Accusations of sexual predation are rocking the Pokémon YouTube community after 12 alleged victims made public statements against four individuals in that scene, including Kyle “TheKingNappy” McNeal, a well-known Pokémon YouTuber with over 500,000 subscribers.
Pokémon is a franchise that typically appeals to kids and teenagers, plus adults who grew up with the games and anime. The series has spawned a lively scene on YouTube where people post let’s plays, online battles, challenge runs, and general commentary on the series. Because of the series’ appeal to kids, fans of Pokémon YouTubers may skew young. Earlier this year, Kotaku reported on how Twitch streamers and YouTubers can take advantage of their large platforms and the power differentials they generate to abuse fans, and especially underage fans. In the past, games like Minecraft, which also attracts a younger audience, have given rise to content megastars who, according to a report by Vice Motherboard, have in some instances allegedly sexually preyed on underage fans. This weekend’s allegations against Pokemon’s online community and the power dynamics within it are proving similarly explosive.
These conversations outing alleged predators among Pokémon YouTubers began last week after a 19-year-old student named Sylveon, who asked Kotaku to keep her real name private, published a YouTube video titled “Finally coming forward.” In the video, Sylveon accuses Nathan Putnam, who goes by Dekadurr and makes graphics for widely regarded Pokémon YouTubers, of asking her for nude pictures when she was 15 years old. Putnam worked with many of the biggest names in his community and appeared at live events with them. Four women have accused him of preying on them when they were either underage or just barely 18.
Sylveon said over a Discord voice call that she met Putnam on the Twitch channel of Pokémon streamer ShadyPenguinn, after which Putnam looked her up on Twitter, which led to regular conversations online. After sending her shirtless pictures of himself via Snapchat, she says, Putnam asked her for nudes, which she says she initially declined. “He continued to make me feel like the bad guy,” she said. Eventually, she says, she assented. Sources say Putnam was in his early 20s, which Kotaku is working to confirm.
“It was really annoying to me, but I was kind of scared of him,” she explained on our call. “He had a larger following than me and worked with all these bigger names, people I looked up to. I didn’t want to speak out because who’s gonna believe me?” Sylveon says the messages between herself and Putnam are on an old phone and that she cannot corroborate that he knew her age. However, public statements and interviews with three other women, who were either underage or just 18 while in contact with Putnam, indicate that his behavior was part of a pattern of predation.
Over Twitter DMs and Discord messages, two of these women described how Putnam aggressively demanded naked pictures from them even after expressing how uncomfortable they felt. Two more say he hit on them when they were underage. One of them, who goes by Caroline, told Kotaku that she came forward because “I feel it’s important for everyone to know the horrible things he’s done to not only myself, but many others. As he is (or was) apart [sic] of an online community full of kids, this will continue to happen to young girls if we do not stop him.” (Kotaku has seen proof that Caroline’s age, which was 16, was visible on her bios on Twitter and Skype, where they spoke.)
Putnam did not return Kotaku’s requests for comment.
On March 31, Kyle “TheKingNappy” McNeal, who had previously worked with Putnam, called his actions “cruel and unforgivable” and apologized for not speaking up sooner. “I can 100% assure you that there wasn’t a single person aware of what Nathan was doing,” McNeal said in a note on Twitter. “If we had been aware, we would have taken action years ago and Nathan would not have been considered our friend, to any extent.”
Later that day, he amended his statement after people pointed out that this contradicted a tweet from another YouTuber, JayYTGamer, who said there was a general awareness of the Putnam’s behavior among the group, and “a few of us would pull him aside and try to speak to him and tell him to fucking stop that pedo shit.” McNeal said in his second statement that he was “referring to everything SINCE then.”
That same day, however, people begin to come forward with allegations against McNeal himself, the most severe of which suggested that he coerced a then-underage Pokémon YouTuber named Callum into dating him in 2013. Callum said he was 16 at the time and that McNeal was 21. In addition to his 500,000 YouTube subscribers, McNeal was followed by nearly 200,000 fans on his Twitch channel, which Nintendo has itself promoted. Nintendo did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Kotaku will update with their comment should we hear back.
“He gave me an ultimatum,” Callum wrote on Twitter. “Date or we’re no longer friends...I eventually agreed to try dating Nappy...I know I should’ve cut the relationship sooner, but I was still so terrified of losing friends over it.”
Another Pokémon YouTuber, GameboyLuke, came forward with his own story shortly after Callum. He told Kotaku via email that he was 21 or 22 at the time. Luke told Kotaku via phone that in 2015, McNeal made advances on him. Luke said he turned McNeal down but that McNeal persisted.
“It wasn’t until the third, fourth, or fifth advance that I realized something was really wrong,” he explained. According to Luke, McNeal also said that if Luke got a girlfriend, McNeal would have to cut ties with him.
“When he finally gave up, he kicked me from the friend group & he told everyone that ‘I didn’t fuck with them anymore’ when in reality McNeal couldn’t get me to do what he wanted & so he exiled me,” he explained on Twitter.
McNeal attempted to clear the air in a since-deleted stream the same day these stories came to light.
In the stream, which another YouTuber recorded and uploaded to YouTube, McNeal didn’t deny that his romantic pursuit of Luke happened, but he claims that the entire situation was consensual, that he was the one who broke things off, and that he didn’t do anything to ostracize Luke among their friend group. McNeal also claimed he was “good close friends” with Callum, but nothing more. “There was no collusion to plot against this 16-year-old sitting in his room in Scotland. Here I am, a 100,000+ subscriber channel. Why would I put any of this at risk over that?” he said. Last night, however, one of Callum’s friends posted Skype logs between herself and Callum in which Callum refers to McNeal as a “boyfriend,” in quotation marks, and in which Callum expresses feelings that he “led [McNeal] on...I shouldn’t have agreed to anything in the first place.” After those Skype logs leaked, McNeal posted another statement on Twitter. While he says that “the words I spoke on stream are the truth, at least from my perspective,” he offers his apologies to “all those involved.”
Callum has not responded to Kotaku’s requests for comment. McNeal did not originally reply to Kotaku in time for this story’s publication, but sent an emailed response after it ran that read, in part:
“In regards to the situation, I spoke ‘my side’ of things in my livestream this past Sunday. It’s hard to speak on things because there are so many situations with so many different people involved. Just as, ‘the other side,’ has their perception of things, so do I. I say that because none of these situations are one on one or black and white. However, this has all been an uphill battle due to the fact that whatever response I give is met with, ‘you’re lying.’”
“I still think that all of this hurt could have been avoided with a simple conversation. If anyone, at any point, had said something regarding how they felt, this giant mess of a series of arguments between friends would have never needed to become entertainment for hundreds of thousands of people,” he wrote.
At the same time, allegations surfaced against another Pokémon YouTuber close to McNeal, a woman who goes by Mudkip Mama. With just about 8,000 YouTube subscribers, Mudkip Mama had a small but close-knit following in the Pokémon YouTube world. According to two individuals who spoke with Kotaku, Mudkip Mama aggressively pursued them when they were either 18 or under 18. One of them, Pokémon YouTuber Patterrz, posted screenshots in which Mudkip Mama, who is in her 30s, apparently attempted to pressure him into a sexual connection. Later, he says, she trapped him in a bathroom with her and attempted to kiss him. (Patterrz did not return a request for comment by press time, but posted his side of the story on Twitlonger.)
In a Twitlonger post, a woman named Nikki says Mudkip Mama became “overly sexual with me in DM [direct message],” although she no longer has access to those messages. Nikki explains that she was 15, which she says Mudkip Mama knew, but Nikki could not confirm this because she says she deleted their conversations after attempting to “expose” Mudkip Mama two years ago. Nikki also shared a screenshot in which Mudkip Mama allegedly admits to “dating” a fan with an “age difference.”
Mudkip Mama did not return Kotaku’s request for comment and deleted much of her social media, but in a Twitlonger post, said that she stopped flirting with Patterz once she became aware he felt uncomfortable. She also says that she “went in full mother mode” after Nikki’s personal crisis to “try and make her feel special and loved,” admitting that she “probably went too far at some point and I realized she was misinterpreting it.” Finally, she says, she had “no idea” the fan she says she was “dating” was under 18.
Mudkip Mama, Putnam, and McNeal would often collaborate on a stream called Primetime and attended several events together. “That group was an extremely desirable group to be in,” said Jubilee Blais, another Pokemon YouTuber. “They were very exclusive.” Even associating with its lesser-known member meant being close to YouTube microcelebrity, which, several former fans say, led them to excuse early signs of predation.
The fourth Pokémon YouTuber facing allegations of predatory behavior operated separately, sources who knew him say. Mizumi, a YouTuber known for modding Nintendo games, including Pokémon, had amassed a following of 20,000 subscribers before alleged victims went public over the weekend with their experiences with him.
Tori, who is 18, says she was 14 when she began speaking to Mizumi. She says he solicited nude photos from her, an allegation also waged by another girl, Jenny, who at the time was 19. In a direct message on Twitter, Tori said, “Had I not done what he wanted, he had the ability to ruin my social life (which he did anyways).” Jenny told Kotaku that while initially their intimate relationship was consensual, he pressured her into sending nudes by “talking about wanting to kill himself and self harming behaviors and said things about how getting nudes would ‘help him feel better.’”
Over email, Mizumi did not deny these allegations. “This isn’t entirely my fault. The line is grayer than what everyone thinks and everyone here is a victim in one way or the other,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I am remorseful and I apologized personally to each of the people I’ve hurt, but the way the public views this situation and the way it truly is are completely different. That’s all I will say on the situation.” [Update—5:15 p.m., 4/4/19]: After this article’s publication, Mizumi emailed to say his account was hacked and the responses Kotaku received were not from him. Days earlier, in his first email to Kotaku, he said that some incriminating tweets on his Twitter account had been deleted, too, and “I think either someone hacked my account or maybe the Twitter app is malfunctioning.”
Over the weekend, these allegations spread rapidly among Pokémon fans and YouTubers covering Pokémon. Several prominent community figures commented on the allegations and their role in continuing these alleged predators’ careers, even after whisperings of sexual misconduct had become known to them. TheHeatedMo, a YouTuber with 160,000 subscribers, explained in an unlisted video that he knew Putnam was “a guy being creepy on a girl,” but did not yet consider him to be actively harmful. He added that when it came to McNeal, whom he has known for years, “He manipulates a lot of people around him.”
While there is no evidence that predation is more widespread in the gaming community than anywhere else, young people’s increasingly online lives may more regularly intersect with the increasing number of microcelebrities created by social media. One woman who says she fell victim to Putnam’s tactics explained over Discord, “Most viewers are pretty young. Pokémon is targeted towards younger kids, after all. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine it’d be too difficult to find a young, easily manipulated target somewhere within the community.” Sylveon agreed: “I think it might be because it has a younger audience,” she explained. “We look up to these people and they use their power to manipulate someone else. They have the platform they’ve been given, that they’re privileged enough to have access to, to manipulate and hurt other people.”
When asked whether there’s anything specific to the Pokémon community that might allow for widespread predation to continue allegedly for years, said Jenny, who accused Mizumi of predation, “I think it’s an issue with any community of streamers/YouTubers. It’s full of young people seeking attention from older people in a position of power who are accessible in a way previous celebrities were not. It’s prime for abuse.”
After addressing the allegations him in an email to Kotaku, Mizumi sent another email a couple of minutes later: “Also, if you do mention me in your article, don’t forget to include a link to my YouTube channel. Thanks again :).”
Nathan Grayson contributed additional reporting to this story.
This story has been updated to include additional information from sources.
Update, 7:50 p.m. ET: This story has been updated a second time to include additional comments from Kyle McNeal.