What Death Threats Have To Do With Video Games

Feminist gaming culture critic Anita Sarkeesian canceled a talk at Utah State University due to death threats and security concerns.

What Death Threats Have To Do With Video Games
Anita Sarkeesian / CC BY NC ND 2.0

Feminist gaming culture critic Anita Sarkeesian says she was forced to cancel a planned talk Wednesday at Utah State University after receiving anonymous death threats.

Sarkeesian announced the cancellation on Twitter and said it wasn't the threats themselves but police's unwillingness to screen the crowd for weapons that caused her to cancel the talk. 

A statement released by the university says the move was Sarkeesian's decision. "She was concerned about the fact that state law prevented the university from keeping people with a legal concealed firearm permit from entering the event."

The gaming culture critic has been threatened before. The FBI is looking into a bomb threat made before one of her talks in March, and the Standard-Examiner says this most recent threat evoked 1989's anti-feminist Montreal massacre, when a student killed 14 people before committing suicide at an engineering school.

The ordeal is the latest in a series of threats tied to the so-called "#gamergate" movement. To summarize, #gamergate is backlash over perceived corruption in gaming journalism. It's also morphed into a cultural identity fight over threats to the traditional "gamer" — threats like feminist gaming critics.

The movement has been blamed for at least three instances when female members of the gaming community, including Sarkeesian, have fled their homes after saying they received very specific death threats. (Video via The Huffington Post, Giant Bomb, Feminist Frequency)

Referring to #gamergate as a hate group, one writer for Jezebel claims members specifically targeted her for no particular reason and attempted to spoil a research project by giving hundreds of bogus answers on a research survey she was conducting. 

So we have death threats, insults and research sabotage. Not exactly the best promotion strategy for a credible movement. 

But Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post says #gamergate isn't entirely made up of folks with bad intentions:

"That isn't to say that everyone flying the #Gamergate banner is sexist/racist/crazy, and that isn't to say there aren't some decent arguments about journalism ethics being made. But whatever voices of reason may have existed, at some point, have been totally subsumed by the mob."

As for folks who agree with #gamergate's platform of improving video game journalism ethics, a writer for Vox suggests they might be better off ditching the hashtag and moving on to something less toxic.

This video includes images from Anita Sarkeesian / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Getty Images.