We all get angry sometimes. We gamers tend to be very passionate about our hobby and due to the connectedness of the internet we usually have an open com channel with the developers of our favorite games. Some of this passion can turn to outright aggression due to the anonymous nature of most online interactions, but sometimes our anonymity isn’t as, well, anonymous as we might think. One Californian man found out the hard way and is facing a prison sentence because of it, according to a report by Polygon .
This Californian man is Stephen Cebula, a 28-year old man from Sacramento got arrested on the 12th of July after a particularly toxic exchange between him, some Heroes of the Storm players and Blizzard Entertainment. Some of these players contacted the developer after they had received some rather graphic messages sent by Cebula. The court documents obtained by Polygon mentions threats like Cebula threatening to “bomb the New York Twin Towers”, in addition to several instances where Cebula threatened to rape and kill his opponent’s kids.
Blizzard Entertainment reacted by muting Cebula in the game, barring him from talking to other players. While this usually is enough of a punishment, Cebula would have none of it. He took to Facebook to send Blizzard 2 messages in which he warned Blizzard to be careful, stating that he “may or may not pay you a visit with an AK47” in addition to some other “fun tools”.
This caused Blizzard to send the chat logs to the FBI, after which Cebula was taken into custody. The FBI started an investigation into Cebula’s online interactions and found social media accounts that showcased Cebula’s fascination with serial killers, with Ted Bundy specifically being mentioned.
During questioning, Cebula stated that his behavior was meant only to scare Blizzard and the players who he had personally threatened. During the same round of questioning Cebula also admitted that he harbored sexual feelings towards his 5-year old niece. The case file also mentions that this wasn’t Cebula’s first interaction with local law enforcement. He already got placed under involuntary psychiatric hold in 2015 by the Sacramento Sherriff’s Department after admitting that he had the intention of killing someone in a local park, and had threatened school staff when he was still a minor. He also admitted to having considered cutting his sister’s throat but decided not to do it because she had children.
Following his indictment, Cebula will plead his case on July 26 and is looking at a prison sentence of up to 5 years in addition to a $250,000 fine if he’s found guilty. You can read the full case files by going here, but do remember that the text found therein is explicit and graphic in nature. The Californian Department of Justice has also released a statement regarding the case. Blizzard Entertainment has not commented on the situation thus far, but we have reached out to them for an official quote. We will update when and if they release an official statement.
This isn’t your regular garden-variety internet troll. The man is clearly mentally unstable, which is why I think the response from both Blizzard and the FBI is definitely the right one. Goes to show that what you say online can and will be held against you if what you say is severe enough, so maybe ease up on the death threats the next time someone (un)intentionally feeds the other team during your next Heroes of the Storm match. Far be it from me to diminish the role games play in our lives, but no game is worth getting this upset over. Luckily, this isn’t a common occurrence.
What do you think of this story?