Enough is enough: Threats against female gamers have gone too far

Last month, we wrote about the sexist problem female gamers are facing right now. Defenders of the movement, known as “#GamerGate,” will state that its core goal is to put an end to supposed corruption in gaming journalism. Others more astutely note that the movement seems to primarily center around harassing, slut-shaming, and threatening female gamers, creators, and commentators. The longer the #GamerGate debacle rolls on, the greater the harassment seems to grow.

One of #GamerGate’s earliest targets, feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian, was recently forced to withdraw from a speaking engagement at Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender after someone threatened a mass shooting should Sarkeesian be allowed to speak. “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” reads the threatening email, later adding, “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

Given Utah’s concealed carry law, law enforcement officials were unable to provide sufficient assurance that Sarkeesian and USU students would be safe to attend the event, noting that as this threat was specific in nature, it needed to be taken seriously.

The shocking threats against women have been mounting in recent weeks. This past weekend, game developer Brianna Wu fled her home after receiving a series of specific, violent threats via Twitter. An account using the screen name “Death to Brianna” took charge, issuing threats to the lives of Wu and her family.

After the threats, Wu, issued a public statement that succinctly encapsulated the chilling effects of #gamergate: “The police just came by. Husband and I are going somewhere safe,” Wu tweeted. “Remember, #gamergate isn’t about attacking women.”

OK, this has gotten out of hand. Can we please take a look at what this is supposedly all about? Video games. What does detailing the graphic murder of game developers and commentators have to do with #GamerGate’s supposed goals? Can we please stop, take a breath, look in a mirror, and ask ourselves if it’s worth it to harbor such anger against other people? Is it worth it to force these women to live in fear for what—disagreeing with the ideal plot line of a game? Suggesting that maybe the industry becomes a bit more diverse? Is it worth it?

If nothing else, those gamergaters who harass woman in an attempt to suggest that their movement is not about harassing women need to see that their actions are completely and totally antithetical to their supposed mission statement. Do they not see that this is simply proving the points of those who point out the hate involved?

In response to the mounting threats against women, the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014 sprung up on Twitter to highlight the abusive elements of the #GamerGate movement. Created by Veerender Jubbal, #StopGamerGate2014 is the latest example of the Internet coming together and collectively speaking out against the attacks on women.

The hashtag campaign is one step towards sparking change and stopping the hate. But what else can we do? How can we bring an end to this type of abusive culture? Well, for one, we can point out abuse when we see it. And so can influential video game developers and publishers.

In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Sarkeesian said, “Game studios, developers and major publishers need to vocally speak up against the harassment of women and say this behavior is unacceptable,”

While the Times reached out to several major game publishers, many refused to comment on the issue. But one organization did step up to the plate.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” the Entertainment Software Association, the main lobbying group for big game companies, said in a statement to the Times. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community — or our society — for personal attacks and threats.”

ESA’s condemning of the threats is an important statement, and one that more influencers in the industry need to make in order to halt the abuse. Things need to change, and fast. Women whoplay, develop, or critique games need to be able to do so without fearing for their lives. Enough is enough.

(Image via Shutterstock)