A battle of editorial will is currently being fought on Wikipedia, the most important source of information on the internet. At the center of the controversy — though not a participant in it — is Todd Howard. Howard is the mind behind the video-game series Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, and the face of Bethesda Game Studios, their developer.
The games Howard makes are open-world RPGs that emphasize player choice and flexibility, and as part of the promotion cycle, Howard makes hyperbolic declarations of what the games will offer. Because these are franchises with passionate, obsessive fans, he often functions as an avatar upon which fans project their frustrations, leading to a version of Todd Howard on the internet separate from the man himself (presumably). Current running jokes involve Bethesda’s habit of rereleasing its popular game Skyrim for every console imaginable, and Howard’s failure to appear at the annual video-game convention E3 last year, leading to users calling him Todd Coward.
Here is a compilation of Howard’s statements, set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies”; it has 1.6 million views.
Anyway, at some point last year, the lighthearted vandalism of Howard’s Wikipedia page became so prolific that editors placed a lock on it until this past Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Since the lock was placed, users on Tumblr have been counting down the days, waiting for Howard’s wiki to become editable once again. One popular countdown post now has more than 155,000 notes (Tumblr-speak for “post interactions”).
Shortly before Howard’s page unlocked, a Wikipedia editor posted on the entry’s Talk section (where Wikipedians discuss possible edits to a page). “A tumblr post made many months ago is circulating like crazy today. Not sure what the deal with this is but probably want to be aware that a bunch of people intend to come vandalize the page,” a user wrote.
“Nothing new really, we’re aware,” another editor named ferret said.
Howard’s article unlocked and was immediately vandalized. It now has “Extended confirmed protection,” defined as “edits only from registered users with at least 30 days tenure and at least 500 edits.”
In retaliation, Howard acolytes began defacing any Wikipedia article even remotely related to Howard. That includes games he previously worked on, the college he attended, and the entry for Howard City, Michigan (which Todd Howard has no affiliation with).
Here’s a running tally:
On the Emmaus High School wiki, Howard was briefly listed in the “Notable alumni” section as “master skyrim remasterer, in charge of releasing all 137 versions of skyrim.” The entry for History of Shit, the 1978 book by French psychoanalyst Dominique Laporte briefly credited the work to “Todd Coward.”
The Wikipedia entry for It, the monster from Stephen King’s novel, replaced “Pennywise” with the phrase “Todd Coward.” Inserted into the middle of the article in all-caps was the plea, “LET US IN THE TODD HOWARD WIKIPEDIA.”
The Wikipedia entry for celebrated film director Todd Haynes briefly opened with the observation that he is “The first Todd H- to pop up when you type it into the wikipedia search bar, surpringisly [sic].”
On the entry for classic Bethesda Softworks program Wayne Gretzky Hockey, a vandal wrote, “The game series inspired known video game guru and latest incarnation of the dead god Cthulhu, Toddathan Coward, to produce his greatest known work yet, ‘Wayne Gretzky Skyrim’, set to be released on all consoles in 2018, where Todd will then proceed to devour the Earth, snuffing out humanity like a candle, as prophesied in the Ancient Texts. Praise Todd, for he be immortal.”
The war shows no signs of stopping. Meanwhile, Wikipedia’s editors continue to monitor the situation.