A Destiny 2 player called Jesse James Comer has been ordered to pay almost $500,000 for harassing a Bungie community manager—referred to as D. Doe—because the studio chose to promote artwork created by a Black fan during its "My Destiny 2 Story" community spotlight series.
A Default Judgement and Order (Google Doc) issued on July 11, 2023, and shared online by Kathryn Tewson, who helped Bungie identify the culprit, describes how Comer began a campaign of "racist, stochastic terrorism" against the studio and Doe.
It explains how Comer would target Doe by using a TextNow VOIP service to leave "hideous, bigoted" voicemails to repeatedly ask Bungie to "create options in its game in which only persons of color would be killed."
Comer also targeted Doe's wife, leaving threatening and frightening voicemails that indicated he knew where they lived and could assault them. He also used an anonymous number to place a cash on delivery pizza order to further intimidate the Does, telling the delivery driver to "knock at leave five times" on the Does' door because he would purportedly be wearing headphones.
The situation ultimately required Bungie to take "expensive measures" to protect the Does from the threat posed by Comer, with the studio sending out executive protection within an hour of the pizza attack and notifying the local police department.
The company also engaged with investigators and outside counsel to identify and locate Comer, and eventually had to retain additional investigators and counsel in West Virginia, where Comer lived, to obtain a restraining order against them.
Comer's harassment campaign resulted in Doe needed to take time off from work and curtail their public interactions with Destiny 2 fans, which, as noted in the order, is a "core" part of their job. What's more, news of the incident spread throughout the studio, impacting other Bungie community managers.
"Bungie not only lost a dedicated veteran community manager, it was forced to shield other existing employees and potential new employees from similar harassment campaigns," notes the order.
Court ruling creates a path for studios to hold "stochastic terrorists" accountable
The court granted Bungie's motion for default judgement (Comer reportedly failed to turn up and argue his case) and Comer has been found liable for precisely $489,435.52, which comprises the cash Bungie spent on investigation, protection, and legal fees.
Notably, as highlighted by Tewson, the studio also received an official judicial recognition of the threat and harm posed by a pattern of harassment that could have resulted in physical violence.
The studio also proved, as a conclusion of law, that targeted harassment against an employee also damages the employer, allowing it to recover more damages (such as investigation and protection costs) in court.
"We also got a ruling that doxing and harassing an employee with unwanted deliveries by reason of their employment is an unfair trade practice that affects the public interest -- which puts this conduct within the ambit of Washington's Consumer Protection Act," continued Tewson, breaking down the order on Twitter.
"But the really exciting news comes in at the end. In addition to finding that Washington employers can recover for damages for harassment of their employees under standard torts like nuisance and invasion of privacy, the Court also held that it would recognize a new tort.
"By recognizing a new tort based on the Washington criminal statutes outlawing cyber and telephone harassment, the Court has created a path for those with the resources to identify stochastic terrorists and hold them accountable to do exactly that and recover their costs in court."
This is just the latest instance of Bungie showing that it won't tolerate player harassment towards its employees. In July 2022, the studio sued another Destiny 2 player for in-game cheating and harassing its community management team.
Shortly after, Bungie general counsel Don McGowan told Axios that "removing harassment and abuse from our community is not only the right thing to do, it is also good business," indicating the company was fully committed to removing toxic players from its community–even if that means pursuing legal action.