The entire story around this post, frankly, makes me a bit ill.
John Smedley, former CEO of Daybreak Games, has stepped down from his position in order to take a lesser role after some time off from the company. Of course, there’s no official line as to the reasoning or rationale, but many who have been following the sordid story of Smedley and the “hacker” group Lizard Squad already added two and two together–the tirade against convicted asspuppet Julius Kivimaki and the subsequent “sentencing” handed down by the Finnish justice system ticked off a lengthy DDoS attack from the group, and for his actions and words, he was made to move down the ladder.
Several parts of this whole thing absolutely strike a nerve. A nerve that, frankly, I have no rights to have tweaked. I haven’t played EverQuest in forever. I find DC Universe Online probably one of the worst superhero games on the market, seconded only by Champions Online. Landmark has been a pointed disappointment. Still, despite all of that, there is humanity at play with this story. Something that is being shoved aside simply because of a catalogue of lackluster games and a CEO being dehumanized because CEOs of large companies are the source of capitalism’s woes.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will begin by admitting that I am not fully absolved of some of the behavior I’m about to decry. I mean…the picture above just…it makes him look like a creeper, doesn’t it? Am I wrong for thinking that?
Regardless of how I felt about SOE/Daybreak’s games or Smed’s face, however, that doesn’t mean I hated the guy. In fact, in many ways I respect his level of candor. For years he held the CEO title and never once seemed to have lost his humanity. And, again, that’s what’s at the root here. A bunch of punks with apparently minor coding experience attacked the man because they didn’t see one. They just saw a company. This was fueled by not only their ignorance, but the cheering of others. People were delighted by the things Lizard Squad were doing. Yeah! Attack the big bad company! Save the little guy!
That’s not what these idiots were doing. They. Attacked. A man. Personally. No matter how simple a DDoS attack apparently is to perpetrate, you lose the right to be considered a crusader when you begin pursuing a person’s family. Or grounding a plane with a bomb threat. Or offering a cash reward to dishonor a deceased member of that person’s family. That’s about as crusading as Batman using a shotgun.
The other thing that strikes about this whole affair is that, at least so far, the primary perpetrator has yet to fully answer for his crimes. Kivimaki had been charged on a staggering 50,700 computer crimes.
Finland gave him no jail time and a parole requirement to conduct internet activities under surveillance.
The more severe charges are yet to reach court when last I had looked, so that is an asterisk to put on all of this. However, as it stands right now, an incredibly worrying precedent has been set. Finland’s courts have essentially said that boys will be boys, giving Lizard Squad a free pass to continue its activities while the guy who was the focal point of the attack was forced to step down. That’s hardly what is justice, and it damn sure isn’t fair.
The counter-argument to this sentiment, then, is that Smedley should have just shut up and this all would have gone away. Which is missing the point at best and the precise same thing a Mafioso would say to you before extorting you for protection money at worst. And, again, this man was attacked on levels that went beyond the realm of fighting against a big corporation. His life and the life of his family was being made into a hell because of these wastes of flesh. He has every right to be upset. And when your family is threatened and your personal life is threatened, you have the right to be enraged. CEO of a company or not.
Smedley will, no doubt, have someplace else to land. After about a week or so, this will all blow over and be forgotten. And that’s the final thing that plucks my nerve–outrage and injustice only lasts so long as awareness and attentiveness does…and nowadays it’s easy to argue that both of those qualities are in dwindling supply.
What was perpetrated by Kivimaki and his ilk needs to be stopped. Period. There is nothing defensible about what these people have done. Otherwise, the MMO industry will self-compartmentalize and the industry will reel in horror at the ideas of contact, discourse and discussion. And that would be a real killer.