Threats Drive Out SXSW #GamerGate Discussions

By Audrey Browning

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SXSW Interactive cancelled two panels for the 2016 festival discussing #Gamergate and gaming harassment on Monday.

Ironically, SXSW cancelled the panels for the very issue they were looking to address: online harassment and threats around the topic of #Gamergate.

One panel was scheduled to discuss honesty and integrity in gaming journalism and the other — moderated by Randi Harper, founder of Online Abuse Prevention Initiative — harassment in the gaming community.

The cancellations weren’t taken well by many involved in the SXSW Interactive community.



The #Gamergate conversation began in Aug. 2014 when a group of male gamers insisted that the misogynistic stigma surrounding games and gamers was manufactured by biased, dishonest media. In response to this claim, feminists spoke out to affirm the existence of female objectification in games, as well as the harassment of female gamers in the community.

The advocates who spoke out, people of all genders, received death threats and were regularly harassed by the very group who insisted these things weren’t happening and that women were treated and represented equally in gaming.

Big names like Anita Sarkeesian have done extensive research into the gaming industry to prove that pillars of misogyny and sexism exist, and that the community should rebuild a safer and more inclusive environment.



This month, SXSW dealt with the same type of threats for even considering bringing the idea of #Gamergate back up in 2016, though it should have been a panel at the 2015 festival, while the online conversation was still going on.

SXSW has not released much information about the threats, the decision or anything else involving the cancellation. This silence leaves many questions.

Many women already felt unsafe over the #Gamergate conversation, and now SXSW has created a battlefield for more threats and harassment by choosing to cancel the panels instead of deal with the issues. SXSW also has yet to address panelists’ fears about their own harassment.

“We aren’t real people to them,” Christina McDaniel, model and artist also known by Succubus Kiss, said about experiencing harassment in the gamer community.