Bulkhead Interactive held a Battalion 1944 tournament back at the beginning of April, with €5000 and a selection of unique skins going to the winners of UK-based esports organization Endpoint. But the skins were slow in coming (and apparently still haven't been delivered), leading one of the team members, SUSPC7, to complain about the situation on Discord—a complaint that included a threat to shoot up the studio, complete with a reference to the April shooting at YouTube.
SUSPC7 told The Verge that his outburst came after the developers brushed off his concerns about the delay in getting the skins. "Obviously I was just trying to be funny and shouldn’t have used the YouTube shooting as an example of that, basically saying they might answer my question if I did the same, but it was all just a joke that got blown out of proportion," he said.
Word of the threat eventually found its way to Bulkhead, which responded in a firm fashion. "So a few months ago, I think you remember, you threatened that if we didn't get your skins to you soon you'd 'shoot up the studio'," Bulkhead boss Joe Brammer wrote. "It was really disappointing to see one of the best players in our foundation of the community, one of the winners of our first tournament take this attitude toward the developers. We are not a faceless Valve-esque studio who choose to remain silent for reasons like this, we choose to expose our personal lives and show players that we're people who care about FPS games."
Brammer acknowledged that the threat wasn't meant seriously, but said that there's nothing funny about threats of violence and warned that the studio won't tolerate threats against it. Overall, though, he took a forgiving tone: He said that Bulkhead had considered holding back his Golden skin, but decided that would be too harsh. Instead, the developers decided to play a "real joke" on SUSPC7, and it's a pretty good one.
"I myself have decided to draw a dick on the bottom on your Thompson Golden Skin," Brammer wrote. "People won't really see it, but we'll know it's there and I wanted to have a friendly joke with you. We're gamers too , we find things funny too, don't think just because we aren't a game studio we aren't people."
little bit of banter pic.twitter.com/UTE4nfTaV2June 5, 2018
Brammer expressed hope that SUSPC7 will do well in the upcoming Blitzkrieg Major in Amsterdam, and even offered to buy him a drink if he's there. He also suggested that if SUSPC7 decides to sell the skin (I imagine it would be relatively valuable, given its uniqueness), the funds could be donated to the Special Effect charity in the UK, which helps make videogames accessible to disabled gamers—and offered to match the donation if he does so.
It's a positive ending to a situation that could have gone in a very different direction, and Bulkhead deserves full credit for handling it well. But the dick joke punchline shouldn't distract from the fact that the original threat, serious or not, was no joking matter at all, particularly in an era where gun violence is so distressingly common.
I also wonder if this might actually encourage more players to try similar stunts in hopes of getting unique skins of their own: I have a feeling that there are plenty of players out there who would love to have an developer-engraved dick on their gun. This could ultimately have the unintended effect of forcing Bulkhead to come down harder on future transgressions than it might otherwise have wanted, just to ensure that its players get the right message.
Endpoint acknowledged that SUSPC7 crossed the line in a series of tweets.
[#ICYMI]The @Battalion1944 developers @BulkheadInt got their own back on our player @SUSPC7 who went too far with his comments earlier in the year.We fully support this, and hope he likes the actual joke & reminder every time he reloads his gun!Don't be a tool gamers! https://t.co/akKRHzfBtDJune 6, 2018
"We are hoping that this shows that both the studio and the player in question accepts that it was a real 'dick' move," Endpoint said. "It's important to us that people see that it wasn't forgotten. It was and still is completely unacceptable. We actually think the response from the studio is well executed. We reprimanded the player at the time and it will be a lesson learned to a young and aspiring player."