For those who don’t know him, John Bain, known online as TotalBiscuit, recently died after a four-year fight with cancer. A giant in the gaming industry, Bain had been critiquing games for more than 13 years. Before his death, his YouTube channel had more than 2 million subscribers and featured popular series such as “WTF Is…?” and his weekly show “The Co-Optional Podcast.”
Bain was known to be a vocal defender of consumer rights, a forceful voice in the industry and a polarizing figure. Though many people mourn his death, others were more than happy to see him go. Hate is a powerful emotion that too many are holding on to, and that hate mostly stems from GamerGate.
In 2013, a small game developer named Zoe Quinn released a browser-based game called “Depression Quest.” For the most part, it was a benign release that flew under the radar. In August of the same year, one of Quinn’s disgruntled exboyfriends released a long blog post alleging that Quinn had been sleeping with men in the gaming industry to get ahead in her career.
The post alleged that Quinn was providing sex in exchange for favorable reviews and coverage on the websites that these men worked for. Despite the allegations quickly being proven false, and evidence showing neither Quinn nor any of the men named had done anything unethical, the controversy snowballed.
#GamerGate became a rallying call for gamers disillusioned with the media, and Twitter and Reddit quickly picked up the story. Eventually, 4chan picked up the story as well, and things began to take a dark turn.
Soon male and female writers who had little to do with the initial story were attacked for defending Quinn. Their addresses were leaked, people attacked their internet service and, eventually, threats of death and rape were thrown at them. Female writers endured the brunt of it and several were run off social media and out of the industry altogether.
Though at its core supporters of GamerGate would say they were only hoping for open and honest journalism, the fact that events had taken such a turn eventually made their message largely meaningless.
The name GamerGate itself became synonymous with hatred, misogyny and sexist ideals, and anyone involved with the movement was treated as if they supported those ideals as well. At the center of the movement was its biggest, most powerful and famous name: TotalBiscuit.
TotalBiscuit had become involved with GamerGate in the middle of August and, though he often spoke out against the heinous acts that were being perpetrated, the chorus of people who were not fans of his at the beginning of his following now began to grow.
He quickly became a prominent figure made to bear the hatred of a movement that had become too big for him to control. By the end of 2013, the internet had grown bored of the controversy and was ready to move on. A year later in 2014, TotalBiscuit posted on Twitter that he had been diagnosed with Bowel cancer. Soon after that, it was revealed the diagnosis was terminal.
took too long. It's full blown cancer. Starting chemo soon, then surgery. Doctors optimistic. Don't make my mistake. Get checked.
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) May 23, 2014
The reason to bring up GamerGate is to try and make sense of what happened next. Though people largely forgot the movement and the victims of it, whenever TotalBiscuit came up in an argument his past and what had happened was sure to rise to the forefront. The internet doesn’t forget, and neither do those who feel they’ve been wronged.
I think that most people have had moments where they felt joy when something bad happened to somebody they didn’t like and for the four years TotalBiscuit was able to keep cancer at bay that was largely what his detractors seemed to have felt. Some said it was karma for everything he had done, feeling little to no sympathy for him at all.
Though their words were often harsh, critics were careful to toe the line of what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Then in early May of 2018, Bain gave news that conventional medicine had run out of options. With his liver and kidneys failing, he announced his retirement from the industry to spend his last few days with his family.
A few days later, on May 24, TotalBiscuit passed away.
John Peter Bain
July 8, 1984 – May 24, 2018 pic.twitter.com/XchUMNDYXC
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) May 24, 2018
Posting to Twitter, Bain’s wife Genna announced his death. Fans and friends posted tweets of love and support. A gofundme page was erected to help pay for his grieving widow and child and, almost as if they had anticipated what would happen next, fans of his began to circle the wagons. Among the outpouring of love was something entirely different. Tweets of anger, hate and pleasure at TotalBiscuit’s death began to arise.
I am not happy TotalBiscuit is dead, I'm just sorry he ever lived.
— An Earl of Lemongrab (@MC_Hesher) May 26, 2018
Hey totalbiscuit was a Complete Monster and im happy he's dead
— the almighty PRINCESS LAZY (@the_moth_reborn) May 25, 2018
If it had only been a few vocal people spouting hate, it would be easy to dismiss as the bad side of the internet showing. However, many renowned names in the gaming industry were found to be among those trashing TotalBiscuit. Developers at large game companies — such as Bioware, for example — who went on tirades saying how the world felt like a better place without TotalBiscuit in it.
Though most of these were quickly shut down it was enough to leave a dirty taste in most people’s mouths. Soon their accounts were made private, tweets were deleted and more than a few people lost their jobs. Attempting to get rid of evidence didn’t mean the words had not been spoken (or rather, tweeted).
I was extremely disappointed to find out about the comments on the passing of John Bain (@Totalbiscuit) from someone who was previously part of BioWare. Let me be clear that they don’t represent BioWare’s views, EA’s, or my own. Our condolences go out to John and his family.
— Casey Hudson (@CaseyDHudson) May 26, 2018
Too many people treat the internet as a place where they can do and say anything they want. There are rarely any consequences for people who say things they wouldn’t dare to in real life.
You wouldn’t tell somebody to go kill themselves in real life, and you wouldn’t run into a funeral and scream at the remaining family about how that person deserved to die. There should be a line you can’t cross even if you are anonymous on the internet. What happened on the day TotalBiscuit died crossed that line.
I’m reminded of a rule most people learned as children: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” John Bain’s family doesn’t care how you felt about him, they have more important things to worry about now. If you believe that TotalBiscuit caused harm to innocent people, then by celebrating his death you are doing no better than him.
TotalBiscuit meant a lot to people, and right now that’s all that should be mentioned by anybody. Will there be time to discuss his legacy, what he did and the affect it had on others? Yes, but that time is not now. If you’re a decent human being, you already know what you should be doing. If you’re not, then please stay quiet. Let TotalBiscuit’s family and friends grieve in peace.