WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT CAN BE CONSIDERED OFFENSIVE. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Bethesda has dished out lifetime bans to a group of Fallout 76 players who carried out homophobic griefing within the recently-released multiplayer game.
The perpetrators, whose characters were noticeably high-leveled, followed, harassed and, ultimately killed other players’ characters for about a 10-minute period. All the while, they could be heard over the game’s proximity voice chat saying things such as, “We have come to eliminate all gays.”
The group’s ringleader was reportedly a player who goes by the screen name NathanTheHicc, who was specifically heard saying things like “queer down” and “decontaminate the AIDS,” among other bigoted remarks.
This case of virtual gay bashing was made public by one of the victims, who goes by the name AJ. AJ detailed the incident on Twitter, as well as shared roughly four minutes of recorded in-game footage of the attack.
“[Chip Whitehouse], [Drew Talbot FX] and I literally had our characters hunted down and killed by homophobic players,” AJ shared. “[They] called themselves the ‘gay eliminators’.”
In addition to the aforementioned comments, AJ explained that the group had also explained that they were “cleansing the wasteland of the queers.”
Called themselves the "gay eliminators" "cleansing the wasteland of the queers" "know what we did to your people back then, we killed them" THIS is the stuff said to us tonight when playing Fallout. @bethesda @BethesdaStudios @Fallout #Fallout #Fallout76 pic.twitter.com/zwPuz7AbsG
— AJpls (@twitch_ajpls) November 16, 2018
In a later interview with Eurogamer, AJ elaborated on his experience, stating that the harassment had actually begun several minutes before the videos he shared, after NathanTheHicc approached him and the rest of his group to ask for a trade.
“The three of us were having a good time and talking to him and then one of us commented on his character or his character’s outfit being cute,” AJ said. “He replied, ‘I don’t f**k with that homo shit’ and left.”
NathanTheHicc and his friends showed up to harass AJ’s group shortly thereafter. At first, AJ simply decided to rely on Fallout 76‘s anti-griefing PvP mechanic, which makes it so another player cannot inflict a significant amount of damage to you unless you fight back. However, NathanTheHicc’s group was relentless and were ultimately able to kill AJ and his friends’ characters.
“The game notified me that if I didn’t fight back, they would do limited damage, so I didn’t fight back and hoped they would just get bored and leave. They stuck with it and even joked about how ‘this is the strongest queer I’ve ever seen,'” AJ said, “We changed servers after we respawned. Just so it wouldn’t happen again.”
“In the moment, I was just in shock,” AJ continued. “It was disgusting. The three of us stream and put ourselves out there on the internet and are not strangers to homophobic comments but this was so extreme.”
Due to Fallout 76′s lack of an in-game report function, AJ found it difficult at first to report the incident through the proper channels. Ultimately, however, his tweets found their way to the right people and action was taken against the offenders.
“The tweet was forwarded to some community managers for the game and they were very kind and helpful,” AJ said. “We were given a link to report the players but had issues with it. The site asked for a video file of the incident but the accepted file types weren’t video files. So we couldn’t send one. For me, the page would not even load. It seems very difficult to report players.”
Luckily for AJ, NathanTheHicc uploaded evidence of the incident of his own accord to YouTube in a video titled “Cleansing of the queers,” which featured his encounter with AJ and his friends.
In a statement to Eurogamer, NathanTheHicc, who is a United States high school student, said, “My version of the incident is more or less the same as the public has taken it, the only differences being the fact that I don’t hate gay people,” he continued. “It was just a late night of having fun and after the first encounter (seen on my channel) we felt it would be fun to offend them somehow. You can call that evil but I think it’s just playful immaturity.”
The user then confirmed that he was contacted by Bethesda and was initially given a three day ban.
“I do not regret the incident,” NathanTheHicc said. “I will not apologise given the opportunity. I don’t plan on doing anything like this in the future but to be fair I didn’t plan the initial incident, I just found them and decided to go through with it.”
However, it now appears that NathanTheHicc will be sticking to his promise of never doing it again, whether he likes it or not. After following up on the incident, Bethesda permanently banned NathanTheHicc and his friends from Fallout 76.
“We gave an initial ban of three days while our CS team looked into the matter further to verify the individuals involved and what took place,” a Bethesda spokesperson explained. “After additional review, we have now permanently banned the players we’ve identified.” The spokesperson continued,
[Fallout 76] empowers players to permanently block other players. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior by any of our players, nor towards any of our players. We will continue to investigate claims of misconduct or abuse – along with Microsoft and Sony – and take action when necessary.
“Reporting in-game is necessary,” AJ said, once again citing the lack of an in-game report function separate from Bethesda’s online one or the ones used by Xbox Live or PSN. “Simply blocking someone from a session is only temporarily protecting yourself, but not stopping anything from happening again or to other people. For 76 specifically, non-PvP servers would be great. Maybe things would have been different if they were not able to kill us. Despite all the bugs and glitches, the game is fun when you’re with friends and can casually explore and play.”
In any case, it will likely be reassuring to some players that blatantly bigoted behavior is something that Bethesda will take very seriously, as this incident has proven. Hopefully, the threat of permanent bans will aid in curbing such behavior in the future.