It has been revealed that the figurehead of GamerGate's escalating extremism is a spoof character designed to mock the movement.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, 20-year-old Jan Rankowski admits that the character ‘Jace Connors', who shot to fame after crashing his car supposedly en route to attack Brianna Wu (the crash, at least, is claimed to be real) was intended to satirise the over-the-top, super-hyper-macho armed GamerGater”.
However, in recent days the reality of the fabrication has been exposed, leading Rankowski to himself become a target of the hate campaign he willingly mocked.
The Jace character was just a lens through which I do satire,” he said. YouTube streamers; Call of Duty gamers. GamerGate was the next in a long line.
They realized I was making fun of them with those videos. People have been calling my old high school calling my work and saying these nasty things about me. I was made to sign a contract at my job saying I wouldn't make any of these videos again. I received a letter in the mail with a picture of me from my high school yearbook… It said I shouldn't have fucked with 8chan.”
Rankowski posted videos on YouTube under the name ‘Parkourdude91', while the channel's banner proudly proclaimed guns, games and ganja”. Yet even this treasure trove of cultivated memes was not enough to stop GamerGaters rallying behind the creation, for a time at least.
Spoof or not, the trauma caused to the likes of Brianna Wu – who was the recipient of many videos in which ‘Connors' would pose with knives and guns and threaten her life – is very real indeed. ‘Joke' or 'pretend' assault is still assault.
I started it as a joke, but it's become far too real and I wish I could take it all back,” Rankowski admitted. Part of the humour of [comedy group and Connors co-creator Million Dollar Extreme] is pushing the boundaries, but we've never encountered actually being afraid for our own safety. This has ruined my life.
I didn't take this situation seriously, but I see what it means now to be in the other person's shoes. What her life must feel like. I have this newfound respect for the people who are having to deal with GamerGate, Brianna Wu and Anita [Sarkeesian].”
Million Dollar Extreme's Sam Hyde added: My aim right now is to calm these people down. I've learned my lesson.”