By Todd Martens
Los Angeles Times.
It isn’t difficult to get a glimpse of harassment in the video game industry. Simply follow the Twitter feeds of a few prominent female game critics or developers.
Just last week a handy cheat sheet was provided by Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent cultural critic whose site Feminist Frequency charts the too-often sexist nature of mainstream video games. Sarkeesian on her Tumblr revealed what amounted to “a week’s worth of hateful messages”; that is, she posted every despicable missive that was directed at her via Twitter.
Many of the comments ask Sarkeesian to, in one way or another, commit suicide. Glimpses of just a few are enough to make anyone want to put down a controller forever, especially those that carry a fatalistic, it-comes-with-the-territory tone. An example, with cleaned-up grammar: “Death threats and rape threats are in the culture of gaming. Have you played an online game? Get used to it.”
For too many people and for far too long this has been the norm, even if the bulk of players believe that common decency shouldn’t be the exception when it comes to gaming culture. Such harassment came to the fore in 2014 thanks to the quasi-Internet-driven movement known as “gamergate.”
Now, in early 2015, it appears that some good is emerging from the hate.
Independent game developers Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz in January started Crash Override, a self-funded online firm dedicated to helping victims of online abuse. Quinn has long been in the center of the gamergate storm, as personal and private details regarding her and her family were regularly made public throughout 2014. Death threats and prank phone calls became a part of Quinn’s daily routine, as if wrecking havoc on her life had become a game itself.
“When your entire life is built on the Internet, all of the advice, like, ‘Just go offline! No big deal’, is like saying,
‘People are coming into your workplace and setting everything on fire, so just don’t go into work anymore.’ It’s just a complete ill fit,” Quinn says. “The technology had advanced 20 years and the conversations around it have progressed 10.”