Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy’

E-Terrorists, Impartial Journalism, and Being Played


NOTE: In the interest of promoting journalistic integrity and credibility, there are numerous hotlinks below so readers can decide what to think for themselves rather than take my word on anything. I strongly encourage that you draw your own conclusions about the article that you’re about to read. Also, bear in mind the logical fallacy of “poisoning the well” when it comes to the conspiracy theory mentioned here: if the supposition/conjecture part of this blog entry turns out to be false, that does not automatically invalidate the other points mentioned here.

Ever since my last entry
about Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford’s less-than-diplomatic performance on Twitter earlier this week concerning some of the contentious changes made to Borderlands 2 in their latest patch for the game, there’s been an ongoing debate on the Gearbox Software Forums concerning his behavior and actions and whether or not they were justified given the circumstances. There’ve also been accusations levied at his detractors and even The Raging Fanboy claiming that his quotes were taken out of context and are being used to manipulate public opinion in a despicable and dishonest way. Here are a few examples of what’s being said:

So, here are the three basic points the pro-Pitchford side are making that put into question the veracity of some of the claims that I and others have made so far:

1. He was not referring to everyone who disagreed with him as trolls and e-terrorists, only the select few that were being verbally abusive and/or making threats to send Anonymous after him.

2. He lost his cool after being bombarded with negative tweets and comments and decided to respond with hostility after losing his temper in a momentary lapse of judgement.

3. It wasn’t originally his idea to release the Golden Keys to appease the angry fanbase, but did so at the suggestion of a third party.

Unfortunately, since only Randy Pitchford himself has full access to the conversations leading up his comments and several of the posts mentioned by Kaleidodemon have been (in)conveniently deleted or removed following the ban of the Twitterers in question, we may never get the full story. But we can take a closer look at the timeline of events leading up to it based on what remaining fragments of it that we can find online. And the picture it paints is…well…kinda suspicious-looking, to put it mildly, something best  demonstrated by running down a timeline of events here. Believe it or not, the truly major events in all this happened within the span of around 40 minutes, so things were moving at a breakneck speed.

Please note that all of these times are taken from my laptop, which is set to Eastern Time. So, while the times may differ from the ones that you personally see at home when you attempt to follow these links, their relationships to one another are the same. Don’t assume that these discrepancies are due to my trying to manipulate data, okay? 😛

November 13th, 2012, 12:57 P.M.
Gearbox Community Manager ChrisF announces the release of Patch 1.2.0 on the Gearbox Software Forums.

November 13th, 2012, 11:32 P.M. and 11:35 P.M.
Randy Pitchford (re)tweets two quotes from satisfied customers praising the company’s efforts.

These tweets seem a bit shameless and self-promotional, but, so far, nothing questionable or inflammatory has been said.

November 14th, 2012, 8:38 A.M.
Randy Pitchford makes a comment directed at members of the fanbase unhappy with the modifications made to The Bee.

This isn’t a benign comment. It’s laced with smugness and sarcasm, and was clearly posted in order to gloat while taking a jab at the people angered by the decision.

November 14th, 2012, 8:40 A.M.
Randy Pitchford makes his first comment about e-terrorists.

This is where Kaleidodemon’s theoretical scenario about “10000 people following him on Twitter, 1000 of them voicing their concerns, and 100 of these people […] taking it to the extreme and be abusive” being the catalyst for Pitchford’s comment starts wandering onto some pretty shaky ground.

For the record, Randy Pitchford currently has over 192000 followers on Twitter. Now, as RecycledHuman correctly pointed out to me in a private message, with that many subscribers, it’s definitely mathematically conceivable that several people tweeted him complaining about what happened. But here’s the thing: between the previous tweet, the response to it, and his response to that response, no more than two minutes have elapsed. So, we’re expected to believe that dozens or hundreds of people read his original tweet, then responded to it – including the one that threatened to send Anonymous after him – and that he then proceeded to sift through these dozens or hundreds of tweets, lose his cool, and post this response…and all this occurred in less than 120 seconds?

Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

What’s far more likely is that he’d been bombarded with criticism ever since the patch was announced on the previous day – if not since he announced on Twitter that the Bee would be nerfed on October 6, 2012 – and that things just came to a head between then and this moment. This definitely looks less like some knee-jerk reaction and more like some long-simmering emotional pot that finally boiled over. Either way, he appears to be intentionally fanning the flames and may even have started this little flame war, which gives him far less moral high ground to stand on than his supporters would have you believe if it’s true.

November 14th, 2012, 8:40 and 8:47 A.M.
Philip Bates makes a comment about the tone of Randy Pitchford’s tweet and the latter responds in kind.

Aside from the seven minute response gap here  – which just further adds to the implausibility of previous claims about tweet time turnarounds and is far more realistic – it’s important to note that Bates did not refer to Pitchford as a “dickhead”, but referred to the tone of his tweet as “pretty dick-headed”. And he’s absolutely correct, in my assessment. It was a pretty dickish thing to say and he intentionally chose to be an antagonistic, which is unprofessional for a CEO to say the least.

But wait, you’re saying, this Twitterer is probably one of the anti-Bee-nerf supporters and must just be pissed off because Gearbox changed the damn thing. Well, if that’s what you thought, think again.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Bates was for the changes being made and still called Pitchford out on being a dick because he felt that the latter’s confrontational attitude wasn’t productive under the circumstances.

Seriously, if your own supporters think you’re being a douchebag, then that’s a good indication that you probably are.

November 14th, 2012, 8:40 and 8:47 A.M.
Randy Pitchford makes his second e-terrorist comment.

Pitchford’s supporters claim that he never equated dupers – players who duplicate hard-to-find or rare items – with e-terrorists and that he was quoted out of context. Well, that’s the entire conversation the quote was taken from and it sure as hell doesn’t seem that way to me. In fact, unless Pitchford somehow accidentally combined the content of two tweets, it looks more like it pretty much proves what the detractors were saying all along, i.e. that he was trying to lump all the vehemently outspoken dissenters together and use “e-terrorist” as an umbrella term for all of them.

Oh, it’s possible his camp is right, but if someone asks you a straightforward question about item duplication, it’s a bit strange that you’d go off on an unrelated tangent about trolls and flamers unless you somehow equated those various types of troublemakers as being equivalent to one another.

November 14th, 2012, 9:17 and 9:19 A.M.
Roger Sumners suggests that Randy Pitchford fix the situation by handing out bonuses to players in the form of Golden Keys.

Now this is where things start getting interesting!

Roughly forty minutes into this fiasco, a Twitterer named Roger Sumners injects himself into the debate and suggests that Pitchford remedy the situation with a gesture of good fate, and the latter both praises and runs with the idea.

Right about now, you must be thinking “Oh dear, this looks bad for Lunar Archivist! Last time, he insinuated that Randy Pitchford was attempting to divert the fanbase’s attention with a conveniently-timed distraction! But it was based on a suggestion by a third party, so RecycledHuman was right after all! Get the pitchforks and torches and let’s flame this blog to the ground!”

Back the virtual lynch mob up for a moment there, oh conveniently outraged, theoretical reader.

I fully admit that my previous assertion was based largely on humor and anger but also on a nagging suspicion that I couldn’t quite shake. The timing of all this just seemed too convenient to me. But coincidence in timing is hardly proof of wrongdoing. So I did a little digging. And what I found makes the whole situation look even more dubious than I ever thought possible.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Roger Sumners of Twitter, shall we?

According to Twitter Birthday, he’s a recent addition to its legion of users, having joined the site on September 28, 2012.

Nothing suspicious about that. But what about the man himself? What are his interests?

Well, by all appearances, he seems to be a major Gearbox fanboy. He’s following the Twitter feeds of all three major accounts linked to the company. Still nothing overly suspicious, but I’d like to know more about him. Maybe we can gleam some personal information by sifting through his Twitter feed?

Wait a minute…what the deuce? He only has two tweets to his name as of this writing and both of them just happen to have been made during the debacle in question?

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re either incredibly fucking fortunate that Mr. Sumners chose exactly the moment he did to stage his online intervention by making his first tweet evah after six weeks of dead silence or something incredibly fucking fishy is going on here.

Let me add some additional information to the mix. All of this may or may not be relevant to the matter at hand, but let’s just embrace insanity for a moment for the sake of argument:

1. Roger Sumners is linked to King Cashing, a slot game-based online RPG.

2. King Cashing was developed by Productions Multimage, a multimedia company based in Quebec, Canada.

3. Productions Multimage specializes in content management systems for online media.

4. Randy Pitchford was a professional magician, which means that he excels at misdirection and manipulating his audience by creating distractions or diverting their attention.

Call me a looney conspiracy theorist if you will, but I get the distinct impression that someone’s pulling a David Manning on us, or something close to it. Yes, this could just all be some crazy coincidence, but good lord, it sure looks to me like someone with ties to Gearbox created a sockpuppet account on Twitter and kept it on ice for just such an occasion. Whether Roger Sumners is an actual flesh-and-blood person who’s friends/associates with Pitchford or one of his employees, a completely fictitious individual created by the publicity or public relations department that was meant to act as a convenient supporter of company policy whenever the need arose, or really just a random innocent bystander is anybody’s guess at this point.

And if you really start swigging back the Kool-Aid, you may just ask yourself exactly how much of this entire incident was real and how much was staged. Did Randy Pitchford actually lose his composure online or did he deliberately start all this in an effort to discredit his critics? Perhaps this was all part of a perverse viral marketing campaign for the latest Borderlands 2 DLC, Mister Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, whose release date just happens to be November 20, 2012? Theories such as these are extremely far-fetched and definitely make an…ahem…bee-line for Crazytown territory, to put it mildly.

When you get right down to it, even in the best case scenario, where all this really is just a convergence of random events, it still doesn’t change or excuse what Pitchford said or did on that day. His reactions may or may not have been justified or even understandable as a fellow human being, but, given his position at Gearbox, he should’ve known better.

I’m not going to tell you what to think. You can make up your minds for yourselves. But I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: if someone here’s trying to pull a fast one on the Borderlands 2 fan community, then it sure as hell isn’t me.

UPDATE (2013.01.21.): Roger Sumners speaks! Mr. Sumners posted a comment on this blog a few days ago reassuring us that he’s not so much a Gearbox sockpuppet as he is a shameless opportunist. Plus, he weighs in on the whole controversy! 🙂

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