Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Best/Worst of 2011 #2: Paul Christoforo

Okay, now, unless you've been running around in some very specific internet circles, you may not have heard of this guy. Furthermore, the fact that the story I'm about to relate to you broke within the past month does mean that it's fresher in my mind, and might have beaten out a more worthy entry from somewhere down the line in 2011. But... nah. This story is great, and my attempts to explain it to people when it was going down were paltry at best, so rehashing it here means I can elaborate a bit more fully, though I should also add that there are pieces of this story that are still maybe a bit fuzzy.

So. Meet Paul.
This is him. Allegedly. And for the record, I didn't intentionally set out to use the most ridiculous picture of him I could find; it just happens it's hard to find a shot of him that hasn't been memed to death.
Paul runs a little outfit called Ocean Marketing. Ocean Marketing's mission in life is a little... let's say "vague," and when I say that Paul "runs" it, I mean more that he "runs it and is the sole employee." This is true as far as I've been able to determine, anyway. Point is, a few months ago, Ocean Marketing was contracted to do PR/customer service for a product called the Avenger, made by a company called N-Control*. And what is the Avenger? I'll let the folks at Kotaku explain:
"The bizarre-looking device straps on to the Xbox 360 controller, increasing the sensitivity of the buttons and triggers in order to allow for rapid, fluid movements. I'm not sure if it looks amazing or ridiculous. If hard-pressed I'd say it looks like an Xbox 360 controller attempting to cosplay."
So, the Avenger is basically something that fits onto an Xbox 360 controller and allows you to pew-pew better. I've also heard it touted as a device that can help disabled gamers, um, game better. Anyway, the Avenger is a new product, and as such, encountered a number of delays as iControl attempted to bring it to market. This didn't stop people from pre-ordering the Avenger, and when iControl/Ocean Marketing stopped providing updates on the devices' progress, people started asking questions. At this point, things... devolved.

I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow of what happened next. Instead, I'm going to invite you all to rumble on over to Penny Arcade. If you don't know what that is, it's okay, just read this and then come back and we'll all discuss it. There's a lot to read there, but it's worth it. Oh, and it has some salty language, so... be careful if that's a thing for you.
The summary: man asks where his controllers are, with an eye on receiving them by Christmas. Paul replies cryptically, then takes a turn for the childish and insulting. Emails are thrown back and forth. The customer then decides to cc: various gaming sites/blogs, along with gaming and internet comic powerhouse Penny Arcade. At one point, Paul, perhaps feeling his oats a little too firmly, declares that he's a super-industry big shot with booths at various gaming conventions, including PAX East, which is run by the folks at... Penny Arcade.

This aggros PA's Mike Krahulik, who chimes in to say that if this guy seriously had PAX East space, he has just kissed it goodbye. Mike, by the by, is one of PA's founders, and is kind of a Big Deal. Paul, unfortunately, does not recognize his name, at least not at first. Instead, Paul turns on Mike, throws out several more bucketfuls of venom, and then finally gets around to Googling the name of the guy he's trashing. Paul is initially contrite, but eventually gets the insult mobile back into full swing, promising to smear Penny Arcade. Mike grabs the entire exchange and puts it up on PA's site, whereupon it goes viral.

Seriously, though, it you didn't read it before, go read it-- no... experience it.

I love watching the Internet explode at someone. It's awesome in the original sense of the word, that is, it's awe-inspiring but also a little bit scary. It's like watching a lion take down a gazelle, then the lion is in turn consumed by a swarm of flesh-eating locusts. It's the internet at its most Serious Business-y, and when it gets pointed at the right target... it's messy, and glorious.

Paul Christoforo was the right target.
What happened subsequently is a little hard to parse; as is the case with viral experiences, it immediately exploded in several directions at once. But here are some good bullet-points:
  • It was quickly discovered that this wasn't Paul's first run-in with someone about the Avenger.
  • Internet hive-mind Reddit caught wind that much of the content of the Ocean Marketing was plagarized**.
  • Kotaku did a little digging and came up with evidence that Christoforo might be juicing (or at least, juiced in the past, allegedly).
  • Oh, also it was discovered that Christoforo has dabbled in domestic abuse (allegedly).
  • Bombarded, Christoforo jumped from Twitter handle to Twitter handle. He started the day @OceanMarketting [sic], then abandoned that and moved to @oceanstratagy [sic, again], then abandoned that in favor of @OceanDeepBlueSea . Where is he now? I've no idea, but the twitter account linked to on the Ocean Marketing home page? Is still the original @OceanMarketting, which has since been taken over by an indie game advocate.
  • N-Control severed all ties with Christoforo, and hired a new PR rep, who gave the money quote, "there isn’t a bus big enough for me to throw Paul Christoforo under."
  • Pretty much everyone else who Christoforo name-dropped as friends or colleagues chimed in to say they never had anything to do with him. Christoforo responded somewhat predictably.
  • Christoforo eventually reached back out to Mike Krahulik, asking him to "make it stop," which is something that Krahulik was no longer able (or willing, perhaps) to do. Christoforo did give an apology to Mike, one that Mike didn't exactly buy.
  • Christoforo also sent an apology to the initial customer. At this point, everything should have been over, right? Wrong.
  • Christoforo started giving interviews in which he attempted to paint himself as the victim of the mean ol' internet.
  • And as a final garnish on the fail cake, Christoforo initially refused to turn over control of N-Control's email addresses and social media pages. He eventually relented; one imagines that a good lawyer finally got through to him, but ya never know.
Rarely is the concept of Best/Worst defined in a single individual, but that's what we get in Paul Christoforo. The hubris, the complete insanity, the phrases that were instantly memed... it is Best/Worst personified.

*N-Control is the name I've seen used all over the web, save for that Kotaku article. So... I dunno.
**-This particular link is one of the best summations I've found of the whole mess. You can probably skip all of my bullshit and just read that.

1 comment:

  1. Great post....don't normaly like the usual schadenfreude story and this is not a world i usually dabble in, but this guy was such a D-bag it made for great reading......

    I almost feel a little bad for him...sniff