Teenagers Say EA Brushed Off Reports Of Sexual Harassment By Sims Influencer

Teenagers Say EA Brushed Off Reports Of Sexual Harassment By Sims Influencer

Last week, a Sims streamer and YouTuber in EA’s Game Changer program was accused by several people in the community of sexually harassing minors online. Although he stepped down as a Game Changer on March 5, people in the Sims community are still left wondering why this wasn’t addressed months ago, because some of the people who say they were victimised by him say that they reported his actions to The Sims’s development team in December of last year.

The Game Changers program is EA’s “community partnership program,” which allows streamers and YouTubers to apply to be selected to receive special access to the developers of specific EA games, as well as early codes for expansions or other content, and access to preview events.

In The Sims community, Game Changers are held in esteem because many of them have a direct line to Sim Gurus, designated members of The Sims development team who interact with the community and answer questions.

Multiple teenage boys say that a member of the EA Game Changer program who goes by the handle Dylan Simz used his status to prey on them. After these allegations surfaced last week, Simz stepped down as a Game Changer and deleted some of his social media accounts.

Kotaku asked Simz for comment on the allegations via his personal Facebook page, and minutes later, that account was also deleted. Kotaku also left a voicemail with a phone number that appears to belong to Simz but has not yet received a response.

Stuart, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, told Kotaku that he met Simz online when he was fifteen, in late November last year. Simz lists his birth year as 1991 on multiple social media accounts, which would make him 27.

Stuart had entered and won Simz’s giveaway for a copy of The Sims 4 expansion Get Famous, and Simz messaged him to tell him so. Stuart told Kotaku over Discord that soon afterward, Simz sent him a sexual message.

Stuart said that Simz described to him a fantasy about the two of them performing sexual favours with each other in a coffee shop and then tried to get Stuart to roleplay with him. “Very sexual in that cafe, that’s all I’ll say about that,” he said.

Stuart said that he told Simz no, that he did not want to hear about this fantasy, but Simz persisted.

“I told him that he is messed up for doing what he’s doing and he claimed that he never read me saying no,” Stuart said.

After that exchange, Stuart said that he deleted those messages between himself and Simz, trying to put it behind him. It had made him uncomfortable and he didn’t want to think about it. He said he had told his mother about the incident. Stuart never went to the police. He also blocked Simz on Discord.

Over the course of the next month, Stuart met and befriended Tate, who has a Sims-related YouTube channel and whose name has also been changed to protect his identity. Stuart learned that Tate had also been solicited by Simz.

Tate says Simz first contacted him in mid-December, when Tate was sixteen.

“He randomly messaged me one night at 3 am to tell me he had a ‘weird dream,’” Tate told Kotaku over Twitter direct messages. “Upon asking him on what had happened, he said it was a ‘naughty dream’ involving me and when I further asked, he revealed what he had dreamt about.” Simz told Tate that he had dreamt about the two of them performing oral sex on each other.

Tate told Kotaku that his parents were against the idea of him having a YouTube channel, so he never told them about his channel, nor his interactions with Simz. He also never went to the police. Although he says he deleted most of his correspondence with Simz, Tate provided Kotaku with a screenshot of his conversation with Simz that depicts Simz appearing to be describing his sexual dream about Tate.

Once Stuart and Tate got to know each other and had shared their experiences with Simz, they decided to take some action. In December, Tate gave Stuart permission to contact Kate Olmstead on his behalf; Olmstead is The Sims’s community manager, and she handles the game’s Game Changer program.

Stuart didn’t get an immediate response to his Twitter DM to Olmstead, so then he messaged Steve Lansing, a developer on The Sims’s team that assists with official streams.

In screenshots Stuart sent to Kotaku that appear to show this correspondence, Lansing seems reluctant to help with the problem.

“I’m like ‘how much do I want to get involved?’” Lansing appears to have written. “Is he not taking ‘please stop’ for an answer?” Lansing has not yet responded to Kotaku’s request for comment about the veracity of this exchange.

Eventually, the purported messages show Lansing directing Stuart back to Olmstead. Stuart says that Olmstead then told him she would talk to Simz. Olmstead has also not yet responded to Kotaku.

In December, shortly after Stuart said that he had relayed the information about Simz to Olmstead, Tate says that he received an apology from Simz. In screencaps provided to Kotaku, Simz appears to tell Tate that he didn’t know how old he was. Tate said that he doesn’t really believe it.

“I never told him personally my age, however he did say he watched my videos all the time and 3 months before this took place I posted a birthday video in which I said how old I was,” Tate said.

Four months later, Stuart and Tate learned that Simz was allegedly targeting another teen.

At this point, the pair approached Tabitha, a Sims YouTuber with two hundred and fifteen thousand subscribers, and gave her permission to publicize their experiences with Simz and correspondence with Lansing and Olmstead. She held a livestream and posted a video on the topic last week.

In her video, Tabitha said, “This is alarming for so many reasons, but what was more alarming is the fact that that one of the victims contacted two of the SimGurus to tell them what was going on and report this man, because he is an EA Game Changer, and what did they do? Nothing… I don’t know if I want to keep being a Simmer at this point. I’m humiliated to even be associated with this brand. They should be embarrassed that they let this man be a representative of who they are as a company.”

After Tabitha made this public, Simz stepped down as a Game Changer and deleted some of his social media accounts.

As the news swept through The Sims’s community, multiple players came forward to share their experiences with Simz. One player, Daren, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said that Simz had coerced him into being in an online relationship.

Daren told Kotaku that Simz contacted him in May of last year under the pretense of helping Daren with his Twitch profile. Daren was sixteen. As they continued to talk, Daren said that Simz started to make sexual jokes. Daren said when Simz offered to play a game on Skype with him, in the middle of the game, Simz said that he needed to change and then stripped nude on camera.

“At that moment in time I was paralysed, not knowing what to say. A few moments later he actually flashed me saying ‘whoopsy!’ as if it was on accident. He then tried to act very cute and alluring towards me. I had never been in a relationship, so I didn’t know what that would be like,” Daren told Kotaku over Twitter DMs.

“I mistook his actions for love, actual affection. When we had actually started a relationship together he would keep talking sexually with me, jerking off on camera and asking for intimate photos. Even though I had told him I didn’t want to do any of that.”

Daren said that their relationship turned adversarial, describing Simz as yelling at him and blaming him for anything bad that would happen to Simz. Daren realised he had to break things off when Simz made a comment about his younger brother.

“At one point I showed him a photo of me and my little brother he told me ‘wow, your brother is hot!’ My brother was 14 in that photo,” Daren said. “At that point I realised this wasn’t just me, and that Dylan was sick.” After they broke up, Daren said that Simz continued to harass him until Daren blocked him on social media in January of this year.

Daren never met Simz in real life, and said that their relationship was purely over the internet. He never told his parents about the relationship, and never went to the police. He provided Kotaku with some screenshots of Simz harassing him after the relationship ended; these screenshots appear to portray Simz messaging Daren every few hours between December 30th and January 3rd. However, because Simz has recently deleted all of his social media accounts, the other records of the logs between Daren and Simz have been lost.

The three teens who spoke to Kotaku said that they were initially afraid to come forward because of Simz’s status as a Game Changer.

Stuart said that for him, the fear came from knowing that Simz was friends with other Game Changers, as well as in contact with the SimGurus. He feared that Simz would use his status as a Game Changer to weaponize his fanbase against Stuart if he spoke out.

“I know that he’s friends with a lot of those [bigger] Game Changers, and I had some friends who were friends with him, so I was like, ‘oh am I going to lose friends over this too?’” Stuart said. “He did mention to me ‘Oh I’m a Game Changer, if you didn’t know,’ multiple times, so I think he knew that too.”

Daren said that Simz also used his status as a Game Changer to pressure him to stay in their relationship.

“Him being a Game Changer was one of the factors, yes. That combined with him being 11 years older than me just added to this huge power dynamic,” Daren said. “I didn’t speak to EA because I thought it would just end badly for me. Dylan made me believe that he was all I had. At the time I didn’t have many friends, all the social connections I had were through him. I thought that if word came out about what he did to me, they would side with him and I would be called a liar and be left by myself.”

“People look up to Game Changers and they have a level of credibility that makes them seem more trustworthy,” Tabitha told Kotaku over email. “Obviously [The Sims team] is not the police and sexual harassment especially of minors should be handled accordingly, but in my opinion they definitely should have kicked him out of the Game Changers program because it was giving him a platform he very clearly abused. I wish they would have warned the rest of the community about his actions to prevent more incidents from occurring.”

Last Thursday, Lyndsay Pearson, general manager for The Sims, released a statement on Twitter about this situation.

The statement says that “allegations of inappropriate online contact by a Sims Game Changer was brought to our team in December by a third party,” and that when The Sims team followed up with that Game Changer, they “confirmed directly with him that the conduct occurred as it had been described.” After speaking with the Game Changer, they write that, “our process to properly investigate and escalate anything of this nature was not followed.”

The statement continues: “An appropriate response would have been to immediately dismiss the Sims Game Changer and take additional steps to ensure our community was protected. We sincerely apologise for the delay in taking the right action here. We are disappointed in how events have unfolded, and we own our responsibility in that.”

The statement concludes by saying, “We have contacted the appropriate authorities and given them the relevant information… We are making immediate improvements to our internal investigation and escalation processes, and ensuring our entire team learns from this. We will reinforce our strict guidelines on ethics and conduct standards with all of our Game Changers. We will be connecting with the affected parties to offer support.” When reached for comment by Kotaku, The Sims PR team linked to this statement in response.

Last week’s statement came on the heels of some very firm reactions from prominent Sims community members. For example, Tabitha said in her video on Tuesday that she would not be spending any more money on The Sims because of how this was handled.

In a further statement to Kotaku last week, Tabitha said: “At this moment I don’t feel comfortable giving money to a company that doesn’t care about their consumers, especially considering a majority of the people that play The Sims are young. They hand-select the EA Game Changers and they should be people you can trust as they are representatives of the company and game.

If all they care about is profits, then I don’t want to contribute to that. I’ve built my entire channel on the game, but I feel that the members of the community’s safety and well-being are more important than a video game.”

She added that two other Sims YouTubers that she knows of have decided to stop playing the game because of this situation.

Since Pearson’s statement went up, the response from the community has largely been positive.

Tate told Kotaku that he does not blame Sims community manager Kate Olmstead for how this played out, though he is still disappointed by the response from Sims developer Steve Lansing.

“I did feel let down/disappointed by what [Olmstead] had said at first, however soon realised that she was doing what she thought was best given the circumstances. I in no way blame her for what she said as I wouldn’t quite know what to do either,” he said. “Nobody is talking about SimGuruSteve [Steve Lansing] which is actually more upsetting as he said nothing can be done due it being a private conversation.”

Stuart said that he considers himself lucky, as he was able to get in touch with someone with a large following to call attention to this issue.

“There’s probably people who don’t have that connection to a person with a bigger following who and can’t speak out about it,” he said. “It’s sad too, because I know I was lucky. I’m not saying I had completely the worst situation, but I just feel like if there is a worse situation for someone else, it’s going to be very bad for them.”