Near (Byuu)Age 38 (born 21 Feb 1983)
27 Jun 2021
Arakawa, Tokyo (Japan)
Near died by suicide after harassment by users of the Kiwi Farms internet site. They were a software developer known for developing emulators and conserving retro videogames.
“Near took their own life”. That’s how a news article would phrase it. Suicide is a voluntary action, a problem with oneself. Implying nobody is to blame but the victim and perpetrator, one and the same.
But that’s not how human brains work. We are not cold, calculating machines. We are a product of our environment. We are shaped by our experiences. A single, powerful traumatic event can change a person forever. So can a million small ones. This is not a weakness of the mind, it is a fundamental part of what it means to be human.
Near was a brilliant mind in a corner of the web all too often rife with toxicity and harassment. Despite this, they continued to pour their life into the one thing they loved: emulation and retro gaming. Developer of the bsnes, higan, and ares emulators, Near was a relentless force for accuracy in the formerly haphazard world of emulation. Working out the most elusive hardware glitches and corner cases, they advanced the world of SNES emulation by leaps and bounds. They also recently released their ultimate labor of love, a fan translation of Bahamut Lagoon that might well be the most exacting and meticulously crafted language adaptation of a video game of the era.
Near was also an incredibly kind, funny, and welcoming person. I’d known them for several years, but after they moved to Tokyo a few years back we started talking more often. One of the most modest people I’ve ever known, they were unlikely to suggest hanging out in person, but never rejected an offer. I wish I’d done that more often. We’ve had long text conversations, and shared many stories.
Near did not commit suicide. Near was murdered. Victim of a lifetime of harassment. After an abusive childhood, and followed by community toxicity, Near was eventually targeted by Kiwi Farms. Members of that website make a sport of preying on the less fortunate, on those in positions liable to being emotionally abused. And they do so relentlessly. From the comfort of anonymity, of sitting in front of their computer thousands of kilometers away, they take glee in slowly destroying the psyche of others, bit by bit. To death, if possible.
Near survived that. Many wouldn’t, but Near was strong enough to overcome that level of emotional abuse. But Kiwi Farms is relentless. Not to be defeated in their pursuit of utter emotional and psychological destruction, they went after who Near treasured most: their friends. Doxing some, directly harassing others, and even specifically seeking out suicidal people to target.
That broke Near.
After falling down a spiral of depression and eventually breaking off contact with everyone last year, I feared for the worst. Eventually, they were luckily able to get help and found medication that helped them cope with the psychological scars of abuse in late 2020. I first heard from Near again in late October 2020, and we again started having chats. It seemed things were getting better.
Unfortunately, medication can be a fickle beast. It didn’t work forever. The looming threat of Kiwi Farms, of their power to destroy not just Near but also their friends, caused them daily anxiety that just wouldn’t go away. Worried that their friends would feel burdened by their condition again, Near decided to avoid the subject. I only found out about this relapse today.
To the people of Kiwi Farms, this is a videogame. That the people on the other side of the screen are real makes no difference. They delight in the kill counter going up just like an FPS player would. Lacking in any empathy, they have no regard for the damage they inflict on others.