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The Very Real Person Behind Twitter’s Surreal ‘Shitty Gamer Takes’ Account

How a place collecting a neverending pile of awful, offensive, and infuriating takes by "gamers" became a place of surprising catharsis.

by Patrick Klepek
Oct 23 2019, 1:00pm

Image courtesy of Take-Two Interactive

One of the Twitter accounts that most frequently floats into my timeline is “Shitty Gamer Takes,” an account that says it’s “home to screenshots of Gamers Being Awful” and located in “the depths of gamer hell.” Gamer hell is accurate; this account is a place you go to rub your temples and contemplate whether this whole humanity thing is an experiment worth continuing. It’s where you can read takes—takes by real people with real opinions who typed them into real keyboards—like suggesting Untitled Goose Game being “a game catered for SJWs” and “where’s the straight flag when you need it or the just plain horny flag.”

You might think you’ve read the worst gamers have to offer. This account argues otherwise.

It’s an account both exhausting and cathartic, where the typical response is likely to be the same face as the account’s fatigued Cole Phelps avatar. You’re forced to bear witness to the frustrating hypocrisy and regressive views shared by a surprisingly large swathe of the video game community, but because Shitty Gamer Takes’s following is mostly people there to communally dunk on these people, at its best, it can be a place that feels oddly welcoming.

Sometimes, I’ll click through the hilarious responses to a particularly infuriating take and, for a brief and shining moment, be reminded how many good people are out there. There are a lot of joke accounts on Twitter, but Shitty Gamer Takes often achieves more than just humor.

It’s also a place with rules, like this one: all takes are anonymous. People have conflicting beliefs on whether sharing Bad Opinions on social media should include the person who said it, or if the focus should be on the opinions shared within. (I’ve certainly gone back and forth on this over the years, and ultimately don’t have a hard and fast rule. Sometimes, people deserve to get exposed. Other times, it’s an improper use of my social power.)

While scrolling through the account a few weeks back, I noticed something surprising: the person running also included a link to their actual Twitter account. Huh. I noticed something else surprising, too: every once and awhile, the facade dropped and instead of only sharing images of Gamers Being Mad, the person behind Shitty Gamer Takes spoke in the first-person. It’s an atypical way to run one of these accounts, which is why I got in touch with Dawnya, the very real person at the heart of the Shitty Gamer Takes discourse storm.

Dawnya is an artist from Missouri who admitted to having been fully corrupted by the internet, meaning they’ve become “pretty desensitized to a lot of the ‘bad’ stuff,” which primed them to “run an account like this and really scrape off the gunk on the underbelly.”

Over the course of a bunch of emails, we talked about the formation of the Shitty Gamer Takes account, the policies governing it, what Dawnya gets out of running it, and more.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

VICE Games: There are a lot of gimmick accounts on social media because people are constantly trying to fight through the noise. I like to know if a game will let me pet the dog , for example. And while there's a lot of bad gimmicks, this, like dog data, is good. Where did the idea to start sifting through the shittiest of shit gamer takes come from, and why did you think it was a good idea to rot your brain in this way?

Dawnya: Well, the account was made back when "takes" gimmick accounts were really hitting their stride. The first inkling of it was started as a joke between a friend and someone else on twitter in response to a defensive tweet by Ian Miles Cheong about PewDiePie's "heated gaming moment" in PUBG. They had said "oh, this is what a Hot Gamer Takes account would be made of," or something along those lines... I made the account really fast as a punchline to that joke, I guess. But then, after I made it and had a few days to consider it, I realized that maybe I could document something that had really been bothering me in the gaming community: the hateful attitudes and mindsets that a lot of gamers wore as a badge of pride. And here we are!

VICE Games: Do you remember what the first take was that made you go "Ah, shit, maybe this was a bad idea"?

Well, I've had that thought in two different ways... Right after making the account, a lot of people immediately came at my throat about it, and one rather notorious Twitter user claimed that the account was run by a friend of mine who was not seen in the best light in that user's circle. I wanted to protect my friend, so I pretty much immediately had to reveal my identity in order to do that... and it didn't even work! Tons of people still tell others that my friend either runs or originally ran the account. So right out the gate, I thought, "oh, jeez, maybe this entire thing is a mistake." There have been a couple takes I've posted that made me think the headache wasn't worth it... The ones that come to mind have to do with difficulty in gaming and accessibility. That's a subject I try to stay away from now. There's just way too much blowback.

I've also had thoughts of "I shouldn't have posted this." I can't remember which one was the first, but there have been a couple that I posted in complete misunderstanding and had to delete... It almost always boils down to language barriers. That's never a good feeling. When that happens, I feel awful.

VICE Games: I was genuinely surprised you had your actual identity immediately associated with the account. I figured it would be harder to track you down. Do people screw with you? Harass you?

Other people have told me they're a little surprised that my identity is presented so blatantly! But now, it seems dishonest to remove that transparency, so I don't.

I'm glad to say that the issues that come up aren't too terrible. I have some people that bother me in my DMs or tag me to insult me, but it's tame for the most part. I can't say that it doesn't bother me when I see some people pretty viciously mocking me as a person (including my identity and my appearance), but I also feel I don't have the right to complain because I know it could be so much worse, all things considered. I am very lucky and I am happy to have that comfort, at the very least.

VICE Games: What do you get out of running the account? What do people who follow it get? It seems like a sense of catharsis, a community, in unison, saying "Why are people like this?"

That's what a lot of people thank me for, it seems: somewhere that lets them know that they're not the only person thinking "Oh, these people are toxic." Catharsis is a good term for it, probably.

And I guess that's what I get out of it, the thought that I'm doing SOMETHING for someone, no matter how small. Be it a community that provides a sense of relief or camaraderie, or the documentation that allows someone to say "my experience with toxic gamers in the gaming sphere was not a one-off event". I don't want to make it poetic or pat myself on the back because I'm not trying to, but that's the most positive thing I think I get out of all this... If that makes sense, haha.

VICE Games: Can you talk about your research? How do you even go about finding these awful takes? Excuse me, shitty takes.

These days, a lot of the takes I post are submissions. Sometimes the actual tweet that's submitted won't be posted, but I'll find something in the corresponding thread that I can't not post. I also happen across some of them on my personal account and just post them on SGT.

Other than that, my actual "research" is broken into two groups. I follow a lot of game news accounts, and I will read the stories and the comment threads if I think the subject matter will drag those characters out of the woodwork. The second way is just using the Twitter search function: I just look for certain keywords and go from there. Like “gamer” and “SJWs” will usually lead to thread that has some hyper garbage takes. Like I said, I don't have to do this as much anymore since the account's followers send me plenty to look through, but I do still do this sometimes!

VICE Games: What makes a particularly shitty take, one that stands out from what is, clearly, already a sea of trash?

I don't want to call them the "worst," but I do find the takes that completely dismiss entire groups of people very headache inducing. Like, "Oh, a black woman in a video game? This is just pandering to SJWs that don't buy video games! No one who plays video games wants this!" Or, replace "black woman" with "gay man" or pretty much anyone from any minority group. Things like that. It's so strange and absolutely ridiculous that people like that truly believe they're the only ones with a genuine love for video games... There's just a complete lack of awareness for the world around them.

The "worst," in my book, are the violent ones. I still think the worst one I ever posted was the person that "debunked" the Holocaust using Minecraft... It's pretty upsetting. And there are some I don't even post because if it upsets me, I know it'll upset a lot of the account's followers no matter what content warning I put up. Folks wishing gay people would die because some video game character is a lesbian, etc etc... Really dark stuff.

VICE Games: You're right that some of the takes might upset some people, but I mean, you're the one who spends every day looking at this trash. How do you cope? How do you stop it from being overwhelming?

I have so many other things that take precedent, so it's really easy for me to remove myself from it when I need to. I have a full time job as well as art on the side, plus all my other hobbies. I also take breaks from the account pretty often, I'm currently taking a break for the week!

It's never been an issue to cope because I never let myself become overly invested. Shitty Gamer Takes is very much something I keep on a back burner in my life, and it will probably stay there for as long is it's around. It's healthier for me that way! I've appreciated the cool doors it's opened for me, but I don't feel like I owe it every part of my being for that.

VICE Games: Do you have an all-time favorite take?

It's a tie between the one implying that Anita Sarkeesian couldn't be a "real gamer" if she didn't beat the Ruby Weapon in FF7 and the one that said Untitled Goose Game catered to SJWs. They're both hilarious to me in their own special ways. Sometimes the words "Did you kill the Ruby Weapon, Anita?" pop into my head and I can't help but laugh. It's so ridiculous.

VICE Games: One of your rules is blocking out the usernames behind these takes, to the point that you'll block people who are sharing uncensored screenshots. How come? Some of these people are abhorrent.

I didn't always. I think the first year or so of the account, I was under the operating rules of "if you post it publicly, you have no right to hide.” But then, I made mistakes and misunderstood people, and posted people on the account that didn't deserve it at all. I realized that it wasn't fair that their identities were tied to the account when they had done nothing wrong, and even after I deleted the post, it had still be shared all over the site. I felt awful for it, I still do. I asked how the followers of the account felt, and if they thought I should go the route of hiding names and icons.

It was 40 percent for hiding and 60 percent against... not an even split. But, I made the executive decision because at the end of the day, all of this falls on my hands and my conscious. I don't want to throw someone in front of 100 thousand people over a misunderstanding, and have no way to take it back due to the nature of the internet, of how permanent things are. Obviously, there are takes I post now that really cannot be misinterpreted, but it's hard to say "well, I'll hide usernames if the take isn't really that bad, but I won't if it's SUPER bad," because where is the line there? My compromise to that was to not hide the names of any larger personality, especially not if their brand is built on being consistently terrible or bigoted... And, I also don't hide news accounts, because that seems a little silly.

VICE Games: Do you ever hear from the people you highlight? I suspect some people are mad. Maybe others would take a look at themselves and change? Personal experience does not provide much hope for the latter.

I have heard from a couple! And there was a person that did admit that what they said was shitty and that after reading everyone's responses, they understood why. I ended up deleting that post because at that point, why keep it up, y'know? And yes, some are just mad at me and lash out. But that one person who apologized does give me hope that these people can change for the better and move forward.

VICE Games: I think it's interesting that sometimes, you break character. Most of the account is sharing tweets and screenshots. Sometimes, you stop acting like a bot. How do you figure when to step in?

Hahaha, I don't really put any thought into it! I talk when I want to and stay away when I'm feeling it's not necessary. It depends on the day and my mood, you can probably tell what kind of day I'm having based on the replies I write. People give me flack for it sometimes, but it's just not a big deal to me... If I spend time running the account, I think I should be able to have fun and talk to people too! I don't care about keeping a "character" or anything like that.

There are times when I address a certain topic as an actual account post, though... I do that when it's a subject that I don't want people to misunderstand my position on. People seem to think if I don't post a take on or about X, that means I must agree with it... But that isn't always the case, obviously. For example, the Smash community has had a couple players do some awful things a couple months ago... But since those actions involved other, specific people, it didn't feel right to just post takes about it. It almost trivializes it, to me. So, I posted that I knew it was happening, but I didn't want to post takes about it not because I agreed with the actions, but because I wasn't comfortable with it.

I have a lot of people assume my positions on things, and when it's something as important as sexual abuse or things of that nature, I absolutely want to be upfront and set the record straight before someone thinks something awful about me.

VICE Games: Ultimately, does running the account make you feel better about humanity and the gaming community? Worse?

I always try to be optimistic about things like that. Sure, I see a lot of negativity, but I see a lot of positivity too. I see a lot of people who want to combat those awful mindsets, who know how to talk about and approach them... That makes me feel really good about it, I guess. For every bad gamer take, there are plenty that are good. For every shitty gamer, there are plenty that are wonderful. Side note, but shoutout to @GoodGamerTakes for taking the time to show that on their own time... A lot of people think I dwell on negativity, so I'm glad that their account exists to point those people to a more positive place.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you know something cool that's happening in speedrunning drop an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com. He's also available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).