GamerGate: 'Press must tackle misogyny,' says developer

By Kevin Rawlinson & Leo Kelion
BBC News

Image source, Giant Spacekat
Image caption,
Brianna Wu, whose firm is behind the Revolution 60 game (above), said she had to leave her home after receiving abuse

More video game news sites must place a spotlight on the misogynistic abuse that could drive women from the industry, a developer has demanded.

Brianna Wu, who said she faced death threats after speaking out, said the sites could help change the industry's culture.

A debate is raging in the sector about claims of corrupt relationships between some developers and reviewers.

But it has also regularly veered into the issues of feminism and misogyny.

"Every woman I know is terrified that what happened to me will happen to them next. And this is a true campaign of terror on women in the field," she told BBC News.

Ms Wu fled her home on Friday 10 October after graphic sexual threats were made against her.

The next day, she shared screenshots of tweets from one user who had threatened to murder her and her family, and had posted her home address to prove they knew where she lived.

The abuse came after she shared pictures on Twitter mocking players with sexist attitudes, who had used the Twitter hashtag GamerGate.

'Drive women out'

Her latest comments coincide with Ada Lovelace Day, an annual event celebrating women's feats in technology and science.

Ms Wu, head of development at games company Giant Spacekat, also said that internet services needed to do more to help police trace those who posted abuse.

"As it currently is, when crimes occur, law enforcement frequently cannot locate the people that are doing it," she said.

"We need to get more serious as a culture about making it possible for law enforcement to act in very serious situations like this.

"GamerGate could very seriously drive most women out of the industry. I realise that's a very strong statement and I absolutely mean it. I don't know a single woman in this field who is not asking herself if she wants to stay."

Image source, Feminist Frequency
Image caption,
Feminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian also said she had fled her home after receiving death threats

Ms Wu's experience was similar to those of games reviewer Anita Sarkeesian and developer Zoe Quinn, who were also on the receiving end of abuse.

Allegations about Ms Quinn's personal relationships with journalists were presented as evidence of "possible corruption" in the industry.

Ms Sarkeesian was hounded after releasing the latest in a series of video blogs that criticised bestselling games for propagating sexist stereotypes.

In response to the treatment meted out to Ms Sarkeesian, thousands of people signed an open letter calling on the gaming industry to change.

Ms Wu singled out IGN and Giant Bomb as two popular websites that she said had not drawn enough attention to the abuse aimed at women.

"They are choosing not to cover this story, or Zoe's story, or any of these stories. This has a real silencing effect," she told the BBC.

"These are video game sites that are tailored towards men, so the people that most need to understand the harassment and culture that's being created, the sites that speak to them are not covering this."

While Giant Bomb has not covered the debate in depth, it did report Ms Wu's story on Monday. Readers of both IGN and Giant Bomb have also discussed the wider debate on their forums.

Neither of the two sites was able to comment when asked for a response.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Brianna Wu has largely remained defiant in the face of abuse

The increasingly bitter GamerGate debate, she said, mirrored the polarisation of American politics.

"It is not a secret that I am a feminist and I have more liberal views and a lot of these GamerGaters have more right-wing views," she said.

"What we are seeing now is this political polarisation spreading into different industries. It is certainly happening to women in tech and it is certainly happening to women in games."


Those who have used the GamerGate hashtag, which was coined by actor Adam Baldwin, have argued that their core demand was better ethical standards in gaming journalism.

They have called for journalists with conflicts of interest to disclose relevant personal relationships or avoid writing altogether about the work of their friends.

"GamerGate is anything BUT a bunch of mindless misogynists trying to shut down women in gaming," wrote one user of the IGN website, who used the pseudonym RoboJules.

"It's never been about that. GamerGate is reformation of games media."

Others have argued that some women in the industry are not "real gamers", but rather "social justice warriors" using gaming as a proxy battlefield.

But RoboJules addresses this point in a follow-up blog, saying: "Social justice has its place, even in gaming, but it's not the only part of gaming.

"Some things exist purely for the entertainment of a particular audience, and not every game has to be socially conscious. If social justice has any place in gaming, it's to promote socially conscious game development for the future; not to scorn games and gamers for not catering to a certain agenda."

The debate, however, has regularly been punctured by bouts of abuse against those who have claimed that GamerGate had its origins in the misogynistic hounding of Ms Quinn.

Several other women who have discussed the topic have also complained that they have been targeted with threats of murder and rape.

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