This week the gaming community received national attention as the heated debate known as “Gamergate” exploded with explicit threats of rape and murder to various feminist critics.
What is Gamergate? Essentially, it is an online debate concerning journalistic ethnics, the gaming press and the social responsibility that games may or may not have, but it is also deeply ingrained with issues of sexism, misogyny and threats of violence.
The feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel an appearance at the Utah State University this week after receiving death threats to kill her and other feminists, sharing that Gamergate was even mentioned in one of the threats.
A spokesperson for Utah State University recently told Vice News that the campus police they were only aware of a single threat, in the form of an email, which was then shared with higher law enforcement agencies. The email contained, "I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I'm giving you a chance to stop it." Police were unable to prevent concealed firearms because it would go against Utah state law.
This is not the first violent threat that Sarkeesian or other feminist gaming critics, such as Brianna Wu, have received. Wu, who is head of development as Boston-based game developer Giant Spacekat, recently had to move from her home in order to avoid specific death threats that she received over the internet, also containing her home address.
What is being done to stop Gamergate? For starters, the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014 has been trending with gamers and non-gamers alike on Twitter, speaking out against the violent threats that are being sent to those who speak out against misogynistic gaming culture. Additionally, Kate Edwards, the executive director of the International Game Developers Association, has also made a statement, saying that,
"One nice effect of this sad event is that it's tied developers together. We need to be better at supporting each other not just during events like this, but all the time."
It is not clear yet what it is going to take to #StopGamerGate2014, but what is clear is that this issue is important right now, not only in the gaming world, but also in regards to how society treats women with public voices. The threats of violence and harassment against women who speak up for the social issues present in the world of gaming needs to be taken seriously and stopped immediately.
Photo Source: Anonymous Artists, Twitter.