A Destiny 2 player who subjected a Bungie community manager to threats, harassment, and racist abuse has been ordered to pay the studio more than $489,000 in damages as a result of his behavior. The incident occurred after the community manager shared some art created by UhMaayyze, a Black Destiny 2 and creator, which the ruling says “incensed” defendant Jesse James Comer and led him to start “his campaign of racist, stochastic terrorism” against the CM and Bungie.
The full ruling was shared on Twitter by paralegal Kathryn Tewson, who described Comer pointedly as “a racist shitstain of a human being” who engaged in “sociopathic conduct” against the Bungie employee and their family. Based on details in the ruling, the descriptor fits: Using an anonymizing service, Comer called the community manager’s personal line multiple times after he shared UhMaayyze’s work on social media, leaving “hideous, bigoted voicemail,” and demanding that Bungie create a Destiny 2 mode in which players would kill people of color.
Comer them moved on to the CM’s wife, “carpet bombing” them both with “racist text and voice messages” before letting them know that he knew where they lived: He ordered a “virtually inedible, odiferous pizza” from Dominos and had it sent cash-on-delivery, with instructions to “knock at least five times” because the CM would purportedly be wearing headphones and needed loud noises in order to know that the pizza arrived. After the pizza was delivered, Comer left another message for the CM’s wife, telling her to “enjoy the pizza.”
Comer’s activities were “no mere prank,” the ruling states, and the possibility of an escalation into real-world violence forced Bungie to take “expensive measures” to protect the employee and his family. The studio dispatched “executive protection” to the CM’s home and notified local police, and then hired investigators to discover Comer’s identity, a process that included hiring lawyers in Canada in order to obtain an order from a Canadian court.
The harassment had spinoff effects, too. The community manager in question was forced to take time off and restrict his interaction with fans, and Bungie’s other CMs were also impacted as word of the threats got out. “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,” the ruling states.
And there’s no question that Comer was responsible: “Comer has never denied his intent to terrify [the victims] (and by extension Bungie) because they did the job Bungie asked them to do by promoting the contributions of a Black creator to Destiny 2. Indeed, immediately after this lawsuit was filed, he stipulated to an interim injunction that all but admitted his intent and his involvement.”
The final ruling—a default judgment, since Comer apparently didn’t bother to show up to defend himself—imposes a permanent injunction against any contact between him and Bungie, its employees, and any member of the Destiny 2 community. It also orders him to pay a total judgment of $489,435.52, with interest accumulating at a rate of 12% per year until the damages are paid in full.
It might seem a bit odd for a big law firm to so publicly celebrate the squashing of a particularly vicious online troll, even one as obviously repugnant and worthy of an ass-kicking as Comer. But Tewson listed several reasons why the win is “brag-worthy” in her Twitter thread, including that it’s “official judicial recognition of the threat and harm posed by the well-documented pattern of escalating harassment that can culminate in tragedy via swatting and other real-world violence.”
“We got—as a CONCLUSION OF LAW—that when an employee is harassed *by reason of their employment,* that harassment damages the employer as well, and the employer can enforce the recovery of those damages in civil court,” Tweson tweeted. “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.
But the “really exciting news,” according to Tewson—and I am not a lawyer, so I’ll have to take her word for it—is that the ruling “has created a path for those with the resources to identify stochastic terrorists and hold them accountable” in court.
The likelihood of Bungie ever collecting on the ruling is probably not great, but it’s clear that the big win here is the precedent it sets: That companies whose employees are subject to abuse or threats have a real recourse—and those who perpetrate that behavior cannot do so with impunity.
The reaction to the decision on the Destiny subreddit is largely positive, and there’s widespread support for the decision from other developers. “This is an incredible work of law and sets excellent precedent,” Riot Games design manager Steven Lumpkin tweeted. “What great news!”
“If you are a piece of shit and are considering harassing actual human beings for just trying to make video games, perhaps the legal precedent of being sued by the studio for half a million dollars will make you think twice,” JC Lau of Probably Monsters wrote. “This is a huge win for devs in the industry.”
“This is a win for everyone who busts their ass to deliver interactive entertainment to audiences who sometimes don’t see or care about the effort put into the games they love,” Tomb Raider design lead David Ellis tweeted.
D.M. Schmeyer, an attorney who worked on the case, also had some thoughts about the outcome of the case. “Congratulations to my clients, who stood up and fought for something that mattered,” he tweeted. “Congratulations to my team. We made law.
“And a hearty fuck you to the dregs of digital society who do real harm and believe themselves above responsibility, beyond accountability. You aren’t.”