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Feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian cancels talk following death threats

Feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian cancels talk following death threats

October 15, 2014 | By Kris Graft

Yet another high-profile, violent threat against a woman in games has made national headlines.

Video game critic Anita Sarkeesian, known best for her Feminist Frequency videos, said she would be canceling a talk on feminism and video games at Utah State University, due to violent threats against her and attendees of her talk, which was originally scheduled for today. USU confirmed the threats and the cancellation.

The cancellation comes amid a war over the culture of video games, which hit a boiling point this summer.

The university initially said Sarkeesian's talk would go on despite “a number of personnel” at the school receiving the threats, and that extra security measures would be in place, as this isn’t the first time Sarkeesian has been threatened for speaking at events.

However, after Sarkeesian talked to authorities in charge of securing the venue, she didn’t feel she and her audience would be sufficiently protected from danger, leading to her canceling the talk.

“Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue,” USU said in a statement. “Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.”

The threats come as the game industry is embroiled in the controversy surrounding #GamerGate, a group bound by a Twitter hashtag that is ostensibly about game journalism ethics and “consumer advocacy,” but has ugly underpinnings in harassment of women involved in video games.

While #GamerGate proponents attempted to disassociate the Sarkeesian threats from the group, Sarkeesian tweeted, “Multiple specific threats made stating intent to kill me & feminists at USU. For the record one threat did claim affiliation with #gamergate.”

She added, “At this point supporting #gamergate is implicitly supporting the harassment of women in the gaming industry.” Sarkeesian has been subject to virtually endless harassment since launching her series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, though she has said it escalated dramatically since the advent of #GamerGate.

The threats to Sarkeesian come just days after Brianna Wu, game developer at Giant Spacekat (Revolution 60), was driven from her home due to threats she attributed to #GamerGate. Wu has since been speaking out against harassment against women in games and tech on several national mainstream media outlets.

According to the Standard Examiner, the author of the Sarkeesian email threat wrote that feminists like Sarkeesian “have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they've wronged.”

The email also said, “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. … I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

Following the threats, supporters of Sarkeesian and women in games started the Twitter hashtag #StopGamerGate2014, which is currently trending worldwide.

[Disclaimer: #GamerGate proponents recently organized and successfully executed a campaign to have our ad partner Intel pull an ad campaign.]

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