judgement as a parent when he thought it was okay to upload a video of his son slapping his daughter. Further on in the video KEEMSTAR said the parents needed to be in jail.

“You can’t justify that no matter what,” he reflected about it all.

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What Boogie2988 doesn’t realize is that his experiences with DaddyOFive mirror the hardships faced by Mike Martin’s ex-wife Amy. I was able to track her down and ask her to reminisce about the years she spent married (2009-2011) to DaddyOFive. This marriage was the interim between his relationship with Rose, and his eventual meeting with Heather.

It’s through her that I learned more about Mike’s upbringing. He grew up in Baltimore City, going in and out of institutions all the way up through his attending at Landsdowne High School. DaddyOFive dropped out in the 10th grade and never obtained a G.E.D. Mike’s birth mother wanted nothing to do with him, and his adoptive parents died while DaddyOFive was very young. According to her, Mike said he attempted suicide at age 5. Amy says Mike Martin is bi-polar, and believes he has ADD along with a learning disability. He refused to get treatment for these mental impairments.

Amy also spoke on video about Mike Martin, doing an interview with the Gumpkin YouTube channel. Mike had begun talking to Amy in 2008 via AOL instant messenger while he was still with Rose, confessing to Amy he was unhappy in his relationship. What caused her to fall in love with Mike was his neediness, and by 2009 they had ended up married. Mike was persistent that Amy’s previous kid called him “daddy,” as if he was the sole paternal influence. That possessive aspect to his personality was something Amy found comforting. When it came to being a father figure to Amy’s 3-year old son, she says Mike was strict and demanded respect from the lad. Initially Amy was fine with this, but Mike took it an extreme. Amy said her child lived in fear. In my conversation with her, Amy said Mike wanted the father to relinquish his rights to the kid. When the child would come home from school, DaddyOFive would search their backpack to see if they got into any trouble. Mike Martin’s parenting style is described as a desire for complete control over all aspects of the child’s life. Amy felt like a prisoner in her own home. Mike called her a “fatass” and verbally hauled over the coals for months about losing weight.

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“It still haunts me to this very day,” she told Gumpkin.

Friends and acquaintances in Amy’s life told her that something was wrong with Mike. In response she went to lengths with defending him. Cody and Emma didn’t visit Mike and Amy until the Summer of 2011. According to Amy, Mike treated her own son worse than Cody. But even so DaddyOFive had viewed him as a “problem” child (which he would later exploit for his YouTube channel). Mike referred to Emma as a “retard.”

Later that Summer, Amy hit the boiling point with Mike. After she came home from a long and stressful work day, the house was an absolute disaster. The kids were fooling around and doing their own thing, but an apathetic Mike did not care to tend to any of it. The pattern for the past two years was an unemployed Mike would sit around the house and play xbox all day, while none of the chores or daily upkeep was properly attended to. The kid didn’t even get dinner at times. In my conversation with Amy, she told me Mike’s grandmother had to send them money because of their financial struggles.

Amy took care of all that. One day it just became too much.

“Get off your lazy ass you bastard and help me,” Amy told Mike.

In the argument that spiraled between the two afterwards, we learn that Mike expected Amy’s help to find a job. He expected Amy’s help to get a driver’s license and education. The only thing Mike did on his own was shoot YouTube videos and do photoshops of himself (even with YouTube Mike was helpless at times).  He also played pranks on his wife and kid, but they were more simple and innocent in nature than the things seen on the DaddyOFive YouTube channel.

Amy kicked Mike out of her apartment. He had nothing but a TV, computer, and desk.

Mike’s ex-wife Amy thinks Cody and Emma need a more stable home environment than the one they’re currently in now. She urges Martin to get help in dealing with and overcoming his troubled childhood and personal disorders. When it comes to Rose Hall, Amy vouches on her behalf and testifies that she’s a “sweet girl” that just wants her children back.

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(DISCLAIMER: Within this section the allegations made by Rose Hall as previously mentioned by her in an interview and livestream are discussed. This is what Rose and other sources allege took place.)

Rose Hall is the biological mother of Cody and Emma Martin. She’s deeply concerned about the possible abuse that goes on in the DaddyOFive home. It’s difficult for her to watch these YouTube videos where the viewer sees both Mike and Heather put their hands on these kids when they reprimand them.

The only reason I’m discussing Rose Hall’s side of the story in this article is because DaddyOFive and Heather Martin had mentioned her themselves in one of their videos.

[4:48] Starting with Heather:

And one thing we really do have to touch on now, unfortunately, is, we are a blended family. We thought that was common sense. We don’t look at each other like that. Those kids are *mine*, Cody and Emma are *my* kids just as much as Jake, Ryan, and Alex are. And for us to have to say that, because –

[5:10] Mike Martin interjects:

It’s hard. We didn’t want to say anything because we didn’t want anyone to look at our kids differently.

[5:17] Back to Heather:

And someone had some interview with the kid’s biological mother…. and you know, it broke me down. Because they said “we have their real mother.” I’M their real mother. I saved those kids.

[5:31] Mike again:

The real mother is the one who takes care of you.

[5:34] Finally, Heather says:

And you have no idea what these kids have actually been through.

Rose Hall has the right of reply when it comes to the accusations made at her in this video. Mike and Heather allude to a battle for custody of the children that took place between themselves and Rose through 2014 and 2015. The emotionally charged statements made by the Martins lack sufficient and necessary context required to fully understand this complicated matter. Conversely, it was irresponsible for them to mention these facts in the first place within this particular setting. None of the Martin children are responsible for causing the massive public scandal the YouTube channel finds itself in. By making the claims that Mike and Heather did in light of those circumstances, conflates the matter as if it was just “DRAMA” and not a legal dispute.

To start to understand Rose Hall’s place in the DaddyOFive controversy, we need to revisit the Chambers of My Heart interview mentioned earlier in this article. This debut was a spark to the public discussion about the situation, and it came at exactly the right time to gain momentum on social media.

At the crux of this whole legal tussle is a Custody Order from September 2014. It would cast a shadow over Rose’s, Cody’s and Emma’s lives as Ms. Hall had to contend with Mike and Heather Martin over how the Order was to be carried out. The wording of the document was loosely interpretative enough that it gave an extreme advantage to Mike and Heather over rose.

Sep 2014 Custody by Nick Monroe on Scribd

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/346004977/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-sYzfQFRNLRvPLL17Gp7i&show_recommendations=true

Rose has never been married. She started dating Mike in 2004 after she had moved to Maryland. Emma was born in October of 2005, and Mike allegedly became abusive after that. Rose committed to a relationship with her child’s father, and ended up having Cody in May 2007. Mike left in August of 2008 – not long after Cody turned 1.

RoseCodyEmma

“Mike Martin (daddyofive) left back in 2008 when Cody was 1 and Emma was almost 3. My sister took care of those kids by herself with no money or help from him for almost 7 years,” Crystal Reynolds said.

In 2011 Mike was given a second chance to be a father figure and take care of Cody.

She called CPS and Teddy Bear at some point in 2012 because Mike leveled sexual abuse accusations against Crystal Reynold’s ex-husband, and Rose wanted to get ahead of that and make sure everything was square from an investigative standpoint. Submitting herself for a review, Child Protective Services found no reason to believe either Cody or Emma Martin were in any danger under her care.

SocialServices2013

She contacted him again in 2014 to get help parenting him, as she was having difficulties with his O.D.D. (oppositional defiant disorder). Initially it was limited to just a summer visit, and a test run to see if a change in Cody’s environment would alleviate the child’s unfavorable behaviors. It’s important to note there’s a distinction between a child’s behaviors being difficult to deal with, and being deemed incapable of handling a child altogether. This slightest of nuances is what led Mike Martin’s pursuit of custody in regards to Cody Martin.

At one point, Rose said one of her aims for having the kid live in Maryland was so he’d have access to better medical care and doctors. It was during this time, according to Crystal, that Heather Martin had forged paperwork to make it say Rose Hall had given up her majority custody rights to Cody altogether. That this trip was much more permanent. When they all met up together to get the paperwork signed, Rose had left it alone with Mike and Heather. What Rose was under the impression of  was that Cody was going to live up in Maryland for a six month period. She was shocked to see her name attached to a permanent custody change document when Mike and Heather mailed Rose’s copy of the paperwork to her several months after the fact. She had told Cody goodbye when he departed for DaddyOFive’s house to celebrate Christmas, and expected to get him back in January. Instead, all she got was the custody paperwork copy. The legal fallout did not work out in their favor, causing Cody and Emma to live separately.

This is the document from July 2014 that Rose Hall denies ever signing.

Going into further detail about Mike as a person, Rose was the target of stalking and harassment from associates of DaddyOFive. These men followed Hall home from work, going as far as attempting to run her off the road. Additionally, she claimed in the interview she had police statements where-in Rose reported Mike’s harassment towards her. Here’s one of the incident reports from May 2015. In July 2015, Rose got in contact with the police again when she had spotted Mike Martin in the North Carolina area. This information is backed by an incident report as well.

Below you will find a gallery of drawings that are allegedly from Mike Martin (you can see a sample of DaddyOFive’s handwriting here for comparison). They provide a necessary level of context to the concerns raised by Rose about his behaviors.

Heather Martin herself has a 2nd degree assault charge on her personal records. Given the serious of that, I reached out to Mike Martin for details. He did not reply by the time of publishing this piece. Heather’s name in the assault record is listed as “Zopp,” which was a name she had when married previously. Coincidentally, the divorce proceedings for that instance have been recently reopened.

Chambers of My Heart and someone by the name of @basedmama were witnesses to harassment of Rose Hall. In a Google Hangout in the early hours of April 21st, Rose was chatting with them when a loud banging on the house walls happened.

“We heard it all, the banging on the walls. It sounded like it was in my house, it was that loud,” said @based_mama.

I was working on this article at the time, and I rushed into their hangout to get details about it within the hour. Police were called and a record of this was made available to me for sharing.

According to Rose and Crystal, one of the reasons that the Martins had the means necessary to carry out acts of forgery was because the couple had a cache of Rose’s personal documents (medical paperwork, insurance, etc.) they had acquired in an exchange where they had come over to grab a bunch of the children’s toys to take with them for a visit. The notion that Heather and Mike had a cache of Rose’s personal documents is backed up by the fact that such items were used against her in court. One of these was a highly confidential medical document that Rose had Hypoxic brain damage at birth. It was unclear to her at the time it was used in court how Mike Martin could have possibly obtained it.

ConfidentialDoc

This is the cover-page to the confidential documents Mike had obtained.

You can read Rose Hall’s 1995 psychological evaluation here. Given the fact that the documentation in question is severely dated and used by Mike as a means of describing Rose’s character in a negative light as an adult, here’s a work reference somebody wrote for Rose Hall in 2012.

Hall told Chambers in addition to the previously mentioned issue, she suffered from short-term memory loss and has bi-polar disorder. In contrast to how Mike dealt with mental problems, Rose told viewers that she was on proper medication and went to therapy on a regular basis. There’s a plethora of supplementary documentation showing Doctors verified Rose as being stable.

On September 25th and 26th, 2015 Rose has surgery and a hospital stay. A doctor’s note backs up Rose’s claim that she was not permitted to travel long distances. Therefore she would have difficulty in fulfilling Heather’s demand out of the custody agreement that she journey all the way to hers and Mike’s house in order to get the kids.

As stated by Rose in the interview: In November 2015 Mike and Heather took Emma down to North Carolina and coaxed her to tell the courts a story that alleges Rose Hall was abusive, claim her home didn’t have enough food, and that she punched holes in the hall. According to Rose, the reality of it was she keeps the house in immaculate condition due to her O.C.D. habit of cleaning, and Emma was provided with whatever she could have wanted.

Rose shares with everyone that Heather allegedly told her when they were alone in the courthouse ladies restroom that they have more money and they will never stop suing her for custody.

Both of the judges in the county Rose had the proceedings in ended up siding against her. At times during this process, Hall had represented herself because she couldn’t afford the lawyer fees. In the periods of time where she managed to get enough money together for that, Mike and Heather declared it a conflict of interest and made the Judge force Rose to get rid of her lawyer. The Martins had claimed to have spoken with these lawyers prior to the hearings, calling as many lawyers in the town as possible to tell them about what was happening. In doing so Rose was left incapable of hiring them herself because it was a conflict of interest to have already spoken with the other party involved.

conflictofinterest

Out of respect for the legal counsel caught in this cross-fire, the name of the firm has been redacted from this screencap.

In order to further validate the conflict of interest claim made by Rose in the interview, here’s a copy of the correspondence from Mike’s lawyer to Rose’s. Highlighted in red in that image is the specific paragraph that mentions the C.O.I. (I’m obligated to point out that Mike’s Lawyer sent an entire separate fax letter saying the citation of Paragraph 8(c) was an error, with the correct one being 8(d) in place of that)

December 1st 2015, Heather had Emma taken away (using Police force) from Rose’s household while the children were on Thanksgiving break. Mike and Heather took Rose to court over Emma afterwards, and the judge presiding over the case sided with DaddyOFive instead of Rose Hall. Crystal Reynolds explains that the evidence used in the Emma trial was falsified. She reminds us during this interview that Rose had taken care of Emma on her own during the child’s earliest years, without any support from Mike at all.

She notes that Cody and Emma lost weight in the period of time since they were “enlisted” into the Martin household. Rose says psychologists, psychiatrists, and other social service workers she showed DaddyOFive videos to had all come to the conclusion that what was going on was child abuse.

In August 2016, Crystal and Rose had discovered the DaddyOFive YouTube channel for the first time. Contacting the authorities for help, North Carolina acknowledged they were wrong about Rose in the first place. Meanwhile Maryland (where the Martins live) at that time declared it Corporal Punishment to physically, mentally, and emotionally abuse your kids.

HeatherMartin

Let’s go over the timeline of the dispute between Rose and Mike/Heather once more. But supplementing the timeline of events mentioned above is a collection of text messages between Rose and Mike/Heather Martin.

Cody went to his father’s initially for the hopes that it’d benefit his mental well-being. The biological mother was initially calling him every night and in constant contact. But then that contact got more sparse at Mike’s behest. Daily calls turned into weekly, weekly into monthly,  then Cody was “too busy,” etc.

MikeMartinTextJuly2014

In July 2014, an irate Mike yelled at Rose about the arrangements for Cody they had made. Rose had changed her mind about going through with the whole thing, based on Cody’s concerns that Mike would keep him away from his mother. He accuses her of being unstable and threatens to take Rose to court if necessary. Mike expresses his frustrations that jumping through hoops didn’t seem good enough to Rose, and in response she’s adamant that Mike needs to communicate these things to her lawyer.

HeathersDoubleStandardWithEmma

By December 2014 Rose tells Heather that Mike was attempting to block communication between Cody and herself. The initial arrangements made between both parties (nightly talks on Skype and monthly visitation rights) gave the sense that everyone was going to go about this maturely. But how that panned out was radically different, leaving Rose highly disappointed. Heather responds by claiming Cody was doing better than he ever was initially, and threatens to take Emma. She goes on to say that Mike had sole custody of Cody and the paperwork states he has the power to moderate these visitation privileges. Rose sounds completely unaware of that, and comes to the conclusion the paperwork was forged. Heather denies it and says they were signed in front of a Notary, twice-over. Rose becomes upset that Heather is attempting to take Cody away from her, and gets stonewall responses that dodge answering that claim directly. Heather reassures Rose that she is always open for texting and calling, essentially giving her the position of gatekeeper to talking to Cody as trying to Mike is made impossible. Both sides of the conversation try to hash things out and get on amicable terms for the sake of the kids.

TextExchangeMar2015

By March 2015, it appears as if this arrangement between Rose and Heather was working out. Mrs. Martin even managed to send school and baseball pictures of the children during those times of the year. Heather complains to Rose that Rose’s mother had contacted her saying she wanted to talk to Cody. Heather responded to that by claiming Rose’s Mother never got in touch with Heather to do anything like that before, and insisted the only responsibility Heather had was to communicate with Rose. But at that point, both sides seemed satisfied at this teamwork. In April 2015 Mike wasn’t on any speaking terms with Rose. But she sent an olive branch to Heather to give to Mike on her behalf. Within that message to Mike, Rose said she spent the past few years in self-reflection and came to terms with the rocky past their relationship had. She makes it clear that she deeply misses Cody and keeps the children at the front of her thoughts, and expresses the desire for a mutually healthy relationship between the kids and parents. Mike in response to the earnest attempt at an olive branch verbally slams Rose. Via Heather he says that he forgave Rose “for himself,” but adds that he never forgot “the hell” Rose and her family put him through. Claiming to never have loved her, Mike says his only motivation for moving in with Rose was the sake of his unborn child. He accuses Rose of punching herself in the stomach, self-harming, and beating Mike. In his conclusion, he says he’s willing to be civil with Heather and do what’s best for the children. Rose calls Mike’s accusations a lie but doesn’t want to fight about it unnecessarily. Heather tells her that she’s willing to take Mike’s word at face value, and that he’s happy for the first time now he has a “real woman” in his life.

HeatherTextsMay2015

By May 2015 we see Heather had Cody make an unannounced call to Rose on Mother’s Day, which came as a surprise to her because of Mike’s recent behaviors. Rose presses Heather for a discussion on visitation rights, intending to see him in person twice a month as promised by the paperwork. Heather responds by asserting she never denied her rights to see him. An important conversation takes place on the 21st, as we come to find out that Heather is keenly aware of Cody’s medical conditions. It came about after Rose asked her why Cody had a phone watch when he came over for an extended stay. Conversely she was worried that Mike and Heather wouldn’t allow Emma to have a cell phone when she went over to their household for the same sort of deal. This is backed by Emma telling Rose that Mike wouldn’t allow contact with her mother while Emma was over at his place. Heather says the phone watch is a form of security blanket, recommend by a doctor to help him cope with his personal conditions. She goes on to blame Rose for Cody’s shortcomings, telling her the child didn’t want to come to North Carolina. Heather claims that Cody tells other kids that his biological mother is his “step mom,” and that he essentially switches the title between step-mother and mother backwards between Rose and Heather. Rose goes on to say Emma is worried that Mike and Heather plan to take her away from Rose. This came about after the child had overheard Mike shouting at her mother on the phone. Rose offers the duo the opportunity to come to a joint therapy session with her. This attempt at family unity is persistent later on.

IrrationalBehavior

In October 2015, Rose reached out Heather and invited both her and Mike to Emma’s birthday party she was throwing for her.

That innocent invitation is responded to with a wall of text that makes their discussion take a very sharp left turn. Heather shoots the proposition down by explaining they didn’t want to interrupt Emma’s special day. They still planned on being in the area and wishing to make arrangements, but Heather was hesitant on being near Rose’s parents because of the tenuous relationship between herself and them. She reassures Rose that they are not out to keep Cody away from her. Apparently the lad was happy living with Mike and Heather, and still open to seeing the “other family,” as Heather herself describes it.

She’s adamant that the both of them are following the custody order to the letter, saying the obligation was on Rose to make the arrangement. That was on the 8th. On the 13th, Rose explains to Heather the plans Emma had made with her friends and that it would create a conflict with her request to see her. The argument turns into a fight over the nuances of the court agreement. Heather insists they are following it to the letter, and that Rose needed to travel to Mike and Heather (thus not obligated to bring Cody to Rose). In response, Rose contends Mike disallowed her from doing as such at all.

For some reason this really ticked off Heather, as she goes on a tirade against Rose. Accusing her of lying to the court about her medical ailments, twisting that against Rose as some sort of “drama” that works against her when it comes to legal rights to see Cody and Emma.

If it sounds unbelieveable you can look at both of these things for yourself. Heather Martin using Rose’s medical issues as ammunition in an argument about the kids (1), and the notes for the medical procedures Hall had undergone back in September 2015 (2).

RoseHallMedicalReport

“Your not even a fraction of woman and mother I am and this has nothing to do with us it has to do with my husband’s children,” Heather texted to Rose.

At the end of October 2015, Rose stops responding to Heather’s texts. Sending her questions about Mike’s visitation plans with Emma, Rose tells Heather to not text her. Repeatedly. Hall replies she’s highly considering getting a restraining order and suing for harassment. Escalating the tensions, Heather openly invites Rose to do so. She threatens that Mike would go after Rose and Rose’s mother for slander, intimidating her with screenshots of conversations she’s had on social media.

HeatherEmotionallyBlackmailsRose

A final exchange of messages happens as a result of the lawyer correspondence letter that was mentioned earlier on in this piece (see the “conflict of interest” section), and Rose makes one last effort at appeasement by arranging a time to drop Emma off into Heather’s and Mike’s hands.

See with your own eyes how that panned out. On the last page of text messages in this collection, Heather is pulling all the strings when it comes to custody arrangements. She orders Rose to meet her at a location of Heather’s choosing, and failure to follow those instructions meant Rose would be forced to face accusations of being in contempt of court.

From July 2014 through the end of December 2015, we see Heather’s treatment of Rose drastically shift into a more commanding and demanding tone of discussion. The current circumstances of the Martin children are a worrisome contrast compared to what Mike and Heather had told the court system throughout the entire process.

CodyAndEmmaGoFundMe

If you’re interested in supporting Rose’s battle for custody, you can donate to a GoFundMe campaign set-up to provide legal fees.

NeoGAF’s Shadows

NeoGAF is a forum website that has a visible presence within the gaming community. Alongside their gaming branch is a flourishing off-topic section that serves as a catch-all for everything else. Owned and run by Tyler “EviLore” Malka, it reached a milestone of 100,000,000 posts by the end of May 2016.

I recommend watching this documentary GameTrailers did on it, if you want to explore more of the surface level there is to offer for NeoGAF.

What I’m focusing on is the underside of that.

For the gilded age appearance the website maintains to the public eye, there’s an underbelly to it that’s kept in the dark. Within the shadows of NeoGAF we see the bitter and ugly side of it all.

It’s one thing to have a consistent level of displeasure expressed by the public towards the site. But when someone whose gone to NeoGAF for years is saying there’s a problem?

Shinobi

That’s worth a look.

There are five parts to this series. You can skip around if you want, as they’re self-contained enough to still make sense that way. You can DONATE HERE if you enjoyed it.

  1. On JonTron’s Incident
  2. Boogie2988’s War
  3. Gaming the Industry
  4. In Moderation
  5. Finale

If anyone has any NeoGAF related tips or stories they’d like to share with me, feel free to DM me on Twitter or drop me an email.

(Credit goes to Truant Pixel, LLC for the Header Image, that artsy NeoGAF starscape is from their PS4 theme.)

 

NeoGAF’s Shadows V: Finale

 

NeoGAFIRC

This is NeoGAF’s IRC channel. (click here for large version)

BishopTL talked about the IRC group once or twice. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has never gotten to see it up close. To walk you through what you’re seeing: the moderators can ban people from here, look at a user’s notes, and discuss a user’s post history all at a glance. They do it as a group, and they do it with their personal slant and bias.

As you can see by the picture, the NeoGAF Modbot plays an active role in all of this as well, operating as a servant created by Stumpokapow. As explained by a mod, it’s an IRC bot, a NeoGAF account in itself, and otherwise manually controlled by Stump directly. The primary function of it is to give NeoGAF moderation the ability to ban people on the go via their private IRC channel, much easier than doing the process manually.  Other options for it allow automated raffles, notify mods when particular threads are made, and submit closing posts via the modbot prior to a thread being locked.

Let’s check if Stumpokapow is biased.

“His post history has a bunch of proxy-gator stuff. He says he’s not a gator. He works on Star Citizen. These sort of seem mutually exclusive,” said mod Stumpokapow.

He’s certainly not neutral.

Opiate himself shared some of the things NeoGAF management had access to when it came to user information, back in his days as a mod:

You have never been banned. You are not listed on any troublemaker lists. Your IP does not immediately appear to match any aliases. I can see what college you went to (Because of your listed email) and I see you are using Central Time Zone settings. I can see many other things as well, but as stated, the four I listed are by far the most useful for moderation purposes — I almost never look at the rest unless I have specific reason to suspect someone of something particularly nefarious (i.e. alternate accounts, viral marketer, etc).

The IRC was briefly mentioned by Besada in the leaked conversations from Jado. He even explained how the modbot works to someone who asked about it.

The phrase “You’re either 100% with us, or you’re against us” doesn’t just apply to the NeoGAF forums in general. The concept of group think is not limited to the posters in the threads.

NeoGAF’s shadows are the moderators that cull the userbase and push it in different directions. They’ve subtly guided and twisted the games industry for the past decade now, and the media gets the occasional tug on their puppet strings to do a dance for the site. Boogie2988 will have scars from his war with NeoGAF, and JonTron too even if he doesn’t fully realize it.

Tyler, you’ve got two problems. The first one is you’ve lost control of your website. The passage of time has eroded the innocence of NeoGAF, and you’ve left with the byproduct of your moderator’s actions. The second problem is now everybody knows how your moderators operate.

The website that became famous for their insider leaks, just got a few leaks of their own.

Click here to go back to Part 4.

Click here to return to the hub page.

 

NeoGAF’s Shadows IV: In Moderation

NeoGAF currently has 5 forum administrators and 38 moderators. How does one become a moderator? According to them: the team nominates NeoGAF posters, they debate about the candidates among themselves, and then Evilore picks the finalists from whoever is left.  However, in the old days, the NeoGAF IRC channel was the place where Evilore made those kinds of decisions. Malka calls them the “best and the brightest” of NeoGAF and sees them as the most exceptional posters.

The moderators keep the website running in an orderly fashion. They’re the ones that tell you when words like “hugbox” are offensive, retroactively edit thread titles if they disagree with the contents of a post, and get rid of folks who say they are tired of Leigh Alexander. On NeoGAF people aren’t banned because they’re libertarians, it just happens to be that people with those political beliefs tend to be against site rules.

neogafmoderationheader

The lack of ban transparency is on purpose. According to EviLore it’s a distraction from the flow of discussion on the website.

Someone outlined the general problems with NeoGAF’s moderation back in October 2014. SirPainsalot was banned for it on the site, but his thoughts are worth a renewed consideration today.

SirPainsalot tells us he was a lurker on NeoGAF since 2008, getting his own account by 2013. With years of understanding and experience under his belt, he tell us that fanboy behavior has gotten out of control.  Titles like The Order: 1886 were overtly hyped up by NeoGAF, and legitimate concerns and critiques were shot down or shoved off to the side. This new ritual of “hype” threads on NeoGAF is a cause for the site’s stagnation. Overall the quality of posting had diminished. Instead of discussion, NeoGAF is filled with passive-aggressive comments and one-line “zingers” now. SirPainsalot cites the mods are aware of this but have done little to properly address it. He pins the blame of poor moderation on Tyler Malka’s behavior as the owner. He has a reputation of inappropriate remarks and doesn’t act to keep the balance he says is important for the site to maintain. Allegations of sexual assault and sexism, along with giving a user’s post to Kotaku without their permission, are things that don’t exemplify role model behavior. When it comes to the moderators themselves, they’ve got an elitist attitude of trying to “one up” NeoGAF’s members. They present their opinions in a fashion that creates an air of unwarranted superiority, bringing into focus their agendas and biases. Sirpainsalot says that’s a human thing to have, but the moderators cross a line when they act on it to silence disagreements. The uneven application of bans in these instances has taken down accounts unnecessarily. These things were further pushed to Sirpainsalot’s attention with the way the moderators handled GamerGate. In the containment thread they set up, he says there’s a correlation between banned users and their opinions on the topic. Disagreement is being used as an excuse to ban people from NeoGAF, and it made the GamerGate thread one-sided in their discussion. Sirpainsalot got a PM from somebody, warning them that they were going to get banned for their dissenting opinion. On top of all that, The Fine Young Capitalists had their account rejected before they even had a chance to post.

SirPainsalot had absolutely zero faith in NeoGAF’s moderators, and in this section, we’re going to explore some of the reasons why.

It is indeed possible for a NeoGAF mod to be taken out of service if something so egregious and embarrassing takes place that even Tyler Malka can’t look the other way. Someone like “White Man” could be made a mod as early as 2006, only to have his mod abilities revoked eight years later for posting a disturbing murder fantasy post.

Below are three tales of high-profile ex-Moderators on NeoGAF.

amir0xheader4

Amir0x

Moderator from October 2005 to August 16th, 2011

When asked what it’s like to be a NeoGAF mod, Amir0x replied “it’s like being a rockstar, except without the drugs, sex and…rock and roll. And no groupies, but I guess that can go with the “no sex” part.” By his mates, Amir0x is infamous for a post he made declaring the “age of Sony is done,” which would turn out to not be accurate in retrospect.

One of his earliest acts as a mod was giving advice on how to do drugs to NeoGAF members. “Reccomend [sic] to try at least once,” he said in reference to LSD. Growing up in a broken home, Amir0x had to deal with: a violent brother that was in and out of jail, helping take care of his mother (his dad worked many jobs – both of them were religious), and coming to terms with his girlfriend’s suicide. In March 2007, Amir0x announced to NeoGAF “there was a good chance” he was headed to jail for the next 3 months (he planned to break some sort of unofficial restraining order). According to Amir, he allegedly got in trouble with the authorities after he restrained his mother from beating him with a purse. The common belief by most is that he beat her. None of us were there, so it can never be said for sure what happened that night between Amir0x and his mother. In the longer version of the story, he tells how the authorities picked him up for hitchhiking on the interstate at 3 in the morning, and how he insulted the police after his mother panicked and called the cops.

Amir0xHighSchool

During high school, Amir0x admitted to getting into a brawl with someone because they insulted his mother. They were playing Quake via LAN, and someone on the enemy team mouthed off.

By early August 2007, Amir would fall back into his drug habit. As the months went by he began to embrace his role as an “expert” in this field and quashed anyone’s concerns that a NeoGAF moderator was openly giving drug advice to people. On the top of his list of favorites was Ecstasy. Over the years, Amir0x would praise it as much as Edmund from the Chronicles of Narnia loved Turkish Delight. But he dabbled in DMT, Shrooms, DXM, Meth, Coke, Heroin, and Xanax as well. He would later admit to getting the drugs from some of his friends.

“drugs are awesome,” he said.

To Amir0x, drugs won the internal debate he had when it came to addiction and self-control. NeoGAF let him share those sorts of experiences (like a detailed analysis of how to properly snort cocaine) and he spoke from the moderator pulpit about it. On top that he had “fond” memories of  cheating with married women and robbing houses.

A biography he gave NeoGAF in 2009:

My name is Chris G.
My hobbies are games, movies, drugs and mother beating.
I’m 24 years old.
I work as a Supervisor of Equipment Handling at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
I like long walks on the beach, the Mother franchise and tripping balls.

Amir0x had a twisted set of morals. In January 2010 he’d admit to banning someone that admitted to drunk driving (ironically Amir0x would have driving related troubles himself according to public documents). Amir was bothered by the fact a guy did it all the time and didn’t understand the consequences of his actions. This was the same moderator that openly advocated for drugs to the forum on a regular basis. In April 2011, someone confronted Amir0x on this double standard.

“If I got caught with drugs I’d face the consequences of using them,” he wrote.

Amir was aware of the law but actively chose to break it based on the fact he liked the way drugs felt. According to him, there a difference between the individual right for someone to put substances in their own body, and infringing the rights of others in the pursuit of liberty. One time he even joked about giving them to children. Tyler Malka never acted in response to any of this drug related behavior. He was perfectly fine with allowing Amir0x to speak to the community on official mod business when necessary.

MoreAmir

But Amir would get banned in August 2011. The thing that he got banned for was a simple Nintendo 3DS thread. What seems like an innocent “what could possibly go wrong” sort of set-up had Amir0x ending up in the hot seat. Amir got into an argument about the 3DS 3D effect hurting people’s eyes, and it somehow escalated to a point where he said: “I’d never accuse anyone of lying, except for right now.” This led Amir0x to get called out by a user named Kato, who was able to prove that he abused his moderator privileges to retroactively edit posts of other users. Amir erased accusations of people calling him a liar in thread discussions to try and quietly improve his reputation. Apt on the print screen trigger finger, Kato was able to collect several instances of Amir0x doing this. The evidence presented was sufficient enough from Tyler Malka’s perspective. Amir0x’s days as a mod were over.

Doing drugs and openly advocating for it? Fine. But editing posts? That crosses the line for NeoGAFAmir’s personal rationale for the drug talks was that they’re legal in some countries, and given the global nature of NeoGAF, it would be fine to discuss them.

Amir0xDrugCharity

On April 20th, 2012 Amir0x turned to NeoGAF to raise funds for his mother. She was diagnosed with Vasculitis and it caused kidney failure. Amir and his family were having a difficult time keeping up with the medical bills, so he hoped the kindness of GAF would be able to balance out the expenses. It worked for a few months. But people began to get concerned about where the money was going after Amir0x talked about buying drugs at the end of October. Soon he found himself defending his purchase to people on NeoGAF, saying that there was “nothing sinister” about him using the money he earned from his paycheck to buy some drugs. Amir tried to explain it away. But peer pressure worked as a force of good that day. He was moved by how worried people were about what was going on. Amir0x used it as a sign that he needed to get help for his drug addiction.

After that? He got better. “In the end, I conceded a key point – I did have a problem. Since drugs were the way I had my recreational fun, it was difficult to understand how it looked to everyone else. So I entered myself into rehab. I finished the bulk of it, but I retain therapy and still go to NA meetings every week,” Amir0x wrote in February 2013.

He still gave advice to others on drugs from time to time (other people were still going to do them anyway and he didn’t want them to hurt themselves). But he stood firm with his disavowment of recreational usage. Amir0x (momentarily) won the battle against his personal demons because he was able to understand them.

It’s a story with what I thought would’ve been a happy ending. But according to this May 2016 police report, he’s slipped back into his old habits.

If you wanted to avoid getting on Amir0x’s ban side: don’t be a misogynist, don’t have a history of negativity, don’t be an insensitive douchebag, don’t mention any game that’s not Uncharted in the Uncharted 2 thread, don’t say polls are worthless, don’t fling insults, don’t make personal attacks, don’t make troll accusations, hide your spoilers properly, and don’t make “retarded” posts.

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Opiate

Moderator from June 10th 2010 to September 24th, 2015

While Amir0x was addicted to opiates, the story of the moderator named “Opiate” takes a different turn. Believed to be around 35 years old, from St. Louis and New York (he says he moved back and forth), and he came to NeoGAF because of his passionate interest in economics. Well-mannered when it came to behavior. Prim and proper, tried to not be rude if he could help it. Real name is unknown, despite the fact Opiate says he shared it before.

First, the good. He’s the only person I’ve ever heard people say they’ve missed as a moderator. Opiate ran NeoGAF’s bingo threads over the years. It started out as something that was done alongside holiday giveaways and for occasions such as New Years. They gave away things like console and indie games and tickets to PAX. It was very much a community fueled effort. The only really strange thing about that was he’d get the name and address of all the winners. But that’s normal, right? So he could ship prizes to them.

Opiate was a real go-getter, swooping in to help stop a suicide attempt once. He was also able to trigger the ire of NeoGAF users in a distinct fashion. But Opiate was really into strange debate threads and he walked a fine line when it came to hypotheticals.

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One of his more notable quotes casts doubt on whether or not Opiate even liked video games. “When I hear people referring to men as “manchildren,” that’s typically what they’re referring to, in my experience: men sitting around playing MGS or God of War or Pokémon beyond age 25,” he once wrote.

Speaking of children. Opiate was best known his defense of pedophilia.

As far back as September 2011. “I do want to say that I have significant sympathy for pedophiles. At least, some of them,” Opiate said. He goes on to emphasize at length with their mindset. When it came to the idea sexual desires in general, he thought less about morality, in favor of efficiency instead. He characterized pedophilia as a natural urge on at least one occasion. It was a topic of interest to him for many years on NeoGAF. In an October 2013 post, Opiate stated that people were already free to express their sexuality, but those “primitive urges” got in the way of social consequence.

To be clear, he’s speaking about pedophilia in that sense. Opiate did so in empathetic terms depicting them as if they were victims of society. He casts pedophiles in the same light as heterosexuals and homosexuals when it comes to describing it from a psychological aspect. The moderator told users on the forums to take a walk in a pedophile’s shoes to understand their perspective.

It makes things Opiate says in a non-serious light seem more disturbing.

Our primary recommendation to get your children acclimated to NeoGAF is to print out a copy of the GAF ToS, grind it up, and supplement their baby formula with those grinds as soon as possible. In addition, we recommend whispering “believe” to them as they fall asleep every night.

Take a look at his defense of cartoon porn from June 2014. Opiate said that pedophiles needed an avenue of expression or else they’d repress their desires. “If someone can come up with a better outlet for pedophilic urges, I’m all ears, though,” he said.

In October 2014 there was a now deleted thread asking the question if pedophiles deserved sympathy.  It was started by Opiate himself. His original post linked to an article suggesting that pedophilia was caused by something in the brain. The responses Opiate made were even worse, going into detail about how terrible it was that pedophiles couldn’t masturbate. He equated the crime of molestation to robbing a house (I don’t think Amir0x would’ve agreed). Later on in the thread, Opiate shared an anonymous message he got from a NeoGAF member who admitted to being attracted to children. Someone expressed their discomfort that Opiate made the thread in the first place, only to be chastised by another mod for speaking up.

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By 2015 he’d get more entrenched on his defense of the topic and attacked the “hostile atmosphere” it had. Opiate would get angry when it came up, speaking about the tragedy of pedophiles in more emotional vernacular than usual. He was the first to present the notion that people who defend pedophiles are pedophiles themselves, in response to a user who was uncomfortable with the discussion. Overall, Opiate got really defensive whenever people brought it up.

Things came to a head in September 2015. On the 21st Salon posted an article by Todd Nickerson. The author is a self-proclaimed pedophile, and he wrote it in an effort to make the public emphasize with their ordeal. The next day NeoGAF user “Maninthemirror” posted it to the site, criticizing Salon for giving Nickerson a platform. The thread was first met with mockery from the mods, who changed it to criticize Maninthemirror for giving Salon a platform. Opiate came into that thread and poked at the embers of discussion trying to flame it up. Once more, he encouraged the lurkers to imagine being attracted to children. He got more vocal than he usually would about his pedophile empathy defense.

A user by the name of Fiction came in and said pedophiles clearly had something broken in their brains. “Pedophiles destroy people,” they wrote. ArchedThunder took offense to that. Fiction fired back by saying they understood what they were talking about better than most people about the damages a pedophile can bring on someone. Thunder turned up the heat and made the comparison that Fiction’s hatred for pedophiles was somehow the same as racism.

That led to Opiate’s infamous post where he told Fiction (a rape victim), that their contributions to the discussion were irrational. Followed up by threatening to ban them, but declining to do so because Opiate liked Fiction.

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One would think this would’ve been the end of the thread. It was not. Rather than close the thread and save everyone the distress, Opiate continued to defend pedophiles in that thread throughout the 23rd and 24th of September. He smugly proclaimed himself to be a compassionate person for liking pedophiles. Opiate defined compassion worldviews as being either good and appropriate or expected. The NeoGAF moderator touched upon the societal pressures of pedophiles too. Of course, the differences between a pedophile and child molester were discussed as well. He went as far as to make the example of “what if your child grew up to be a pedophile” in that thread. Opiate even talked down another user for getting upset that this discussion was happening.

Malka himself had to step in and shut it down.

NeoGAF is a forum full of real people, not an imaginary world where dispassionate academic debate can take place and anything can be said without affecting others. We shouldn’t be having threads like this inappropriate and pointless debate about pedophilia in the first place, and we will not from here on out, but while we can’t control how someone reacts to the content of the site and whether they decide to leave, and we shouldn’t coddle anyone for the sake of it, this thread has gone far, far beyond anything that can be described that way. We can at least be a little respectful to our fellow members when it comes to serious matters like personal experience with being the victim of child molestation/rape. Clearly a basic level of human decency hasn’t been maintained and that will be addressed immediately.

Apologies to Fiction for everything that was said in this thread and how things played out overall.

In response to this, Opiate was demodded.

Spurred on by the events unfolding in the Salon thread, outside groups used this as an opportunity to push forward any information they had about Opiate. This archived dump ended up being widely circulated, connecting the alias Bodhesatva back to the moderator. The findings also revealed that Opiate had worked at a Toys R’ Us for a time. I found at least one post on his NeoGAF account that could potentially back that up. Whoever wrote this up took the digging a few steps further, and found some of Opiate’s posts on sex forums. He states on Loveshack that the younger someone is the sexier they are. This Bodhesatva name shows up on other erotic websites.

With that context in mind, it makes the main point of that info dump on Opiate more disturbing. This Bodhesatva person has a Flickr account (VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED) with a variety of subjects. Some of them are of nature, some of them of men and women. Dressed. Undressed.

Some of them were of children.

If you wanted to avoid getting on Opiate’s ban side (besides the obvious)no port begging, don’t make fun of Evilore with an elaborate amount of effort, don’t point out if a good poker player is lesbian, don’t be obnoxious, no open advertisement of adblock, don’t call NeoGAF a hivemind, don’t have a history of bad behavior, don’t make borderline jerk posts, don’t get angry, don’t be ignorant, and don’t antagonize people.

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BishopTL

Moderator/Admin from since the start to December 6th, 2016

Real name is Tim Lewinson. He’s of Jamaican and Scottish descent, religiously brought up as a Pentecostal. Only one of two black families in the part of BC where he grew up, the first time he heard the N-word was in 2nd grade. His parents kicked the shit out of him if he stepped out of line. By Bishop’s own admission he worked on the EA NHL series for 3 years and did a stint at relic entertainment.

In his early days, he was pretty carefree. Tim dabbled in the occasional bit of serious talk about multiculturalism, but it was half-hearted. The other half was more laid back. At the end of April 2005, Bishop’s idea to form a Black discussion thread first came up. By October he was already swinging the banhammer at racist posts, capable of showing remorse in some cases. But these instances set the tone early on with what was a racially acceptable discussion on NeoGAF. Bishop took it as a personal responsibility of his to make sure everything was good. It became harder for him to separate serious and jokes when it came to the topic of race.

End of 2006 marked his changing of heart coming to pass:

I’d like to see a real dialogue on race in America. One where everyone gets a chance to express their prejudices without being immediately jumped on. It’s hard – most folks don’t want to be painted as racists, and as a result keep their mouth shut or don’t express honest feelings because of it. I’ll admit, I’ve jumped down the throats of a few folks myself after hearing something totally out of line.

I saw an episode of Dr Phil (yeah yeah I know, shut up) where he stuck a bunch of people in a house, each of whom had their own specific prejudices. A Neo-Nazi guy, a older black women who loathed white people, a skinny mini who hated fatties, and a super fat guy who hated pretty well everybody. Dumb-ass happy ending aside, the most fascinating part of the program for me was at the beginning, where people were just letting loose with the most vitriolic rants about the other folks in the house they hated. Not for entertainment value, but because their reactions were honest and from the gut.

From then on Bishop treated discussions involving blacks with a bit of reverence. Outside instigators pushed him in that direction with racist posts, forcing Bishop to shoo it away with a ban. The cumulative effect wore down on him and by the Summer of 2009 he was much more cynical. Another attempt to make racial threads formed in October 2010 – and that was when the first official Black Culture Threads were established. By September 2011, games journalism was starting to target political topics in video games. Bishop initially laughed at the idea of Deus Ex: Human Revolution being considered racist, as suggested in a piece by GamesRadar.

Timothy Lewinson was an Executive Producer at Beefy Media. The President of that company? Adam Boyes, who’d later go on to be Sony’s Vice President of Third Party Relations. Connections like these are what cast the appearance of bias when it came to Bishop as a NeoGAF moderator. Beefy Media’s clientele included Capcom, Endemol, MGM, and the Weinstein Company. Who’s to say that BishopTL didn’t give these studios a higher priority when it came to visibility on the NeoGAF forums?

Bishop best became known for being the NeoGAF moderator that controlled the flow of insider information. CBOAT was one of the earliest leakers to use this system, talking about clearing things with Bishop as far back as 2005. If you didn’t submit yourself to Bish for verification, you’d likely end up banned. What he’d check for (as seen by this Playstation 4 rumor story), is that the leaker was someone in a qualified industry position to receive the sort of information they were sharing. These insiders in some cases even got an official “Bishop checked” tag on their profile.

But that system wasn’t flawless.

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Early on June 5th, 2013, a thread was made about Xbox One rumors concerning a GPU downgrade. It started from a Bishop-backed insider named Thuway. He heard that GPU clocks were going to be downgraded in order to improve yields. This rumor got quickly backed up by someone else. Then another. Thuway said his information was as recent as the Playstation Meeting when the PS4 was revealed, claiming it made Microsoft’s engineering teams scramble in response. Some guy named StevieP said Microsoft was having ESRAM issues. Another Bishop-backed insider, CBOAT, chimed in with confirmation that some of that was allegedly true.

NeoGAF moderators themselves started to throw their weight in on it. Passersby saw the spectacle, and lurkers assured them that the leakers were properly vetted by folks like Bishop. Ex-mod Amir0x said something to that effect, calling the sources trusted. He was more than eager to encourage the Microsoft pile-on. But in walks SenjutsuSage with counter-argument after counter-argument. He said he heard differently from his own sources and that there was a reason to doubt the downclocking rumors. Thuway fired back at SenjutsuSage, and it basically became a war between insiders. SenjutsuSage ended up being right about the downclocking rumors being false. The mods backed the wrong side of the argument and were left cleaning up the mess in the aftermath to try and save the credibility of their inside sources.

“No more troll threads from, on, or about CliffyB until he gets a job,” Bishop said at the time in an effort to flex his moderator muscle.

Things started to get bad after June 2013, when the r/games subreddit had to deal with a controversy surrounding Microsoft and “astroturfing” threads.  The practice of astroturfing is defined as using a forum such as Reddit or NeoGAF and trying to steer the public conversation in a favorable direction. In this particular case, someone who claimed to work at a digital marketing firm said they overheard conversations Microsoft employees had about posting content for their employer to the pics and gaming subreddits. The r/gaming moderators said the initial claims turned out to be false after looking into it, but that didn’t stop places like NeoGAF from questioning the possibility of the practice taking place on their own site. It certainly sparked an anti-Microsoft sentiment and increased skepticism. Mods joined in accusing Microsoft as well (although they acknowledged Sony was equally guilty). Many of the forum members turned to Bishop as an answer to stopping astroturfing. Opiate said directly that being on NeoGAF to “shill for your corporate overlords” was a bannable offense.

Bishop had taken up looking into the matter personally at the end of that May. In response to a flux of new accounts that had popped up, he said:

We note.

We notice.

Hey, would anybody be interested in a thread where I detail some of the social agency email addresses that have come up during my offsite research into some of our more recently vocal members?

It’s fascinating.

It’s this accident of timing (Bishop cracking down on PR shills + Microsoft’s astroturfing accusation) that caused people to start seeing Bishop as anti-Microsoft.

July 2013 continued the same sort of vicious cycle of rumor mills and banning of dissent. When it came to the PS4’s RAM, Thuway threw out some numbers, other insiders back it up, and a NeoGAF moderator/admin would give a thumbs up (don’t question them). Bishop would be the leaker gatekeeper. Media would report on it as fact, and people had confidence in this system. By August 2013, the anti-Microsoft reputation of NeoGAF was beginning to spread. People were getting banned for daring to speak neutrally about the topic. Tyler Malka himself shared a photo of when he met Bishop in July 2014. People would later speculate about the Sony hat he was wearing at the time.

That August, a PR guy showed up and made an elaborate post to start a Microsoft thread. The dude made a passionate argument in favor of the system. BishopTL waltzed on into this public display and posted details from what Bishop believed was the PR firm the OP came from. Banning him quickly, BishopTL made a few shitposts rubbing in the fact he caught a PR guy red-handed. However, then it was revealed the company Bishop referenced wasn’t a PR firm, but a software company selling databases. But our hothead moderator ended up being right. Someone dug through the OP’s post history and came across a confession from the user, admitting to being a PR guy for his job.

The situation ended up being a teaching lesson. “We have many PR people on the forum who were kind enough to let us know what they do for a living – even if they didn’t use a work email address to register,” Bishop told the thread.

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photo via 1pvs2p.com

December 2014 had Bishop flexing his moderator powers at Forza Horizon 2 thread. The OP originally used the phrase “best racing game this year” in the title, which triggered a derail that focused on that aspect in particular. BishopTL changed the title and demoted the OP to NeoGAF junior status. He’d go on to vehemently defend this and explain the thought process of it step-by-step.

That Black Culture Thread (referred to as BCT) stuff took off. Ten official threads spanning across four years of time. It was a regular thing in the off-topic section of NeoGAF. But an incident almost cut that tradition short.

It actually started in a separate off-topic thread about transgender people. A moderator by the name of Mumei got into an argument with EviLore about the definition of bigotry. Mumei said being grossed out by a transgender person is bigotry (assuming you found that person attractive if they were cis), and EviLore responded by claiming Mumei was calling almost everyone in society a bigot. Mumei didn’t deny that exactly. In response, Malka decided the thread wasn’t worth the trouble to begin with and ended the discussion thread. Mumei was demodded from NeoGAF as a result of this.

Word traveled to the BCT thread. They began to talk about the moderators and what had happened with Mumei. Four pages in the February 2015 BCT thread and Evilore abruptly closes it.

“Create another thread in three months when it’s not a running commentary on moderation of the site,” Malka wrote.

Within the hour, BishopTL was able to get the thread back up and running. He was inclined to remind everyone that NeoGAF’s rules prohibit complaints about the moderation, however.

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Remember that rule about astroturfing? It turns out such things didn’t apply to NeoGAF moderators. At the end of May 2015, Bishop’s Savage Empire Kickstarter campaign first surfaced. As it was advertised, Savage Empire was a concept for a graphic novel where dinosaurs arrived on Earth after a massive earthquake triggers a series of reality-bending events. It had the potential for being a video game later on. Bishop worked on the 2008 Turok video game, so he had the potential connections to make that happen. Bishop was more than happy to inform a few NeoGAF threads the day his Kickstarter went live in early June. He was open to the idea of incentivizing NeoGAF members with a profile tag (something only mods and admins can add to users) if they backed Savage Empire. It was certainly marketed towards NeoGAF given how much BishopTL kept them in the loop. This level of plugging was something that would’ve gotten anyone else banned from the website.

In December 2015 controversy arose with Uncharted 4 and NeoGAF. As described in this Kotaku article, a debate came after it was revealed white voice actress Laura Bailey was going to be voicing Uncharted 4‘s black character, Nadine Ross. Game director Neil Druckmann stood by the decision and mentioned NeoGAF when responding to it. At least one of the thread’s responses accused the games industry of having a racist status quo, and the moderator presence was heavy. When the incident started to come up in other threads, Bishop was swift on the banhammer to folks who mentioned it. A user named QuickSilverD got banned for simply characterizing the thread as being argumentative against Neil Druckmann’s statement.

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We know for sure that Bishop was a big advocate for media representation. In January 2016 he yelled at a user for having a lack of empathy when it was revealed Rey wasn’t a Star Wars Monopoly piece, and the lurker couldn’t find a reason to care about that.

In August 2016 Bishop was around for the #AugLivesMatter Deus Ex controversy. A user by the name of Maniac said “It’s one fucking artist. Take it easy. It’s more like *fuck people that’re [sic] offended so easily*. Stop being Captain PC,” in response to people’s outrage. He was banned for that. But Maniac begged Bishop for mercy on Twitter because he supported Bishop’s Savage Empire Kickstarter campaign. Later on in the thread, you can see Maniac’s permanent ban somehow got reversed shortly after.

In a November thread focusing on Notch’s political tweets, one is able to find many bans being doled out to people. The source? Bishop takes credit for it calling the thread a honeypot.

But his reign of ban terror was cut short.

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On December 6th, 2016, it was discovered that Bishop was no longer a NeoGAF administrator. People were sad about his departure. Some took it too far and thought evil would take over NeoGAF because he was gone. According to them, Bishop was the only one stopping racism. Another lurker said Bishop would voluntarily step down if Trump won the presidency. But we’ll never know the official reason.

“Bish is no longer performing admin duties at this time,” is all Malka said on the matter.

If you want to avoid getting on Bishop’s ban side: Don’t insult President Obama, don’t make hotel/sheets/$200 a night references, don’t make false claims that are proven wrong on a game’s release, no low effort console wars postsdon’t try and dogwhistle, and don’t be racist. Someone accidentally says the n-word on a stream? Shut it down. DON’T BE RACIST.

If tales from some of the ex-moderators of NeoGAF weren’t enough for you, we could take a look at some of the current moderation that’s ongoing.

Note: The length in which the current moderators have served is much shorter than those in the ex-moderator’s section of this piece. I thought it’d be good to go over a few of them anyway.

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Besada

Mod since January 2014

Born and raised in Texas, Besada grew up around the Hispanic culture. At 47 years old, he is very old school when it comes to gaming.  His friends work in the comics industry, in addition to gaming as an indie or working at a AAA studio. When it comes to what Besada does for a job himself, he says he works as a “programmer/support guru” for a software place in Texas. Before that, he was an IT Security Manager and did a stint as a Paralegal. When he’s got spare time, he likes to make music and write.

Besada has seen a lot in his lifetime. He knew where to recommend for a massage parlor for someone who wanted a “happy ending” to their services. But everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows for Besada. He dealt with the loss of his father to cancer, his friend was shot to death in front of him, and people close to him committed suicide. This NeoGAF moderator has overcome a lot of personal obstacles and admits to having bipolar disorder. It made him a big advocate for mental health, not shying away from giving such advice to NeoGAF members when he saw it necessary.

“Hey, how’s it going? You have a good day? Do anything interesting? My name’s besada. I like woodworking, The Mountain Goats, video games, and science fiction, among other things. I live in Texas. Welcome to GAF. Don’t be a stranger,” he once said.

But when it came to being a moderator, people would see Besada as someone on a power trip. In April 2014 he unloaded on a NeoGAF user he was having a political debate with, explaining why they were going to be permanently banned just for talking with him. By August, complaints were showing up on IGN forums from people who got banhammered by Besada. For having a discussion about what constitutes a video game, Conkerkid11 was banned by him because he didn’t like what the poster said. Besada decided to do some extra-curricular modding in October of that year by deciding to go after someone on Twitter about their NeoGAF ban. Someone by the name of Frank was complaining that their month-long ban got a large extension, and Besada replied with a threat to make it a permanent one. Frank felt uncomfortable about being approached on social media by a NeoGAF mod and wanted to bring his concerns to Besada’s superior’s attention. Besada fired back by saying Frank had a history of harassment, and that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell Frank’s complaint was going to do him any good.

In March 2015, a NeoGAF user by the name of Jado shared private message conversations they had with Besada (the thread itself was quickly erased). They felt it was important to put a spotlight on the bias that takes place within the moderation of the site.

As many of you know, I’ve stood up for a lot of good on this site, but finding out the above threw me for a loop and I was appalled at how blatant it was. Furthermore, I found out how quickly I could have people here turn on me if I deviated and didn’t agree with every single “approved” stance. Toeing the line to an unnecessary extreme and at the cost of expressing my perfectly normal thoughts has been really shitty and brought me to question how it got to be this way. Dealing with this quietly in PMs would resolve nothing.

What exactly did Besada say? The mod expressed his disdain for a user named Schattenjäger. He told Jado that temporary user bans are tracked cumulatively before they get permanently removed, but the average is dependent on whether not the mods like someone or not. In Schatt’s case, Besada decided to dig through his post history and look for something to give him a permanent warning on. According to him, that means the next time he slips up, a moderator will see that and finish Schatt off. “Time will give us the ammo we need,” Besada wrote when looking for a reason to ban someone and not being able to find a rule violation.

In another conversation, Besada gave advice to Jado on how to address dealing with another user named backslashbunny. He made it clear in his phrasing that moderators play favorites when it comes to particular users. In the second part of that particular exchange, Besada confesses to making his ban decisions based on racial demographics. People who aren’t young white males get “extra room” when it comes to how much they can get away with before being banned.

Tyler “EviLore” Malka swooped in to shut down Jado’s thread where the screenshots were shared. He didn’t deny the legitimacy of them. Instead, Tyler acknowledged the points raised within the contents of the messages. While he considered what Jado did “account suicide,” Malka said he had a discussion with the moderation about preferential treatment.

It brings into question how Besada treated the topic of Anita Sarkeesian on the site. Before GamerGate ever began he encouraged posters to separate talking about Anita Sarkeesian as a person away from whatever specific item related to her work was in discussion. If they failed to do so, he’d just lock the thread. When GamerGate started to happen, Besada fumbled with addressing people’s concerns about how moderators were going to be handling the topic on NeoGAF. Besada openly admits that he doesn’t trust the userbase to have a calm conversation about women in gaming. He states that whenever that happens it gets ugly and that it does damage every time. Besada says the reason for that is a large portion of gamers are misogynist. It’s around this time that he starts lashing out at users for their “obsession” about how Anita Sarkeesian should make videos. People were afraid to speak their minds on the topic over worries about getting banned. Besada openly told people GamerGate didn’t care about journalistic integrity and skewered the definition of it to mean everything but that. For a moderator, he made it clear he took a side on the matter rather than being impartial. It made him nit-picky if anything.

If you want to avoid getting on Besada’s ban side: don’t be a drama queen, don’t be sexist/racist/transphobic, don’t call other NeoGAF members jerksdon’t make low content shit posts, don’t whine, don’t post your opinion and refuse to acknowledge other people’s responses, don’t derail threads, and don’t post entire articles.

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Y2Kev

Mod since June 11th 2010

Estimated age is around 28 years old. Y2Kev shouted to the world his real name was Kevin Cioh on his old Twitter account. Grew up in New Jersey and suffered through Catholic School during his high school years. Apparently, he was in the Fencing club. Spent four years at Columbia University, and has worked at Citigroup as a financial analyst for the past seven years. Kevin dabbled in games journalism in college, writing an article about Sonic the Hedgehog for the Columbia Spectator. His mom was tough on him sometimes, and Y2Kev once asked NeoGAF to help her out with something involving her job. Kevin isn’t too fond of his dad, but after his parents got divorced he became mega rich.

When it comes to his moderation style, there’s nothing too abnormal about it in terms of what’s considered “usual” for NeoGAF. Y2Kev did his share of verifying when it came to rumors, as it was seen in the case of the Final Fantasy VII remake. He was pretty solid at maintaining control over threads before they had a chance to derail. When people got uppity about Angry Joe discussions, Kevin laid down his mod fist and made sure things didn’t get out of hand.

Y2Kev was pretty open about his anti-Microsoft stance, telling people to wait until December to buy PS4s one year so they could be counted in NPD statistics. When it came to Sony and Nintendo stuff, he was well aware of who’s who. One time, the production manager for Capcom jokingly nominated him for Director of Resident Evil 7.  Y2Kev was often very harsh in his stances, like that time he called the Vita “terminally fucked.” One of his most infamous running gags was calling Sony’s The Last Guardian dead in the years leading up to its 2015 re-reveal. When the E3 re-reveal evening came and the game was announced, he knew he was beaten and braced for the internet banter that was coming. It did. GAF members on Twitter got in their two cents.

It’s hard to tell what Y2Kev actually believes because they joke around a lot. It was something the guy had a reputation for, in contrast to his “tell it like it is” attitude.

He boils down his political views and makes it straightforward to everyone.

I agree with that. If you support trump you are either a racist or are okay with a racist as president. At some point that is not a meaningful distinction to me.

Y2Kev makes it clear that he sided for Hillary in the 2016 elections. In fact, all you need to do is type in “campaign” and look for posts attached to Y2Kev’s account in order to see how obsessed he was with the elections over on NeoGAF. Watch out for joke posts, though. Some folks believe Y2Kev worked for the Clinton campaign directly, but there’s nothing solid to suggest that is true.

Probably just trying to cover his own behind. What we can say for sure is that he worshiped Hillary Clinton as if she was a queen. All the time.

Damn near obsessed.

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“In Jesus name I pray Hillary wins Kentucky tonight and a deluge of supers wash away this campaign,” he said.

That’s where he spent a lot of his waking hours for the past year and a half: he admits to crying after reading Hillary Clinton’s book, seemed in awe at how much money Jeb Bush threw at his run, thought Christie was trash, thought of Hillary as a queen, underestimated Trump, and overestimated Cruz. It’s a wonder that Y2Kev was able to get any modding done when he was busy being absorbed in every last inch of the elections. He helped exacerbate the divide between Sanders and Clinton supporters. Y2Kev honed in on that when things came down to the wire, used his position as a mod to influence NeoGAF’s opinion. During the general Clinton vs. Trump elections, Y2Kev was knee-deep in labeling Trump as a “serial rapist sexual assaulter” and whatever other smears he could muster.

If you don’t believe something like this could influence a moderator’s bias, you’re a fool. Clinton campaigners were on NeoGAF during the election season. Don’t fall under the illusion that you are allowed open discourse, you aren’t. It’s because of folks like Y2Kev that we have an explanation as to how the election fallout on the site played out after Trump won.

If you want to avoid getting on Y2Kev’s ban side: remember to hide your spoilers, don’t complain about the NeoGAF hivemind, don’t shout other people down, no conspiracy bullshit, don’t post images of disfigured individuals, don’t post pictures of “disgusting Japanese pedo” games, and don’t post anime porn.

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Tyler Malka

The guy who made NeoGAF. Admin and owner of it.

When it comes to his upbringing – Tyler says his father claimed to lose his virginity at the age of 13, due to his height and adult-like appearance. His father’s views toward women were distorted at best, from Evilore’s perspective. Malka missed a lot of High School, didn’t officially graduate (had to get a G.E.D.), and dropped out of college to run NeoGAF. If you want to read his political beliefs he runs the gamut of general issues here. Hell, Malka gives a complete medical history of himself as well. He’s got depression, anxiety, torn menisci in his knees, he’s flatfooted, myopia and astigmatism, chronic migraines and digestive problems, morbid obesity, and insomnia.

We’ve mentioned many of Malka’s exploits previously in this series of essays because at the end of the day he is NeoGAF. But on a personal level, there’s still more to say when it came to EviLore. He tried to be a love doctor when it came to helping out NeoGAF people. Tyler’s advice for men was it’s important to play the dating game and default to being direct with women. In short? Grow some balls… except when you’re dating someone with kids. EviLore recommends bailing in that case. He believed women thought all men were interested in them at least for casual sex. Moralizing sexuality is for “archaic prudes and religious delusions” according to Malka. When it came to video game sexism mumbo jumbo, instances of sexualization in themselves aren’t bad. Tyler thinks the culture as a whole is to blame. He tended to go against the grain when it came to what feminists like Rebecca Watson thought. When it came to media crusades, like when Gies went after Notch for an IDGA party, Malka sided against the press.

EviLore tried to justify decisions when it came to the site, giving a several paragraph long essay over the addition of social media buttons. He even makes the effort to watch NeoGAF’s ads like a hawk, deploying feedback options for bad ones so the site could address it. In contrast to that, he makes a lot of dirty jokes.

To Tyler, NeoGAF wasn’t a money making machine. It’s a strategic asset. While he seems to be a pretty charitable guy himself, including when he gave $1000 to Amir0x’s mother for medical expenses and/or drugs. Malka has a strange way of asking others to do the same (like threatening people with a permanent ban if they don’t).

That begs the question if NeoGAF is profitable for EvilLore in general? He took the time to answer that last year:

Everyone’s always really curious about this, and as always the specifics are private information that I’m not going to share. The site’s a business, sure, but also a passion. I’ve stuck with a minimal aesthetic and a focus on user experience and have kept the ad quality as high and unobtrusive as is humanly possible, whether the site was even profitable at any given time or not, because what mattered first was keeping the thing good, after all the bullshit that came before with the struggles of keeping the community intact and on functional hardware prior to my explicit ownership and reimagining/relaunch of the community independently in 2004 (thanks to ~$2000 in seed money generously donated without any strings attached by the tiny contingent of kind former members of the previous iteration that self-destructed at the time). With a little digging through interviews that touch upon the financial side you’ll understand to what extent I’m a stubborn asshole about this thing and how little I ultimately care about personal financial security on my end, through the ups and the downs alike. I grew up in poverty, and the site does well now, and I have my fun as a result for the time being, but I’m okay with whatever at the end of the day. If times change or I screw up and it goes poof, it’s just an exciting flip of the page to a new chapter, so I don’t care much for the buyout offers, as long as I stay vaguely sane in this gig. It’s probably a foregone conclusion, though, that sanity has long since passed by, but here I am.

An old PCWorld article gives us a succinct history of how the site came to be. NeoGAF started out when Gaming Age launched in 1996. Sam Kennedy of the 1Up Network launched it with his friends, and he used it as a platform to help his writer buddies get a foot in the games industry. Brady Fiechter, Greg Stewart, and Patrick Klepek were some of these folks. Tyler Malka was nothing more than a lurker of these forums back in 1999. The site grew so much in popularity that the servers had a hard time handling the load, and in the early 2000s they jumped around from IGN to EZBoards, and eventually GameSquad. In 2001, Malka gained moderator powers after an old moderator decided to retire and named Tyler as his successor. In May 2004, a game thread became large enough to corrupt the whole forum database. In a last-ditch effort, Malka used the incident to unite the userbase and crowdfund donations to make a new site. It paid off and the new site was up and running within weeks. Gaming Age Forums (GAF) became NeoGAF in 2006 to help distance the two entities, as publishers were asking questions to Gaming Age about it.

EvilLoreNutIncident

An event not mentioned in that article was what Evilore allegedly did in February 2006. Somehow, Malka got ahold of nude photos of someone’s girlfriend (there are claims the girl was in on it as a joke). This person was a member of a rival forum called Opa-Ages, who back then was often at war with NeoGAF. Evilore in his retaliatory wisdom decided to upload photos of these nudes adding his own “spunk” all over them, sharing his work to Opa-Ages. The photos themselves are no longer available, but the post Malka made is still there in that archive. Here’s a copy of the first page’s comments as well, seeing as the archive is a bit borked. NeoGAF talked about the event but the thread has been wiped from the site.

“Sexual objectification is great. Harassment is not,” Tyler once said.

A story from July 2012 would bring that into question, as Malka’s travels around the world ended up with him in hot water over at NeoGAF. The thread in question would be deleted by Malka after the fact, but there’s enough archival evidence to piece together how it unfolded.

The OP itself was concerned about a particular section for Spain that Malka had written about, quoting from him directly:

At one point in a bar a girl who didn’t speak any English came up to me and started flirting heavily, then went straight into asking me to buy her a drink, as Itxaka translated when I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I laughed, because drinks here were all of two Euros, but consented and then grabbed her ass hard to show that I wasn’t being taken advantage of, and she thought better of treating me as a mark and left without taking her drink.

In short? A girl flirted with the owner of NeoGAF, asked for a drink, and then in the interim until the drink arrived, Malka grabbed her rear.  Evilore showed up to the thread promptly, and in one of his first responses, he tries to justify this behavior. While claiming to love the country of Spain and being enveloped in the moment at a party there, Malka claimed the girl got physically aggressive towards him first.

Many folks were uncomfortable with what Tyler did. People got banned for expressing their concerns.

In Evilore’s second response, he seems to be pretty irate about his story being turned into a controversy. Tyler excuses his behavior by saying everyone was drunk. Malka changes his story to say the girl had a boyfriend and got physical toward him first. After making the demand for a drink, Tyler says he grabbed her ass to show dominance that he wasn’t a “free drink generator” and admitted to escalating contact.  He was angry at the thread for saying this was sexual assault and said some of the folks in the thread itself probably never went outside in their lives. Malka asserted that in the “real world” people don’t ask permission first before physically interacting with one another and that the lurkers in the thread shouldn’t live in a protective bubble.

Some folks were ready to move on from the topic at that point. Others still condemned it, and one (immediately banned after) user called it sexual assault.

In his final response, Tyler changes his story again to claim that the girl in question started the grabbing first. He yelled at the thread for their “feminist posturing” and denied being some sort of sexual predator. Anyone that dared to say they were offended by Malka’s behavior would be responded to with a nuking of their NeoGAF account. He went on to lament that he felt sad this happened because he was “honest” about his travel adventures, and cursed the idea of being politically correct and censoring himself in order to avoid outrage.

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Tyler Malka tried his best to fit in with the NeoGAF user base, despite those setbacks. In an October 2012 thread about a Brazillian woman selling her virginity, he joked that the lady would fall in love with her and that he already better date experiences in that week alone. When someone showed a picture of Malka that was less becoming than one he offered, Tyler called it a personal attack. To top it all off, Evilore departed from the thread with a dash of racism.

In May 2013, a user by the name of Anti-Monitor went on The Bore website and gave more details about what went down with Malka’s Spain trip and the thread. Anti-Monitor lived in the area and recommended some places for Malka to go during his vacation. The only time he asked her out was when she had a scheduling conflict, which happened to be the same night of his butt grab incident. The thread mentioned earlier left a bad taste in Anti-Monitor’s mouth, and they chose to leave the Real-GAF IRC channel because of that. A few weeks go by, and the channel invited her back. EviLore wasn’t there, giving Anti-Monitor the chance to explain to everyone else what happened (essentially unloading on Malka being arrogant and unable to take criticism). EviLore caught wind of this and sent a PM telling her that he saw the IRC logs and he was offended. Apparently, Malka held that grudge for a really long time, as it resulted in Anti-Monitor being banned from NeoGAF in May 2013 for something inconspicuous and completely unrelated.

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Later on, a user by the name of CrankyJay would be banned for warning people about a scam that Malka fell privy to during his trip to Istanbul. Evilore told Jay that he was “spreading misinformation” about what happened, which caused Cranky to respond with the full story.  Since Tyler has the ability to delete any post he wants, CrankyJay’s account only has this edited post left over from his exchange.

Malka had visited the Halga Sofia and Blue Mosque, and he was making his way back to Taksim Square via tram when he met a fellow foreigner. This Swedish/Arab guy hit it off with Tyler and they decided to go to Galata bridge for dinner. Plans escalated into meeting up with some girls, and Swedish guy texted a friend of his to get a club suggestion. This friend led Malka and the Foreigner to a seedy area of the city. They ended up in a Gentleman’s club adorned with spiffy clothed men and a bunch of young ladies. Two of which sat down next to Malka and the Foreigner. Apparently, the women there get paid to make small talk with the gentlemen. The one with Malka invited him to dance, and they apparently hit it off. So much so, that apparently the girl broke some of the rules that evening. She warned Tyler that the manager was going to overcharge him because he was a foreigner, then she was dragged away by a bouncer. The manager came over and asserted the drinks for $100 each, and somehow Tyler and his foreign friend owed $5000. He was dragged out to a back alley with a lone ATM and had his credit card drained as much as humanly possible.

It’s doubtful if Tyler Malka took the GamerGate controversy seriously, as in August 2014 he publicly shared the private messages he received from concerned users who sent support@neogaf.com an email. He was highly sarcastic about the severity of the GamerGate situation and showed the names of the people that contacted him. EviLore was against Japan’s marketing strategies for anime, manga, and video games, which put him at odds with those aspects of GamerGate discussions when they happened.

For those curious, if Malka’s NeoGAF is a bastion of free speech? It is. For his friends. People that EviLore liked had ban immunity. In the case of Count Dookkake (Josh Emanuel) he was free to post whatever he wanted on the site because he’s Malka’s best friend. Emanuel first showed up on NeoGAF in 2007 a few times to rally the site in helping get his playboy sister enough votes to win a contest. Tyler and Josh hit it off in 2011 after Malka had moved to the area. Around that time, Fantastic Fest was going to be happening. Josh was able to use that opportunity to get to know EviLore better. A few months later he was more than happy to tell everyone how much he and Tyler were buddies. They’ve apparently attended quite a few conventions together. To Josh the number of times he was banned is trivial, and he even fondly remembers being banned while sitting on Evilore’s couch. Malka would end up doing set photography for Josh’s M is for Mario film project, and in return, Josh was free to openly advertise it (normally against ToS) on NeoGAF.

Josh and Malka also had their run-ins with Devin Faraci, apparently.

When asked about what Evilore has in store for his future, he had this to say.

Continue running my lovely website for the sake of it, keep a killer pad, drive a fast car, travel the world and cross off a new bucket list of adventures every year, hang with interesting friends and date extraordinarily crazy women, train in combat sports and firearms, engage in various academic pursuits, write, work on photography, collaborate with creatives, invest, contribute philanthropically, help the people I care about…and party hard, boys and girls.
If you want to avoid getting on EviLore’s ban side: “You’re not being oppressed.”

So that’s it. A drug addict, a pedophile defender, a Samuel L. Jackson wannabe, a segregationist, and a devout Hillary Clinton acolyte work as NeoGAF moderators. Under the guidance and wisdom of an immature elf-man who never fully grew up from his lurking days, slowly driving his empire into the ground.

But there was more to SirPainsalot’s words than what I said at the beginning of this section. He had the vision to make a better NeoGAF.

SirPainsalotSuggestions
That’d be the last word. But there’s one more thing I gotta talk about…

NeoGAF’s Shadows III: Gaming the Industry

When it comes to NeoGAF’s place in the games industry, it walks a fine line. It’s not universally recognized as a symbol of authority. Analysts would look toward places like Facebook or Twitter to gauge the reactions to products before considering NeoGAF. But that doesn’t mean its word is without weight.

Bethesda, NintendoInsomniac GamesGuerrilla Games, SEGA, Bandai Namco, and even Telltale hold NeoGAF in high regard. Viral marketers have tried to infiltrate their forums for years. These sorts of things happen on a case-by-case basis and aren’t unanimous for the industry as a whole. But what draws them in? The reason for this is these companies see an enthusiast audience when it comes to the website. If they’re capable of winning over NeoGAF, it’s usually considered a safe bet that their product will stand up to criticism.

Generally speaking, NeoGAF is a place where some folks get their gaming news. As a result of the moderation cultivation controlling what’s allowed, it leads to a twisted world view. Threads themselves are all about who can be the best at being outraged, and if you’re not following the pack you’re considered an enemy of it. To put it another way, the reactions you see in NeoGAF threads are very one-sided.

NeoGAFWolfPack

To preface the discussion about NeoGAF’s influence on gaming, we’ll turn to an EDGE magazine article from April 2013. Titled “Meet NeoGAF, the hardcore community shaping the games media agenda,” it goes over key aspects of how the forum managed to impact the industry it talks about.

The article opens up with the news about Adam Orth’s removal from Microsoft. According to the author, NeoGAF played a big role in setting that in motion by finding Adam’s tweets and pushing them to the media’s eyes. It was a critical time for Xbox, as they were in the process of introducing Xbox One to the world. In addition to the firing, Microsoft’s Major Nelson was forced to make an apology.

Interviewing the site’s owner Tyler Malka, EDGE makes it clear that he’s completely aware of NeoGAF’s impact.

We ask its founder Tyler Malka if he worries about just how far NeoGAF’s members go in pursuing individuals in the games business. “If detective work strays into the realm of revealing personal information or facilitating potential for harassment, it is dealt with appropriately,” he tells us. “Holding the spotlight to asinine comments doesnt constitute harassment, nor do harsh characterizations. The NeoGAF userbase is not a uniform entity; at the times when thousands of voices align on one position, however, we can often see a tangible result.”

EDGE goes on to talk about earlier examples of NeoGAF influencing the industry and impacting media coverage.  In July 2007, Jeff Bell (Corporate VP of Global Marketing for Microsoft) became the first victim of NeoGAF “detective work” (a 26-page thread dumping his personal info, you need to log-in to view it) after he anonymously responded to a user who mentioned him in regards to the resignation of Peter Moore. At the time, Malka made an apologetic statement about the matter on his forums.  But Ars Technica and Engadget caught word of the incident and publicized it.

“And your contribution society is … what?” Jeff Bell told the user.

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In June 2008, Dennis Dyack decided to “draw a digital line” (since you need to log-in to see it, here’s a screenshot) when it came to people’s thoughts on Too Human. He said he was confident that it would be one of the best games he’s ever made, and that the media and gaming community would believe so too. That made him on the “For” side. Everyone who didn’t feel the same was on the “Against” side. Denis essentially made a wager. If people who claimed they were on the “For” side were wrong, they’d get tagged “Owned by the GAF.” People on the “Against” side, if they were wrong, would get the tag “Owned by Too Human.”

After that, the EDGE article gets the sequence of events wrong. They imply Dyack’s NeoGAF rant on the 1-UP podcast came after the release of Too Human (August 19th 2008), when the GAF thread talking about that (screencap) is dated July 3rd of that year. The EDGE article completely omits when the game came out and received poor reviews, Tyler Malka took to the forums to do a victory dance on Dyack’s career failure.

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So what does it boil down to? EDGE describes Malka’s website as not only a major arm of the gaming community but that they’ve somehow managed the games media’s job better than they could.

However much one might disagree with this – and we do in the strongest possible terms – there’s no dispute over the fact that these views are out there, and they are dominant on NeoGAF. Perhaps it’s little wonder – when it digs up stories, as it has with the Orth furore, it is setting the news agenda, and beating the media at its own game. Malka is absolutely right when he tells us that “crowdsourced investigation and fact-checking can be extraordinarily potent tools” – it is the reason his community finds screens posted on obscure Russian forums first, and unearths references to next-gen games on LinkedIn before news sites can.
Despite Malka’s own praises of NeoGAF’s detective work, I’ve found examples of that impact being for the negative, and their influence waning. In May 2014 they were declined E3 passes because the ESA did not consider them an “active media outlet with ongoing coverage of the Interactive Entertainment Industry,” apparently. The admins declined an offer from Microsoft’s Major Nelson to come as guests on their behalf because they were concerned about neutrality. Later on, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier would ask Malka about the influence of publishers exchanging favors/money for the opportunity to advertise on the site. Tyler’s response? He accused Major Nelson of attempting to bribe him for that offer. Nelson himself expressed his displeasure at the inaccuracy of Malka’s claim.  The appearance of neutrality is an interesting phrase given a number of NeoGAF PS4 themes that are made by m0dus (a moderator). While some of these were free, the ones that come at a cost give money to Sony, NeoGAF, and m0dus.
Omitted from the EDGE article was the time NeoGAF “donated” a user’s post to Kotaku in October 2011. On the 27th, ScOULaris made a thread asking which game handles weather changes the best. This person was surprised to find a Kotaku article with their name on it on the morning of the 28th. Brian Crecente said he cleared it with Tyler Malka directly. EviLore justified it by saying this was meant to create an open dialogue with Kotaku. While ScOULaris said he had no problem with what took place, he also made it clear that nobody asked him permission to use his post to begin with. ScOULaris only found out after the fact. NeoGAF terms of service were revised after the article was published, with changes that gave Tyler Malka permission to use people’s posts in this manner.
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There are simple things like games distributor PlayAsia laughing in their faces, but more in-depth scenarios play out too.
  • December 7th 2014: NeoGAF had a 28-page long meltdown about a character named “Lucky Chloe” in the upcoming Tekken 7 game, after her catgirl costume was revealed. By the end of that day, Tekken 7‘s director Katsuhiro Harada caught wind of the negative responses on NeoGAF. He questioned the notion that responses on one internet board somehow represented everyone’s opinion as a whole. The next day, Harada told people “Calm down and Don’t worry. That character are East Asia and Europe “Exclusive”. and I’ll say again. We’ve more new characters on TK7. She is JUST one of them. and She will be country exclusive (or region exclusive) character. We don’t include her for your region. That’s why I said Calm down and Don’t worry,” via Twitlonger. By the 9th, IGN reported on the story under the assumption that Americans weren’t going to get Lucky Chloe in Tekken 7 based solely on the responses Katsuhiro had given. But it turned out to not be true. At the start of January 2015 Katsuhiro Harada clarified Tekken 7 would be an equal experience for all players (Lucky Chloe included), and that IGN was wrong.
  • June 11th 2015: A few websites picked up a story implying the Devil May Cry series might not continue if the Special Edition of Devil May Cry 4 didn’t sell enough units. Their source? A NeoGAF thread. Some random lurker decided to take the Japanese text from the original interview with Hideaki Itsuno of Capcom, and stick it into Google Translate to read the piece in English. Never is it directly said that the future of the series rested on the sales of DMC 4 Special Edition. The other GAF users in the thread gravitated to that piece of loosely translated information and assumed what referred to sales of Devil May Cry 4 directly correlated to prospects of a sequel to the series. Folks bought into the rumor based on this, and with the game coming out later that month it was a critical time for Capcom to get everything right when it came to PR.
  • August 7th 2015: NeoGAF would butt heads with Nintendo Treehouse and help contribute to the termination of an employee. A GAF thread brought an excessive amount of attention onto employee Chris Pranger because of his appearance on the “Part Time Gamers” podcast. The program he went on was a small-time gig, but GAF found it and picked apart certain statements from Chris. One of these was the claim that Xenoblade wasn’t popular enough to back up the costs of bringing it to the United States. Another one was about NeoGAF itself, where Pranger brought up the site as a source of fan overreaction when it came to the impact of sales with the “Wii U” name choice. Places like GoNintendo and Always Nintendo picked up on the things mentioned in the NeoGAF thread, and a YouTube video got a lot of traction for talking about things mentioned. This overall candid approach to speaking about Nintendo as an employer was frowned upon, and the widespread attention led to Chris Pranger being let go.  In a now-deleted Facebook post on August 13th, he confirms his firing was a result of this podcast appearance. But furthermore, a section of it indicates the huge amount of social media/forum feedback plays a part in his grief. Kotaku’s article on the situation in addition to a follow-up thread on NeoGAF itself, suggest GAF had a role in making the whole ordeal happen.

If you wanted to understand how much of a nuisance NeoGAF can be to developers, Cliff Bleszinski expresses it the best. “NeoGAF, I’ll let you in on a secret. Most of the (hundreds) of developers I know avoid you like the plague and think you’re mostly cunts,” he tweeted.

You can read more about the drama behind that in a GAF thread about Cliff that’s been going on for seven years now, where Malka himself would respond to Bleszinski’s statement directly. David Jaffe got banned in January 2014 after responding to a thread that NeoGAF moderators baited him into in the first place.

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Despite the tussles, NeoGAF also became a notorious hub for insider information.

CBOAT (whose full name is “crazy buttocks on a train” according to his profile) has had a NeoGAF account since October 2004. His first leaks on NeoGAF pertained to Electronic Arts related documents, a contribution in light of the EA Spouse controversy back in November of that year. In January 2005, CBOAT came back with a morsel of information about EA having a hard time getting Xenon (the codename for the Xbox 360) to work with Renderware. The next month they followed up with an information blowout about Xbox 360 specs. It became clear by that point CBOAT was paranoid and a bit exotic. From there, CBOAT shows up sporadically all the way up until the end of 2009 with the EA layoffs, then again in 2010 when Ubisoft’s executive producers had some drama. He began making a name for himself for his style, giving just enough information for GAF readers if you read between the incoherence. 

Why did CBOAT speak like a drunk moron in his posts? “Makes it harder to be found by searching, and other websites and blogs aren’t likely to quote it,” is one logical explanation.

But then again, this is what NeoGAF’s moderators deemed to be a credible source.

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When Xbox One rumors first started to arise in April 2013, CBOAT was back in business. The mysterious leaker correctly predicted EA going all in with Titanfall on the system. He’d chip into the threads with tips, such as when Black Tusk Studios (folks who’d work on new Gears of War games) was behind schedule. They helped rally NeoGAF when some of the original policies for the system were coming out, in the hopes of making Microsoft change their tune. Throughout the summer CBOAT kept NeoGAF in the loop when it came to Microsoft developments. Sometimes they were thoughtful enough to include European countries as well. CBOAT started to decline in October, with their posting style getting more erratic.

But by 2014, CBOAT was more or less gone. Their writing pattern descended into indecipherable gibberish. This was partially because there was an incident in which someone was implicated to be CBOAT, causing a controversy in itself. To back up a bit – on the 27th of January 2014 CBOAT posted a screenshot of a Valve powerpoint that showed off the Source 2 engine and what they said hinted at Left 4 Dead 3 (or at least a Left 4 Dead 2 remaster). They admitted to getting the pictures from someone else. But people who took a closer look found that the language Powerpoint was in, was German. This led to some speculation, which spiraled into a full-blown conspiracy theory. According to this blog, NeoGAF was originally able to connect some dots after they followed the image links in CBOAT’s post. It led back to a user by the name of ekim, who proceeded to erase any evidence of connections leading back to them in this situation. But ekim knew the jig was up and made a confession on the 29th. They told NeoGAF they gave the pictures to CBOAT in the first place. ekim said they apologized to Valve directly, and all they wanted was for NeoGAF’s witch-hunting to cease.

While the NeoGAF moderators acted quickly to help ekim clean up any fingerprints, there’s nothing suggesting ekim was a mod themselves. It leaves CBOAT as more of an open-ended mystery, seeing as there’s currently no conclusive evidence to suggest their identity.

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CBOAT didn’t get caught. But an NPD leaker named Aquamarine did.

Aquamarine had a fascination with sales and analysis and went to NeoGAF to talk about it because they considered it a place of influence. Take a look at their account for yourself and you’ll find post after post where she’d be head-first into discussions about that. Sometimes they’d talk about the numbers themselves (like PS4 sales), other times they’d explore the “why” instead. It was a known fact that Aquamarine knew how these estimation charts worked. They were so confident in themselves, they weren’t afraid to call out other websites like VGChartz for their projections.

Aquamarine knew NPD inside and out. If you don’t know what the NPD is, she once took the time to go over that:

the npd group receives direct, point-of-sale video game sell-through data from hundreds of retailers, including all of the major retailers in the united states.

so gamestop, gamestop.com, walmart, walmart.com, sam’s club, samsclub.com, target, target.com, best buy, bestbuy.com, newegg.com, amazon.com, etc.

their reports directly represent 90-95% of the entire usa physical retail market with direct pos sell-through numbers.

the npd group only extrapolates out 5-10% of the physical retail market (from the super-minor retailers they don’t track) using a variety of proprietary and sophisticated algorithms based on market precedent.

one could argue that driveclub had a larger-than-normal percentage of sales represented through digital sales from psn. that’s certainly a valid point.

but for what the npd group tracks (physical retail), they do indeed provide sales numbers.

NPD tracks sell-through from USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Aquamarine’s folly was they were too cocky about never getting caught. If the NPD went by Aqua’s posts alone, they’d find a lot: She’s likely a Microsoft shareholder, British but lives in Manhattan New York, works at JP Morgan Chase in a higher level position (going as far as to show everyone her credit card), age range is somewhere beyond 30 years old, net worth over $1 million, considers themselves Republican, uses Time Warner Cable internet service (going as far as to show everyone their cable bill), their father is a doctor, and used a Note 4 phone. Aquamarine didn’t just use NeoGAF to talk about numbers, but they shared a lot about themselves along with that.

To better understand what Aquamarine exactly got caught for – NPD’s numbers are normally only released to people who pay for them. To help curtail leakers the NPD allegedly modifies the numbers (within the single digits range) from client to client. Where the NeoGAF line becomes blurry is the NPD and GFK were reportedly aware of the site and used to give them exclusives on data before a change in management happened. According to Aquamarine, the NPD shuts down leakers only when situations become too high profile to ignore. By March 2015 she made it clear there was outside pressure factoring into her capability of leaking sales data.

AquamarineOnNeoGAF

On the 9th of March 2015, Aquamarine posted that they were caught. They explained their whole story. Starting their leaking in late 2012, they were under the impression that nobody would’ve noticed since NPD was more relaxed. But as the years went by, management cracked down on that in their policies. In response, Aquamarine changed up their methods in order to be more discrete. Regardless, NPD still managed to identify Aquamarine and accosted JP Morgan Chase so they’d deal with her. Things eventually calmed down and an attempt at negotiation was made, but it ended up with Aquamarine being forced to delete any public profiles they have. Since that’s impossible on NeoGAF, she requested to be permabanned (which the mods did).

While I argue it was fairly easy to identify Aquamarine based on their personal openness, a more direct alternative explanation as to how she was identified can be found in the NeoGAF terms of service.

Very last line:

D. We reserve the right to reveal your identity (or whatever information we know about you), typically in (but not limited to) the event of a complaint or legal action arising from any message posted by you.

With an email alone, NPD could’ve easily tracked Aquamarine’s identity down.

Part of NeoGAF’s fragile ecosystem are the leakers that appear and spice up the website. Whether it’s someone like ntkrnl going into extensive detail about the Xbox One or Abdiel from Best Buy giving NeoGAF perspective from behind the curtain. Naturally, there are wannabes thrown into the mix. People like Thuway have tried to pretend they’ve had insider information with Naughty Dog, only to get called out directly after the fact. In cases like Pete Dodd, who claimed the director of Drive Club was replaced for not delivering on time? They’re responded to by the developer themselves directly on NeoGAF, telling Dodd that they are sharing false information.

Thuway

Of course, the moderation manipulates this system. When Hatred was first revealed, the controversial video game was barred from any discussion on NeoGAF. Later on, the reason for this decision as given by the mods themselves would be contradictory. In November 2015, a localization specialist at XSEED Games got the NeoGAF banhammer. His name was Tom and he went by the handle of “wyrdwad” on the site. In a thread about fan service, he argued that diversity was a thing that was coming to the gaming industry naturally and that it’s something which shouldn’t be forced. Tom was optimistic about the position of indie gaming and encouraged an open way of thinking when it came to the diversity those titles offered. Overall it was an enlightening conversation. He was calm about how he addressed other people’s disagreements, and even politely bowed out when he felt like it was appropriate.

For doing that? Banned. People have speculated as to what triggered the moderators. But we can never know for sure based on the obfuscation in place with NeoGAF’s ban system.

MoxxiRapp

A further example of this double standard can be found in the contrasting responses between how NeoGAF handled the Alison Rapp controversy with how they treated Nikki Moxxi. In the former, Rapp was fired from Nintendo Treehouse after it came to light she had a second job, which is against Nintendo company policy. The statement from Nintendo points out that her firing had no relation to any criticisms leveled against her from members of GamerGate. Rapp’s own tweets suggest that moonlighting was not against Nintendo policy and that her removal from the company was politically related. In the NeoGAF thread discussing the matter, the moderators went into a full-on lockdown on the topic. They established firm ground rules and took an aggressive stance towards suspicious behavior. They were keen on shoveling all the blame onto GamerGate, of course. In the latter, the Daily Beast released an article in September 2016 detailing Palmer Luckey’s involvement in a Trump-related campaign group. The moderators did nothing to prevent the harassment of Nikki Moxxi, doing a complete 180-degree turn from how they handled Alison Rapp. While the article didn’t mention Luckey’s girlfriend, NeoGAF soon picked up on the fact Nikki Moxxi was a GamerGater and targeted her. On top of the attacks Luckey received (like vandalizing his Wikipedia page), Moxxi was the victim of NeoGAF moderators taking a hands-off approach. Moderators like Besada and Bishop were there in the thread and they let posts attacking Ms. Moxxi slip on by while they joined in on the dogpile. They did have time to ban the person calling attention to the fact that NeoGAF was responsible for harassing Nikki off of Twitter. You can see a full list of posts from users and moderators being asleep at the wheel here.

“Your concerns, while misplaced, have been noted,” said the ban message to the user who spoke out against NeoGAF’s dogpiling.

That looming NeoGAF influence isn’t just a thing for gaming. With the off-topic section of the website opening the doors to discussion for anything else, the potential for impact in other areas of interest is prevalent.

MalkaMeetsObama

Take politics, for example. There are posts of mods openly soliciting donations to the Hillary Clinton campaign in the Summer of 2016. At the end of that August, VICE reported that NeoGAF was one of the top 5 referrers to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website. Tyler Malka himself got the chance to meet President Obama in March 2016 and threw a couple grand at the Democrats (and then some) during Election season. After the US Presidential Elections didn’t swing in NeoGAF’s favor, bans were swiftly handed out to anyone supporting the outcome.

Who exactly are some of these moderators? What kind of direction did they influence the discourse on NeoGAF?

Part 2 talked about how Boogie went to war with NeoGAF.

Part 4 talks about some of the moderators on the website.

Click here to return to the hub page.

NeoGAF’s Shadows II: Boogie2988’s War

Jon Jafari isn’t the first to face NeoGAF fueled controversy. A YouTuber by the name of Boogie2988 got a taste of the website’s dark side back in 2014, with the outbreak of GamerGate. He does a lot of gaming related videos himself, along with blogs about his life and discussions about current events. NeoGAF has a reputation of actively opposing the topic. This is the same website that deemed Red Letter Media “gamegators” for one simple movie review.

I was an acquaintance of Boogie’s back when he was going through all of this with NeoGAF. I can testify to the fact that he went through the incidents of doxing and harassment he alludes to during this period. It was difficult to see someone that thousands of people look up to in such a moment of weakness. For years I’ve felt guilty about not being able to do more to help him back then.

Boogie2988NeoGAFHeader

NeoGAF’s owner Tyler Malka came down hard on GamerGate in September 2014.

After this #gamergate mob has continued its crusade, against NeoGAF in particular — for attempting to be socially progressive and for banning some of the hateful #gamergate proponents — I threw out some (crass, of course; I love it) tweets toward the movement in response, and have since been met with harassment, hate speech, and doxing attempts.

To be clear, this is a movement with no real discernible agenda other than hate and harassment, stemming from disdain toward the idea of social equality. And its main weapon seems to be, hilariously, throwing back all of those terms at its “oppressors.” Socially progressive website like RPS that has tried to expose and tackle difficult social issues in the gaming scene? Label it sexist, misogynist, hypocritical, *and* “SJW.” Same thing for NeoGAF, Kotaku, Polygon, and whatever other sites have tried to talk about gaming’s social problems. No matter what the stated agenda is, the commentary always comes back to this bizarre “SJW vs MRA” debate, and that colors the whole argument.

A full transcript of Boogie’s posts on NeoGAF is available here. While the context might help put things into perspective, be warned that the overall journey is uncomfortable and painful to read at certain points.

But it also serves as a great example of what happens when someone takes their ideological stance and presents it in full earnest to NeoGAF.  It gets destroyed.

His first NeoGAF foray was on September 4th, 2014, when he engaged with the community to talk about his I Am NOT A Bigot. Are You? video. It was one of Boogie’s earliest responses to the GamerGate controversy, and he encouraged people on both sides to discuss ideas rather than make any kind of personal attacks against one another.

Boogie’s main interests were: protecting gaming from being attacked, standing up for gamers as a community, and warning folks that the media would take the GamerGate narrative and run with it. Boogie stressed his support for feminism and disavowment of harassment, talking about the topic with NeoGAF into the wee hours of the early morning. All to make sure his points weren’t misunderstood.

From September 6th and onward through October, Boogie took a deep dive into NeoGAF’s GamerGate general discussion thread. This 400-page leviathan is where discourse about the events unfolding with GG was contained. From the outset, Boogie was stuck in a position where he had to make it clear he was only responsible for his own behavior, yet he couldn’t help but emphasize with the terrible things happening to others online. He expressed a desire to try and keep order between the warring sides and to make something good out of the mess that was happening.  Early on, the goal of making gaming journalism more honest was on the forefront of his mind.

Boogie2988NeoGAFHammering

The first night had Boogie expressing optimism about NeoGAF before he went to bed. But it would become clear later on that he might’ve spoken too soon. By that evening, he was reiterating on his aims to fight back against blanket statements the media was making about gamers. He saw the conversation about women in gaming and the need for transparency in journalism as ideas that complimented one another. But Boogie’s weaknesses would begin to show, as he made it clear to the thread lurkers that he was trying to please everyone. Boogie tried to protect his self-image, and as a result, he couldn’t help but argue with NeoGAF posters accusing him of various forms of “attacks” online. These scuffles would normally end up with a confession by Boogie saying he was running on little sleep. Whenever he did dose off, he expressed hopes that the internet would calm down by the time he woke up.

It was naive. But Boogie gave it his all, making long posts fully explaining his experiences and points of view whenever he felt necessary. In return, NeoGAF threw more assertions and claims at him for him to have to explain.

September 8th, 2014. Boogie admits to having his first breakdown.

I am sincerely dying for that day. Like literally dying. I broke my diet for the first time tonight. I ate a fried fucking pie. I cried while I ate it.

I’m not sleeping, I’m having heart arythmia, I can’t think straight, and I’m just scared shitless and I feel terrible for everyone on all sides of this thing being harmed. I’m constantly second guessing myself and damning myself for the role I’m having in it and that’s manifesting in the return of the depression and my compulsive over eating.

I would do literally anything for gamergaters and gaming journalists to try to find some sort of common ground. but its not happening and I know it and I feel I’m letting myself and plenty others down if I don’t continue to participate and reminding people to remain civil.

The negative criticisms I’ve seen in this thread, though warranted, are making me feel evern worse. But I guess I knew that was coming for speaking my mind.

I’m just hoping I survive this at this point. Or maybe I’m hoping I won’t. I don’t know yet.

But I can’t wait until its over to find out.

He was aware of his flaws as a person. Regardless, Boogie continued his NeoGAF discussions as he felt it would help making people have empathy toward the situation. The vicious cycle continued. Boogie stood firm to his ideals and desires to help, NeoGAF posters would twist his words, and the end result of that would be a personal admission by him of being tired and worn outIt was fueled by NeoGAF’s tenacity to keep pushing the envelope. He felt obligated to respond to anyone online who defamed his character.

Boogie hit the eject button on September 8th, announcing his decision to step back from the conversation in a blog post. But he’d be back.

On the 15th of September, Boogie wrote he was being harassed by people on NeoGAF and by folks in the gaming industry. Reentering the conversation after seeing his name brought up in the thread, he confessed to discussing GamerGate with 4chan users. Boogie gave a personal assurance that he preached the same message to them as he did to NeoGAF. Not only was he defending himself, but now he was also defending the other websites where this controversy got discussed. Still unwavering, Boogie tried to stress the humanity behind everyone, express his love for the gaming industry, and hope for a peaceful resolution to the GamerGate situation. But he was biting off more than he could chew. As he grew more concerned about his career being threatened, he was still drawn in by his empathy for others. This contrasting combination of factors spurred him to push his passion for the discussion even harder. The thread’s response to Boogie’s neutrality was attempting to prod him towards one direction or another.

Same day. 09:29 AM.

I believe that the people involved are starting to get frustrated and agitated and they’re currently employing some sort of “you’re either with us or against us” and since I am clearly NOT for their side (or any other side) its frustrating for them to deal with this.

its certainly not how the majority feel but its how some of them feel and I’m curious to see how far they’ll take the notion. Its entirely possible my efforts will be for naught and my attempts to preach kindness and moderation to them will be lost and I’ll have done all of this damage to my reputation for no good reason.

But that’s the price you pay when you dance with the devil, I guess.

Boogie was having a journey of identity and introspection. He said he was “grateful” to NeoGAF despite the stress and trouble it caused him. Listening intently to the responses from the thread, Boogie slipped into a state of hyperawareness of his word choice at their behest. The impact of NeoGAF’s replies to Boogie are clear, when you see his reiteration of discussion goals now includes what NeoGAF wanted from Boogie. Rather than what Boogie wanted for himself.

By the 18th, Boogie’s conversation with NeoGAF turned to the topic of extremism. His definition of extremism was: not being open to new ideas, stubborn about your way of life, and hostile to opposition. At this point of the thread, Boogie made it clear that he wasn’t a GamerGater anymore, only continuing his public dialogue about these topics because of their impact on the gaming industry. As a self-designated third party, he hoped to continue the discussion. That in itself turned it’s attention toward threats and doxing as Boogie revealed what had happened to himself. He explored the ideas of where the blame should be placed for such things.

Boogie2988NeoGAFTorture

Boogie called part of his job as “endures torture by assholes,” but it’s unclear if he was referring to NeoGAF as a whole or something in particular. For him, it was all about trying to make the best of the environment.

On the 22nd, Boogie hit an obstacle with general online discourse after discovering he was on a Twitter blocklist. This is where the GamerGate discussions started getting under his skin.  Back in 2014, Twitter blocks worked differently and allowed a blocked user to see the profiles and tweets of someone who blocked them if it was brought into their personal timeline. Boogie found out about the existence of a list after he tried to reply to a tweet from Anthony Burch and couldn’t send it. He didn’t see any particular list, but he was told about the potential of one and being on it himself. Boogie was aware that his words were under close scrutiny on Twitter and everywhere else online, and he chalked up the ordeal to the fact that GamerGate was highly polarizing.  Boogie even called out a Cracked.com article for this pattern of behavior by dissecting the message it was trying to send readers. Clickbait. He spent most of an afternoon talking about how people in the GamerGate movement felt, along with how the Cracked.com article exacerbated that. But by this point, NeoGAF was broadening the definition of what GamerGate was. Boogie’s fight was now stopping the generalization of gamers as a whole. He told the thread the best bet was to appeal to the majority in the middle, rather than speaking in absolutes. But the big guy’s overall sanity was cracking. Boogie told NeoGAF on the evening of the 23rd he had spent the last two days fighting off toxicity on social media. It began to dawn on him that the topics at the center of GamerGate were going to be keenly focused on for a long time, even if the hashtag itself died off.

At the start of the 24th, Boogie announced to NeoGAF he was doxed a third time. r/shitredditsays targeted Boogie2988 along with Jontron and shoe0nhead, in a coordinated attack against what was their assumption to be the leaders of #GamerGate. While expressing his own concerns about people accusing him of faking it for sympathy, Boogie said he was going to coax his attackers by livestreaming.

The psychological trauma of this shows us this is the point where Boogie should’ve stepped back from the conversation completely. The merits of having a meaningful discussion on NeoGAF were evaporating, as more urgent matters of safety took precedent. In Boogie’s defense, he did vanish from the NeoGAF thread for a time after that. Checking back in briefly on the 28th to reassure everyone he was still in one piece.

NeogafBoogie2988BannedForever

But that didn’t last. He was banned from NeoGAF on October 13th, 2014. The reason for the ban was posted voluntarily by Boogie2988 himself. Reading as follows:

Your time at NeoGAF has been spent consistently apologizing for — and disingenuously ignoring the actions of — a movement of harassment and hate, while diverting as much attention as possible away from the issues at hand and toward yourself. You are not the victim here for being thought less of in your tacit support of disgusting and illegal behavior. Individuals standing up for victims continue to receive thousands of hate messages and death threats, and a third member of the video game industry is forced out of her home and into hiding. People you claim are your friends are leaving social media behind in the wake of mass harassment by the movement you are championing. These are your people. This is your movement. As you’ve also expressed a strong desire to leave NeoGAF but continue to participate, you’ll now have some more free time to reflect on your decisions of the past several weeks. -NeoGAF Administration

This post, presumably by ‎Tyler Malka himself, paints NeoGAF as a gated community that prides itself as an ambivalent authority working on behalf of the gaming industry’s best interests.

It was driven by NeoGAF’s beliefs toward GamerGate. But maybe being banned was for the best for Boogie’s well-being.

But let’s back it up a bit.  We can see a microcosm of Boogie’s downfall on NeoGAF by glancing at his Twitter feed in the days leading up to his ban. On October 11th, Boogie was happy to tweet that the Shadow of Mordor incident had an impact paid promotion contracts. He was confident that game studios would let influencers show the flaws of the game and be more impartial in the future. “This is how it’s supposed to work. Shady shit happened. Shady shit got exposed. Shady shit got changed. Take note, game journalists,” he wrote.

On the 12th, Boogie disavowed the attack on Brianna Wu. In his thoughts on the topic, there was extra emphasis on the need for the media to not make sweeping generalizations. Lines up with what he told NeoGAF in their discussions. Topping it all off was a nervous breakdown about the GamerGate controversy. He filmed a video venting his thoughts, calling his effort to do so “career suicide” in advance. I’d share it here but he deleted it at some point afterward.

This is what a month long effort to talk to NeoGAF results in.

DiscourseOnNeoGAF

Boogie stepped back into NeoGAF to refute anything they’d say about his nervous breakdown video (which was taken down at some point after all of this took place).  He had hoped it would slip unnoticed to the eyes of NeoGAF, but it apparently came up in the discussion thread. Boogie told them all he was going to get attacked no matter what, GamerGate or no GamerGate. It was just a fact of life.

The situation reared its head in the early morning hours of October 13th.

I honestly don’t fucking know whats even going on any more but its killing me inside that I’m some fucking monster because I continue to see the point both sides are making. I wish one of you (or even some crazed gamergater) would have the decency to just fucking make good on your threats and ACTUALLY FUCKING KILL ME so i could get a moments rest and get away from this fucking agony.

Boogie made it clear to NeoGAF their words disappointed him the most, before requesting again for someone to kill him. He again asked for death after shouting at the thread that his goals for industry integrity and diversity were apparently meaningless now. It actually started to make people worried. In response, Boogie brought up his wish to be “put out of my misery” once more. All the effort out into a dialogue was for naught, corrupted by the barrage of NeoGAF posts that attacked Boogie and called him garbage. To him it seemed like the end of his career (and by extension of that his life), and Boogie thought the best option at that point was someone ending it for him. In this last emotional breakdown, he laid the blame for his woes on NeoGAF. The experience made him feel terrible about all of his hopes for gaming as a hobby. In Boogie’s own words, defending video games and the people in the community was as much of a compulsion for him as eating was.

“christ. i’m just fucking exhausted. I hope whoever is going to make good on these death threats will just fucking get it done already. I’m not afraid of dying, but i’m terrified of continuing to live in fear,” he told them.

BoogieOfTheChrist

Boogie2988 let NeoGAF guide his thoughts, self-esteem, and decision-making. As a result of that, he had a mental breakdown and ended up getting banned. I don’t think Boogie deserved the emotionally draining rollercoaster he went on. Far from it. But the mods were right in banning him because of the amount of personal suffering he was going through, asking people in that thread (multiple times) to kill him. The confusion arises in the fact that wasn’t the stated reason on the official ban notice itself.  He went into a GamerGate GENERAL discussion thread with the goal of trying to find a middle ground and please everyone. But his ideas and words were presented to not just fans or people who watched him, but strangers as well. What Boogie was attempting to do was a suicide mission. No matter how often he made his stances, goals, and points of view clear?  There was no way for that venture to have a positive outcome. There was always going to be people dead-set in their own ways, and Boogie would feel compelled to respond.

All around, what happened with NeoGAF and Boogie2988 in 2014 wasn’t pretty.

But it plays into the NeoGAF pile-on dynamic pretty clearly. Boogie2988 was overwhelmed by the amount of negativity going on in the thread, and it fried his brain.

There was still more to it though.

Jason Schreier of Kotaku was a participant in that NeoGAF thread, and he got into arguments with Boogie over his stance on GamerGate. Boogie would later claim that Kotaku had blacklisted him during this time period. He sums up the ordeal in a November 2015 video that goes over the topic. What he defines as blacklisting is regular lines of communication being cut out and stopping any level of acknowledgment in their articles. Boogie admits that Jason didn’t outright say that Kotaku would never write about him again. Instead, he encourages viewers to look over the statements that Schreier made publicly on NeoGAF to come to that conclusion.

Here they are.

Jason called it a lie. “@jasonschreier @TalonBrown Jason, what possible reason do I have to lie? What would the gain be? You even said it publicly. It’s on neogaf,” Boogie wrote.

But he could be referring to another statement when using the “It’s on neogaf” phrase. Earlier in that tweet thread, he told someone that Jason publicly demanded Boogie to condemn GamerGate, and he got shunned from that moment on.

That did indeed happen.

Kotaku’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo denied the blacklisting claims and reached out to Boogie privately via email to discuss the matter. He’d would end up writing a Twitlonger about the subject on the 22nd of November. Boogie felt hurt about what Kotaku did to him back in 2014, but he also expressed regret for making the situation worse for them during a difficult time.

And that’s the pretense for what happened with Boogie recently in the recent JonTron controversy. A transformation from love and admiration, to fear and regret, and finally a deep sense of bitterness and disgust. A ban from their website is something that tends to be remembered for a long time.

boogie2988neogaftransformation

Fast forward to March 2017, and we see the same vicious Boogie/NeoGAF cycle repeat itself.

Boogie threw his hat into the internet ring with a response video on March 14th, 2017. He decided to talk about Jontron, Pewdiepie, and Colin Moriarty all at once. Boogie says in the video that he was going to discuss Philip DeFranco’s drama as well but he never did.

NeoGAF took offense at the fact that Boogie was soft in his critique of JonTron. During the start of a thread dedicated to Boogie specifically, they were quick to bring up he was banned from the site. The title itself “Boogie2988: I don’t agree with JonTron, but I dont fault him for trying on the idea,” summed up GAF’s complaints. Much like his stance in 2014, Boogie tried to take a middle of the road approach when it came to talking about the situation. He was added to the “nazi list” in their eyes, and NeoGAF painted Boogie’s words in the most extremist light possible. They never discussed the contents of the entire video, instead latching onto points of it that made NeoGAF outraged. Some of them directed their anger towards YouTubers in general. Others wanted to push the controversy as much as possible. At least one GAF member would say Boogie earned the public’s ire and deserved whatever happened to him.

But what stands out the most in Boogie’s rambling about JonTron’s situation was this one statement. “Make no mistake though. There are some key players doing everything they can to damage jon and his career because they don’t like his views,” Boogie wrote.

What did Boogie mean by this?

Boogie would end up deleting all the tweets he made on the subject, replacing it with a Twitlonger on the 26th of March. He acknowledges that he shouldn’t have lumped in Jontron’s situation with Pewdiepie’s and Colin Moriarty’s, as the former engaged in a serious political debate while the latter made jokes. Going on to explain his neutral approach to the topic, Boogie stands by the notion that being destructive about this whole thing isn’t a good idea. The practice of publicly attacking others online and causing a dogpile is something he says he’s incapable of doing.

He alludes to some of the feedback he got as a result of his involvement in the Jontron discussions:

I believe most of what can be said of me has been. I’ve heard things from as innocuous as “boogie doesn’t seem to really get it” to “isn’t boogie dead yet? I wish he’d die soon so he’d do less damage.” I have been called a “piece of shit” by people more in the last 24 hours than I have been called a fat ass.

NeoGAF played a large role in that wave of toxicity that Boogie received. He had legitimate fears for his career back in 2014, and it echoed in his statement about “key players” attacking Jontron when the Yooka-Laylee controversy happened almost three years later.

So how exactly did the games industry get intertwined with NeoGAF?

Part 3 answers that question.

Part 1 talked about JonTron’s Yooka-Laylee controversy.

Click here to return to the hub page.

NeoGAF’s Shadows I: Attack on JonTron

Who is Jon Jafari? He’s the mastermind behind JonTronShow the YouTube channel. Jon’s videos delve into the wonderful world of video games, reviewing them in a humor-based presentation with skits and comedy. He was one-half of the original Game Grumps, working alongside Arin Hanson in a series of Let’s Play videos. The popularity of that skyrocketed, allowing Jon’s own channel to be in a comfortable position of fame once he got back to doing videos on a semi-regular basis.

That’s pretty much all people knew (or cared) about Jafari before the Playtonic incident happened.

Thursday. March 23rd, 2017. Gaming media website gamesindustry.biz posts an article.

UK developer Playtonic has removed the controversial YouTuber JonTron from its upcoming title Yooka-Laylee.
JonTron – real name Jon Jafari – has found himself in the news in recent weeks following a series of far-right views about immigration, ethnicity and nationalism.

Some folks saw the move coming. But others in the community had no idea what was going on. Jontron himself had uploaded a Q&A video at the end of February saying that politics wasn’t something he wanted to mix with his career.  “I couldn’t care less about your political affiliation,” he said.

JonTronNeoGafHeader

A look at the tweets made back in 2015 shows that people were excited and enthusiastic about Jontron’s involvement with Yooka-Laylee.  This optimism was generally present with mentions on the topic throughout 2016, with the end of January 2017 being the first time any negative connotations show up. This can be attributed to the fact that JonTron did a livestream with Sargon of Akkad. Not only is Sargon considered to be politically active, the discussions had on-air between him and Jon were political themselves. Many of the things Jafari said at that time were taken out of context and started a public opposition of negativity against Jon’s character.  The tweet demand that Jontron be removed from Yooka-Laylee gained momentum only after the debate with Destiny. The totals there were meager at best. Elsewhere on the internet, there were only 2 comments on the game’s Kickstarter page in that same timeframe. The only pre-article mention of Jontron on Playtonic’s website was a thread created by a freshly made account, and it had a total of 7 responses before the news broke.

It’s based on these minute levels of activity elsewhere that lead to the conclusion Jon Jafari’s removal from Yooka-Laylee was a NeoGAF-backed effort.

The site hadn’t talked about Jafari much in the past, with the only rumblings of it beginning after he made political tweets reacting to the Women’s March. Popular gaming youtuber Jon Tron is a sexist shit-head – #JonTronIsOverParty? read the title of a 17-page long thread from January 24th. One of their main examples of evidence was a Breitbart interview Jafari did back in November 2016. The sheer fact that Jon agreed to that was sufficient proof for NeoGAF that he was a white supremacist. It was in January 2017 was when NeoGAF’s campaign against Jontron began. “I let Playtonic know the kind of person they’re working with,” wrote one post. The idea that NeoGAF was going after him was flat-out stated.

After that spat, things died down for a short while between the two groups. But it wouldn’t last long.

KingAndJonTron

On March 12th, US Representative from the state of Iowa, Steve King, made a controversial statement. King was reacting to Islamic extremism in Europe, leading him to write “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” in a tweet.

Jontron tweeted a reaction. “Wow, how scandalous, Steve King doesn’t want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!”

That was the beginning of a long afternoon of Twitter debate for Jontron. Skimming over the entire list of tweets may be helpful in understanding the context. The topic at the center of it was mass immigration, and while race played a role in that discussion it was not the entirety of it. Jafari’s debate tried to look at things from a historical aspect, and that exchange of ideas caught the attention of a streamer named OmniDestiny.  Destiny was very politically charged and he made JonTron kick up his arguments a notch. Yes, JonTron used the phrase “demographic suicide” at one point. But it was in the context of a larger discussion about cultural heritage, identity, and trying to understand what being a minority means.

To be clear, I don’t care if you agree or disagree with Jon’s stances. 

“I’ll debate with you if you want, no harm in it,” JonTron tweeted to OmniDestiny at 7:43 PM. The debate didn’t start until 10:04 that evening, as JonTron had to eat a burger first.

It’s a two-hour long talk, but it’s important to mention it because of the shockwaves it’d send in the weeks afterward.

It was a very heated discussion, and the gaming community’s opinions of that would be highly divided. In Jon’s defense, it’s worth pointing out that he  himself admitted he did not articulate some of his points as well as he could have.

The NeoGAF thread discussing these events was 97 pages long. If you were to pick any of the pages at random, chances are in favor of it being filled with comments calling JonTron a white supremacist. The OP was someone named Cerium. Remember the name, as they’ll show up later on when the Yooka-Laylee stuff happens.

On March 19th, Jontron uploaded a video responding to the controversy surrounding his tweets and debate. It doesn’t pull any punches, with Jon clarifying straightforward what he meant in the prior week. The video itself was unlisted, as to not distract from the usual style of content on the JonTronShow YouTube channel. Despite all of these precautions, the video would generate a NeoGAF thread that was 42 pages long. A lot of people commenting say they don’t want to watch the video at all and ask other GAF folks for a summary instead. By relying on second-hand summaries instead of watching for themselves, it reinforces the hive-mind way of thinking.

These things would serve as the prelude to the Yooka-Laylee situation. Playtonic’s decision to cut Jontron out of the game due to his political views, and the public response on both sides to the argument.

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A NeoGAF moderator tweeted at Playtonic on the morning of the 23rd. “Can you clarify whether JonTron is still in the game after his racist, white supremacist remarks? NeoGAF is curious,” they wrote. The mod’s inquiry was backed by a thread on the site that asked if Jontron was still involved with the project, given recent events. The same person who started that thread was the OP for earlier Jontron threads, and they were the first to mention Jafari in the Yooka-Laylee general thread on March 23rd.

This OP was Cerium. To understand how a NeoGAF pile-on works, all one needs to do is see the amount of effort Cerium put into ousting JonTron. They essentially rallied that Yooka-Laylee general thread in an effort to get the studio to respond, giving “you’re either with us or against us” sort of reasoning. It wasn’t long after they got a few others joined in. It’s here we learn Jontron was in the game’s credits, according to a passerby poster. “This is not diet racism, this is full on Stormfront quality white nationalism,”

“This is not diet racism, this is full on Stormfront quality white nationalism,” Cerium remarked about Jon’s statements.

Some posters said Cerium was taking this too far and Jontron had no bearing on the rest of the game outside of his cameo. Cerium deflected these responses and encouraged NeoGAF to put more pressure on the studio. Another user suggested the idea get posted in Jontron related threads to help it gain traction.

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Playtonic Games was put into a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” situation with Jontron. Cerium said they needed a statement from Playtonic about Jontron because the game was so close to release.  To get that answer, NeoGAF put on pressure via social media. They started to dig into the developer’s Twitter accounts and mock their tweets. Users were escalating their inquiries to them directly on top of the official @PlaytonicGames account. If they weren’t going to get the response they wanted, NeoGAF already had someone to pin the blame on.

“Seems they’re also douches,” wrote a user named Jett.

Other posts in the thread called the development team “a lot of white dudes” when describing them, and analyzed Grant Kirkhope’s politics as a means of judging his character.

At 1:40 PM NeoGAF time on March 23rd, it was posted Jontron’s voice was removed. Accompanied by a link to the gamesindustry.biz article. That’s how most people would first hear about this situation outside of the NeoGAF bubble, intensifying the situation to new levels of attention in the days that followed.

But back in the thread – the response that says it all is the one from the person who started the internet fire.

“Would you look at that, Playtonic was as cool as I thought they would be and removing the Nazi was as simple as I thought it would be. A happy ending,” Cerium wrote.

After that, the Yooka-Laylee general thread dropped the subject completely. It was like Jontron never even existed. The place that had become a war room for a letter writing campaign to Playtonic had simmered down just as fast as it rolled in.

Jontron responded a few hours later, saying “Unfortunate to see Playtonic remove me from Yooka Laylee, but I understand their decision. I wish them the best with their launch!”

It was a PR friendly and neutral response, for sure.  But the outrage fires would still burn.  The GAF moderators herded everyone away from the Yooka-Laylee general and into containment. NeoGAF had an 83-page long thread dedicated to discussing Jontron’s removal and the gamesindustry.biz article in particular.

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But what kind of outside influence and pressure could’ve been involved here?

There were tweets by small-time websites like David Jones, founder of a fan club called Rare & Friends.  The morning after Jontron’s March 12th/13th debate, they tweeted at @PlaytonicGames. Expressing shock, they asked the studio if JonTron was still going to be in Yooka-Laylee. There was no explanation by Jones as to what brought this up, save for a link to NeoGAF discussion threads.  After Jafari’s removal was announced, Jones made sure to praise Playtonic for their decision. In a separate conversation, David Jones fantasized about Jon being personally disturbed by the removal.  Taunting him, he wrote “and I find that thought pleasing. 🙂 You reap what you sow, Jon,” in a tweet.

On a higher level of magnitude, Playtonic Games faced pressure from a former games journalist turned Avant-Garde Economist named Lewie Procter. Based out of the UK, he’s built up his website savygamer.co.uk for nearly a decade. Between March 2009 and November 2013, Lewie was a Section Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun and had a Freelance stint with VG247 somewhere in that time-frame. Lewie tried to get onto NeoGAF for a while, being rejected as far back as 2009 for an account. He still browsed and had others post things on the site on his behalf. Procter was actively aware of game journalism’s bad habit of writing articles based purely on things they saw on GAF.

Lewie hated Jontron for ages and used the same attacks on other YouTube figures.  When Cerium posed the question of Jontron’s involvement to NeoGAF, Procter was one of the first to rally behind it. He reframed the argument in terms of the perception of Yooka-Laylee as a game, and openly embraced the notion that cutting Jafari out would cost Playtonic money.  Procter fell to the cliché of using children as an example claiming Jontron’s words had an influence on them.

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When it comes to understanding his intentions, all we need to see is a post made by Lewie in the Yooka-Laylee general thread. “Were it me, I’d be willing to go to extreme lengths to remove a white supremacist from a creative work I was planning on releasing,” he admitted.

Lewie implied that the online discourse would not be over with the NeoGAF thread. Not only was he keenly aware of the Twitter bombardment aspect to it, Procter was one of the first to cause a stir on that platform. Tweets mirrored his NeoGAF comments, essentially.

His response to someone bringing the race of Playtonic’s team members into question was initially disturbing, as he appears willing to explore the idea of the company being white supremacists themselves. After talking with Mr. Procter about it, he says his response had nothing to do with talking about the skin color of the developers, and that he was focusing only on the political beliefs aspect.

This was what he said when someone called the Playtonic team a bunch of white dudes:

Their apparent association with a white supremacist raises some questions.

Questions that could very easily be answered by simply issuing a statement confirming that JonTron does not feature in their game.

Edit: people don’t have to boycott this game, or indeed to have any interest in it in the first place to wish that the games industry were a less welcoming place to raging white supremacists.

To Lewie, this ordeal was more of an opportunity to knock down one of his ideological opponents. When Pewdiepie faced controversy after the Wall Street Journal had Disney punish him for his humor, Procter cheered it on. “Hey that’s a good start youtube how about getting rid of all the other bigots,” he tweeted.

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Disclaimer: Playtonic was well within their rights to remove JonTron from their game, regardless if you agree with their reasoning for doing so. I disavow any witch-hunting and will have none of that.

Andy Robinson is involved with Yooka-Laylee as a writer. But Andy came from a different background than his Rare comrades. He worked at Future Publishing and ComputerandVideoGames.com as an Editor between April 2010 and January 2015, making his transition to the gaming industry by becoming a publicist for Bandai Namco. For whatever reason, that didn’t work out as planned, and he formally came on board Playtonic by March 2015.

It’s through him we can confirm Playtonic’s awareness of NeoGAF. It makes sense for a developer to take the site seriously if they themselves had a long time membership there. Andy has had an account as long as the website has been around, being one of the first users on the site in 2004. Using “Espio” as his alias.

In February 2015, months before Yooka-Laylee‘s Kickstarter would even begin, Andy can be seen clearing up people’s confusion about Playtonic and what it was going to be doing. He was able to answer questions about who was going to be involved in the upcoming project, and specify what some leaked design images floating around at the time were depicting.

May 2015 was when Andy came back, this time formally identifying himself as such on his NeoGAF account. Filling in everyone on what the Playtonic team did in the span of a few months, he rounded off by stating “I’ve only been here a few months and I’m a Rare outsider and honestly, these guys are going to nail this. They create this stuff in their sleep. If I wasn’t here, I’d be backing lots of cash :)” in his post.  Robinson brought exclusive art goodies as well, apparently.

In the days and months afterward, Andy popped into NeoGAF to answer a question or two. But the most noteworthy occasion came on January 11th, 2016, when Robinson responded to someone’s questions about Yooka-Laylee development in great detail.

I think we’ve been incredibly transparent about the personnel on board, to the point where – and this is incredibly rare for any game developer – we list every single employee over on our website, along with what they’ve worked on. We’ve certainly never claimed to employ ‘the entire’ DKC team, because that’d be wrong.

However… I’ll bite 😉 in K Bayliss and S Mayles Playtonic has both character artists. M Stevenson and S Hurst did objects and backgrounds (the former was later outright art lead on DKC3). C Sutherland – lead programmer and first name on the credits – is our co-founder and D Wise is in the office almost every day making music.

That’s six senior figures – most of them leads – out of what would’ve been a core team of not much more than ten including the Stampers. But I don’t think they’d join 😉

But before I get ahead of myself blabbering on about names, I’ll say that in my opinion the secret behind that core team, which went on to work on Banjo, Grabbed by the Ghoulies and loads of great games, was as much about a style of working and an environment that fostered collaboration and fun. That’s what we’ve tried to recreate at Playtonic – the mood of those old barns – and that’s personally what I think is most exciting. At Playtonic everyone pitches in and has a certain level of creative autonomy, which hopefully will result in a great game at the end. Ultimately a studio could employ Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima, but without room to breath creatively their abilities would be severely hampered.

We’re good friends with Greg, Robin, Leigh etc at Rare btw. In fact the former has a brother in our employment and was best man at our studio head’s wedding, so we see him fairly often 🙂

This says a lot of things. But what it says the most is Andy was willing to reach out and try to share a fair amount of information about the company. Moreover, it creates the sensation of exclusivity with NeoGAF. From that point on, he made regular returns to the site to help clarify Yooka-Laylee reveals and content as they became available.

This personal connection to the website Andy Robinson has, along with his posting pattern throughout the project’s lifetime, makes it more than likely he was the one to bring NeoGAF’s threads about JonTron to the company’s attention. Otherwise, it makes him a contender for backing the website’s comment as sufficient evidence for concern.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure how exactly Playtonic Games came to their decision. Witch-hunting would solve nothing.

At this point, it doesn’t matter anyway. People can hear what JonTron’s voice-lines were for themselves here. The incident ran its course.

It makes sense, as Robinson had marketed the game toward NeoGAF personally from the outset. When JonTron’s controversy brewed in one of their threads, it surely turned his head. But it did for everyone in Playtonic Games at the end of the day.

But as a controversy, it’s interesting to dissect the pieces and parts. Especially how NeoGAF fits into the equation.

How’d it get from there to a website? With a NeoGAF moderator like Mike Williams working at gamesindustry.biz, the process of A to B seems pretty straightforward. Some people think what happened was justified. Others think it was unnecessary.

To me, it raises the question of how much sway NeoGAF can have over someone’s mind in the first place.

Part 2 talks about Boogie2988’s war with the website.

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