What I witnessed of Boen's friend circle
Oct 2nd, 2021
- Note: I will refer to the writer of the Dangen Warning as 'Wren' as per the name on her Twitter profile. She also goes by 'dwarn' on ResetEra threads on the topic. I will also be referring to the people involved by their usernames or pseudonyms, the same as Wren did in her writing.
- I was a member of the private Discord server that Wren mentioned in section 17 of her writings. Boen, Tivo, their pre-existing friends group and a handful of indie devs working on promising projects were there. Originally I enjoyed the regular pattern of project updates, creative feedback, discussions about the industry and even support towards each other if any of us needed to open up about our personal lives.
- After a while I noticed that those that flagged behind in development took to gossiping, bringing up rumours about other developers, and gradually the mood began to change. Especially Karl and his programmer (whom I'll refer to as 'Tony') began to use the space as a place to “test the waters” of their political opinions, seeing how far a subject could be pushed or a person could be irritated before they would snap, then claim it was all just a joke. The place became an echochamber for Karl, Tony and a handful of other developers to complain about their current or ex-girlfriends with “internet culture” jokes lifted from /pol/. Either you went along with these jokes or feigned a lack of offence.
- The stress of trying to handle Sinoc's outbursts and Dangen's incompetence began to take its toll on Wren. But when she tried to reach out to our group for support, Tony would often crack a joke in poor taste or insinuate she was being whiny.
- Even though Sinoc, Qwesta and I were all in the same boat, if not under less stress considering Wren was also subject to Dangen's inappropriate behaviour in person, and even though Sinoc famously could not stop ranting about Dangen publicly and privately, it was only when Wren brought the topic up did Tony or others criticise her for complaining too much.
- As our royalties payment from Dangen became due and then overdue, as Dangen became more hostile to Wren despite her noticeable efforts to defuse Sinoc's outbursts, Wren begged me to step in to manage the situation.
- I refused. I was scared to fill out any paperwork or give Dangen my personal information. I stayed quiet and simply watched as Wren tried to assert our rights for us in the Slack chat with Dangen. While I complained about Sinoc's lack of professionalism privately, I didn't directly involve myself in our negotiations at all.
- Wren began to withdraw emotionally from our circle of friends. I assumed Boen, as her boyfriend, was providing her with the support she needed, and put it all out of mind. I buried myself in work on Protoculture's next game project and I hoped that all these problems would simply go away.
- They did not go away. Wren fell severely ill by 2020. She created a new private Discord server where she could feel supported by a handful of her closest friends, away from Karl and Tony.
- Harassment from Karl and Tony continued despite Wren removing herself from their Discord server entirely. Karl and Tony began mocking the Black Lives Matter movement and cheering at video footage of protestors being shot or beaten.
- Tony invited in more game devs with modest followings on Twitter who seemed to share their sense of humour and political opinions. Tony, Karl and others often congratulated themselves on being 'based yesdevs', but from what I saw, there was hardly any progress made on game projects at all by this time. The atmosphere in their server had become incredibly uncomfortable.
- Eventually Karl contacted my brother with baseless speculation in order to drum up more hatred towards Wren. Tony contacted me at the same time, fishing for information about Wren as well. They honestly viewed us as potential allies, because of course, we were “one of the guys”, right?
- After we told them we didn't appreciate their childish grudges against her, we were both banned from their Discord server.
- I grew confused as to why Boen was still friends and even work partners with Karl and Tony as they attacked and slandered Wren. I had justified largely ignoring what Wren was going through thinking it wasn't my place to defend or support her, it was Boen's.
- Note: I will call Wren's childhood friend 'Mia'. I will call the friend who lived in the Eastern United States 'Clair'.
- As Wren often chastised us if we went too far in our complaints about his treatment of her, Clair and I began complaining to each other in private about Boen's spineless and two-faced behaviour. Clair was incredibly vocal about her loathing of Boen and often bragged about playing a 'double agent' with him and how she much she looked forward to insulting him to his face once Wren's physical safety had been secured.
- As I witnessed Wren cope with her nightmares and struggle to eat and drink entirely by herself in Canada, I was wrestling with my own immense feelings of guilt. I had enjoyed the fruits of Wren's labour while ignoring her very well-being. I had witnessed the immense hostility she'd experienced and I'd simply hid behind her skirt and waited for her to make my problems go away.
- I was not on the same continent as Wren and there was literally nothing I could do to help her now besides lend her a friendly ear.
- Boen sent us a chat log of Tivo, Clair, and Mia mocking us, calling me a pathetic simp for the grave crime of trying to be supportive to Wren in her time of need. They couldn't quite seem to agree on whether Wren was somehow manipulating me into viewing her favourably or whether I was manipulating her to my own devious ends and would alternate between these two equally ridiculous explanations while playing sycophants to Boen.
- Boen tried to blame his actions on Tivo and others, claiming that he loved Wren and only wanted her to be safe. He really enjoyed my brother's music and looked forward to working with him on Fight Knight's soundtrack or future projects.
- Meanwhile, my brother was sent screencaps from Karl's server in December 2020 showing Boen and Sinoc gossiping about Wren while bragging about stealing our revenue share from us. We'd been trying to settle the Devil Engine situation peacefully and with as much respect to Sinoc's mental health as possible, but this was too much. I was polite to Boen until I insisted he send her her belongings by post in February 2021 and blocked him. I also tried to make it clear what Sinoc had done to destroy Wren's good efforts on the official Protoculture Games Twitter account.
- What I went through pales in comparison to what Wren went through. But I've felt incredible shock and disgust with the hypocrisy and complacency with the abuse, gossip and lying rampant in the games industry. There were at least 10 people who witnessed what Wren went through at Boen's hands, who I had once considered friends. To this day I see them making fanart for Fight Knight, being supportive and friendly towards Sinoc despite his abuses and slander, and playing at being positive and supportive game developers for clout on Twitter. At best, they've stayed completely silent, feigning ignorance and neutrality.
- I've felt shock and disgust at my own hypocrisy and complacency with the state of things.
- Devil Engine is just a video game. We are literally making toys, mere entertainment for adult children. How could it be that we prioritise video games and the possibility of limited edition tin cases for our video games over the well-being of living breathing people?
- From personal experience, it's very, very easy to grow accustomed to apathy, complacency, and the resulting hypocrisy as we witness abuse and bullying. We rationalise it, as I did with phrases like “it's none of my business” or “I've enough to worry about myself” and it has to stop.
- I hope that in writing my story, people will consider similar patterns in their own communities, and in themselves.
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