GamerGate may seem like a strange movement to outsiders, but documentary filmmaker and gaming activist Shannon Sun-Higginson said the problems that women face in the video game industry are very real.
GamerGate is a controversy that first arose last year regarding the difficulties women face in the gaming industry. It started with now-disproven allegations that a female game developer had inappropriate relationships with game reviewers, but it grew into a movement against misogyny in gaming.
Sun-Higginson said GamerGate is a reaction to a small minority of male and mostly white gamers who are trying to push women out of an arena they view as their own.
“GamerGate is just one example of something that’s just a much bigger and, unfortunately, common and systemic problem,” Sun-Higginson said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I think a lot of outsiders saw GamerGate as this weird, crazy thing that happened. But for people who are experiencing it daily, it doesn’t seem like a fluke incident.”
GTFO was inspired by a 2012 incident that played out before a large audience, a Capcom tournament where gamer Miranda Pakozdi was sexually harassed so badly that she ended up leaving the tournament early.
“The sexual harassment is part of [the] culture,” participant Aris Bakhtanians said in response to an organizer who tried to call for civility. “And if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.”
Sun-Higginson said the incident will play a big part of the GamerGate documentary.
“You can see it getting progressively worse and worse,” Sun-Higginson said of the video. “I’m not a gamer, so when he sent that to me I was just shocked — like a lot of people would be. I wanted other people like me, who are not gamers, to know that this is happening.”
GTFO is meant to inspire gamers who may not be aware of the depth of the sexual harassment problem, Sun-Higginson said.
“I hope ‘GTFO’ is the start of that conversation,” she told the Huffington Post. “I just hope some gamers who watch this movie can come away and say that maybe the next time they see this happen, they’ll stand up for someone else. I’ll tell my friend I won’t play with them he if yells hate speech at everyone who sounds different from him on xBox Live. Other than wanting non-gamers to see this problem exists, I think another really important goal for me is to have people thinking about this in a deeper way. Rather than just looking at it like a freak show.”
GTFO joins a growing number of voices speaking out against misogyny in video gaming. Alanah Pearce, a gaming journalist from Australia, made GamerGate news earlier this year when she decided to respond to online threats of sexual assault in an ingenious way. She tracked down the real offline identities of the bullies, then showed the threats to their mothers.
GamerGate could be getting some much bigger attention as well. Congresswoman Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, wants the FBI to look into the online threats made against women in the gaming community.
[Image via Al Jazeera]