Steve Polk, better known as Alison Prime in gaming circles, actively assumed his online “gamer girl” persona in September 2014. What started as a way for Polk to escape life swiftly came crashing down on November 5, 2015, as internet sleuths discovered he isn’t a twenty-something cancer and abuse surviving woman, but a thirty-something man.
No one enjoys being had, but after a bevy of bogus, self-serving ‘GoFundMe‘ campaigns, it seems like the gaming community has been affected more than others. Unfortunately for Polk, after being ousted online, he still has to face the reality of spending the next six months living in a hotel room with his relatively large family, as they wait for their lives to be rebuilt.
Another Castle: First and foremost, you lied. You lied to a massive audience of more than 6,000 followers on Twitter daily, only to further an agenda that the gaming community already struggles to find legitimacy in, and has, ultimately, pushed the cause several steps back again. Can you explain your line of thinking?
Steve Polk: Honestly, my Alison Prime persona was really who I am online. I am disappointed in myself. I feel ashamed that I lied to so many people and destroyed so many people’s trust.
After my father passed away in 2009, I assumed the online user name of Alison Prime as a way to escape reality. It was who I was online. I did as much as I could to keep my real life and online life separate. I’m a nobody in real life, and my online persona made me feel good about going through each day.
Another Castle: Online anonymity itself isn’t necessarily damning, but the fact that you assumed the role of a “survivor” is, in itself, disturbing. Millions of men and women suffer from abuse and struggle to live their day-to-day lives, not to mention that you included that you were a “cancer survivor”. Pardon my bluntness, but that’s pretty despicable. You not only took legitimacy away from the gaming journalism ethics cause — #GamerGate — but also from cancer and abuse survivors. How did claiming your online persona was a survivor further your attempted agenda?
Steve Polk: Alison Prime was pieced together by a real life friend of mine. Everything in that profile was about my friend, that includes being a survivor. She was thrown from a car by her abusive ex and survived cancer at age 9. She is someone I look up to. She’s brave and strong; she’s someone I wanted to be. So I adopted her as part of myself.
The photos are of another friend of mine who allowed me to use the images as long as I made her a “tit obsessed lesbian”. The cosplay photos were ones I found that looked exactly like her to aid in my persona’s legitimacy.
In that way, Alison Prime is real. She’s not someone you can meet in real life, but she’s bits and pieces of real people. The harassment that I was comfortable sharing is real. I stand behind Alison Prime’s views and opinions because not only do I firmly believe in them, but they came from hardcore gaming women I know in real life.
Both of those friends are aware of my account and the persona. Both encouraged me to put an end to it, and I planned on doing so when #GamerGate ended. However, a year later, it’s still going strong. On top of that, I was afraid of the SJW’s reaction; I was afraid for my family. They struggle to get by already, I didn’t want them involved with my activism.
Another Castle: It’s pretty hypocritical of you to start an entire online persona in an asinine effort to increase ethics in journalism, while you were being incredibly unethical.
Steve Polk: I understand that. I really fucked up. I lied to everyone when all I was trying to do was increase awareness of consumer unfriendly journalism. I was and am appalled at this false narrative they’ve built. My year within the #GamerGate community has been nothing but pleasant, despite the narrative they attempt.
Another Castle: Now that the cat’s out of the bag, so to say, how can you rebuild faith in the gaming community, in any way, that you’re not a terrible person? Where do you go from here?
Steve Polk: I can’t. I lied to people I’ve come to care about. I tried to cover those lies with more lies, and as a result, I ended up hurting my mother as she attempts to rebuild the family’s lives. I didn’t want any of that money and I didn’t want any handouts. I only wanted to help my family. But at this point, I can’t convince anyone otherwise. All the people I really loved are gone and I don’t blame them. I hope someday they can forgive me.
Another Castle: In the end, you were forced out of hiding by a ‘GoFundMe’ campaign. This said campaign stated that your family of 9 have been displaced due to a devastating house fire, which, before it was removed, accumulated more than $9,000 in less than a day. Perhaps the most aggravating aspect of this entire situation is the fact that the community feels it can no longer trust you. How can you prove the legitimacy of your family’s plight?
Steve Polk: It’s not that the community doesn’t believe that Steve Polk’s house burned down, that’s not disputed. I wanted to keep my family away from my activism work, but I was desperate to get them some help. Two ‘GoFundMe’ campaigns were set-up, but neither were set-up by me. One was set-up by my brother’s friend and the other was set-up by my other brother’s high school. The campaign that I shared was pulled.
Another Castle: Flat out, your integrity is gone and the community has turned their backs on you. Still, you plan on attempting to make amends, mostly for your family’s sake.
Steve Polk: To everyone I’ve hurt: I know you think I’m a horrible person and I feel like one. I tried to cover a lie with more lies because I felt like Alison Prime was the only thing I had left. When they found out, I still tried to lie to those closest to me and I can’t fully express how ashamed I am. After my dad passed, Alison Prime helped me get back on my feet, and I needed that again after the fire. I needed an escape. I needed to stop being me for a while.
I thought that my persona would do some good, but all it did was hurt those closest to me. I didn’t want anything in return. I was prideful. It literally took losing everything for me to swallow my pride and ask for help. After my mom’s astonishment at everyone’s kindness with the campaign and gaining hope for the future, I still don’t know how I’m going to tell her. About the campaign. About Alison Prime.
Another Castle: Was it worth it?
Steve Polk: In regards to hurting people, no. But in regards to all the people that the hashtag has helped, yes. I never wanted to use my following to promote myself. I only wanted to use it to promote others. I know I’m never going to be able to rebuild any of these friendships and I hope #GamerGate won’t suffer for my mistakes.
Cover image via