While there are countless places to discuss video games on the Internet, NeoGAF has been one of the more common melting pots, a place for fans, developers, and critics to talk among one another. It's been around for 18 years. The "neo" part comes from splintering off from Gaming-Age, a once-influential video game website from the 90s. GAF originally stood for Gaming-Age Forums. Now, it's just part of the board's long history. (Full disclosure: More than a decade ago, I wrote for Gaming-Age, and was part of the forum's moderation staff.)After speaking with Malka, the woman who made the original allegations, and a number of moderators who helped run NeoGAF, a messy and uncomfortable picture emerges.
A Story Among Close FriendsThe allegations against Malka stem from a series of Facebook posts by Texas filmmaker Ima Leupp, who was sharing stories of sexual harassment she has faced in her life and career as part of the "Me Too" campaign that has become so prominent in the wake of the serious allegations against Harvey Weinstein. ("Me too" was not actually started by actress Alyssa Milano, but is merely the latest iteration of an awareness campaign started more than a decade ago.)Leupp did not name Malka in her original posts, telling the story of "a man, who claimed to be my friend" while on a road trip to New Orleans in April 2015. When people asked in the comments on her post about one of the men she was talking about, she told people to "Google Evilore" in the comments. On the Internet, and on NeoGAF, Malka goes by the pseudonym EviLore.
Leupp claimed the two had been heavily drinking, and she later became sick in a hotel room. While cleaning up in the shower, he approached her "fully naked" from behind."I had a boyfriend at the time and didn't think I had given him any reason to believe I wanted this," she said in the post. "I don't cheat. So I told him that it wasn't ok, that I was sick, that I had a boyfriend, that I didn't want that."Leupp alleges Malka "started resenting me," and became "mean" during their trip to the city. Her relationship with her boyfriend reportedly fell apart soon after, which she blamed in part because of the guilt she felt over the incident with Malka.The two had worked together in the past; Malka was an actor in one of her shoots, earlier in 2015. Over the weekend, Leupp forwarded a call sheet for the shoot to me, listing Malka as "thug 1.""I couldn't come out about this situation because the perpetrator is a semi-famous man who would have retaliated and I couldn't afford to defend myself," she said.In fact, she did not make the allegations public. Instead, friends took screen shots of the post and they began circulating, eventually becoming public and going viral.
"I never meant to out him publicly. I never meant to have any of this happen. It was a story that had come up. Instead of just reposting a hashtag, I thought if I described some more details of certain situations that it would become more real for friends in my life."
A History of Questionable ActionsThis isn't the first time Malka has been criticized over possible sexual misconduct, a situation in which Malka offered a confusing set of explanations for his behavior and ideas of consent. In 2012, Malka was travelling the world and sharing stories about the journey on a NeoGAF thread. A user started a thread after reading a passage where Malka discussed touching a woman:
In response, Malka attempted to defend himself by saying it was a "very specific scenario that went down" where everyone was "smashed, hard, at this million person party where normalcy is thrown out the window," and the woman initiated the act of physical contact. However, in this post and others, Malka goes beyond simply describing one specific incident by offering his beliefs on consent, and why it felt comfortable that he "grabbed her ass hard."
"At one point in a bar a girl who didn't speak any English came up to me and started flirting heavily, then went straight into asking me to buy her a drink, as Itxaka translated when I didn't know what the hell was going on. I laughed, because drinks here were all of two Euros, but consented and then grabbed her ass hard to show that I wasn't being taken advantage of, and she thought better of treating me as a mark and left without taking her drink."
"She started the grabbing. We were joking and laughing about the whole thing and I saw her later that night and the joking and laughing continued.The outraged feminist posturing in this thread couldn't be further from the truth."
All the moderators I spoke to asked to be anonymous, citing a fear of harassment and doxxing, both of which have been rampant among NeoGAF's staff, prior to this incident.When the allegations surfaced, one moderator told me Malka quickly denied them. But as a chorus of legitimate questions surfaced, even the moderation staff wanted more answers. In a private Slack channel for moderators, Malka said a public statement was coming."Internet drama isn't new to NeoGAF," said one moderator, "but when the allegation is that the site owner sexually harassed someone, and it is allowed to spiral out of control to a point where it's a really bad look, it's hard to justify sticking around without a knowing that there's a clear plan ahead. Not knowing how this would move forward is what sealed the deal for me. It's impossible to moderate the forum in future in good faith when I'm unable to honestly answer valid questions people might have about this matter."The wait is what prompted this mod, and many others, to quit."Hours went by, no statement," said another moderator. "Other mods were starting to complain about how much crap they were receiving off-site. It was starting to seem really familiar. Scrolling further down, no statement."
"Internet drama isn't new to NeoGAF, but when the allegation is that the site owner sexually harassed someone, and it is allowed to spiral out of control to a point where it's a really bad look."