What started as an outer space scare worthy of its own Event Horizon movie ended up being a big misunderstanding. It all began with a Star Citizen community member, "Lauresh," attempting to organize a women's-only group in the wake of some especially, er, uncomfortable forum threads, a place to go hang out on days when the wider universe left her cold. Since this is the Internet, her plan was immediately met with a barrage of ugliness and vitriol. To top it all off, she was then banned from Star Citizen's forums, an unceremonious opening of the airlock that rightfully left many eyebrows raised and confused. Apparently, however, that part was a huge mistake, and Roberts Space Industries not only wants to allow players of any sort to form their own groups, but plans to give them the tools to do so.
The was apparently handed out because Lauresh was from a group associated with Something Awful that had recently been doing a lot of trolling. RSI's moderators assumed this was just another instance of rowdy attention-grabbing and decided to send all involved packing. A pretty gross assumption given the subject matter? Absolutely. But it was the exact opposite of what RSI is hoping to achieve in the long run. Developer Ben Lesnik explained:
"On the greater subject of women in the Star Citizen universe, the answer is that yes we should go out of our way to create a safe space for them. Women online, and especially women in gaming, have it very, very tough in ways that men absolutely do not understand. This isn’t an argument for the community to have, it’s a fact. Our moderators (and game designers and programmers and everyone else involved in Star Citizen) should do everything possible to create a safe environment, not encourage typical internet knife-fighting in this regard."
"Men don’t have to deal with this sort of thing, and it’s so systemic. For years I was part of a community that simply didn't have women. At first I thought it was because space sims didn’t appeal to women… but I came to understand it was because of how immature the average forum user was towards them. It broke my heart hearing from women who loved fighting aliens but who had to pretend to be men in order to even talk to anyone about it, lest their PM inboxes fill up with come-ons and their social networking get invaded with awful dudes."
"As if it even needed to be said, there is more than enough room for a female-only group in the ‘verse. Making connections like that is what our Organizations system is for, and there’s absolutely no additional room to argue with that."
That's very good news, obviously. A very, very inauspicious beginning, but RSI at least seems to be plotting a course to something much better. That said, it doesn't really solve the community organization issues that spawned this issue in the first place, nor does it necessarily make the overall community a more hospitable place in the short term. These problems could be solved in time, but it's going to require a lot more hands-on effort from RSI - not just assumptions and bans.
We shall see. For now, though, I at least applaud the no-nonsense stance they've taken. It's needed. But statement of intent is just a start. Now it's time to see if RSI will follow through.