Threats Cause SXSW 2016 To Cancel Two Gaming Panels

SXSW Interactive, citing “numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming,” has canceled a pair of sessions about gaming planned for its March 2016 event in Austin.

“SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” was to have included several pro-Gamergate participants.

Nick Robalik and Perry Jones, both pro-Gamergate game developers, Mercedes Carrera, an adult film star who has become a vocal Gamergate supporter, and Lynn Walsh, an NBC producer and the president-elect for the Society of Professional Journalists, who appeared at a previous Gamergate gathering which organizers claimed had to be cancelled midway through the event due to bomb threats.

And “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” was to have fielded experts on online harassment in gaming and geek culture: Caroline Sinders of IBM Watson, Gamasutra writer Katherine Cross, and Randi Harper of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative.

Both panels were first announced seven days ago.

In an October 26 statement event management said —

SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas.

However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.

Over the years, we are proud of the healthy community of digital innovators that has formed around SXSW. On occasions such as this one, this community necessitates strong management to survive. Maintaining civil and respectful dialogue within the big tent is more important than any particular session.

Randi Harper told Jezebel

that all the panelists are familiar with receiving threats and had been working with SXSW staff on safety. “We had been participating in an email discussion with SXSW about safety for our panelists. They seemed unconcerned at the time, so this was surprising.”

Meanwhile, The Open Gaming Society, the group behind “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community,” has announced they will go ahead and run their session independently.

A lot has happened since we submitted the panel, and we’ve been overwhelmed with both support and disdain. However, SXSW’s team has had to bear the brunt of the backlash. They received countless emails, phone calls, tweets, and messages across all social media both praising and condemning them for #SavePoint and the Level Up panel organized by Randi Harper. SXSW explained to us that they are a very neutral organization and wanted to provide a platform for both sides to speak on and have their voices heard. “We wanted to do something interesting that hadn’t really been done before” one SXSW official said in our phone conversation earlier today. SXSW feels that both the organization and its staff have been under siege from all sides and from all parties since they announced the panels early this month. They want to encourage open discussions, but they don’t want to fuel a vicious online war between two sides who are extremely opposed to one another. We’re all very passionate about this medium and sometimes we let that passion get the best of us – and that’s on both sides of the table. This entire thing grew out of control very quickly and was more intense than anything that they have had to deal with – and they hosted a panel on Snowden just a few years prior. Once the SXSW director got involved it was a done deal. The SXSW Interactive and their Gaming teams came together and made the decision to cancel both panels.

While this is disheartening news there is a silver lining. The Open Gaming Society believes in open discussions and would like to announce our “Plan B.” We formed this plan almost immediately after we submitted the panel to SXSW. Though SXSW has cancelled the panel, we still plan to have a panel regardless. This has been a backup plan from square one and now we are forced to act on it. We will organize, fund, and host the panel ourselves. We plan to do so around the same time as SXSW to allow for the largest possible audience.

73 thoughts on “Threats Cause SXSW 2016 To Cancel Two Gaming Panels

  1. > A panel is scheduled about online threats.
    > Has to be cancelled because of online threats.

    Jeez.

  2. A Gamergate supporter forum and a panel about reducing online threats were going to be at the same conference, who didn’t think threats would happen?
    Gamergate was already prepared with alternate plans being the experts at this type of thing.

  3. This was such a terrible idea to have both these panels at the same place. I also have a problem with this idea of wanting to be neutral between the harasser and the harassed.

    Nowadays, gamergate is a magnet for trolling, regardless if panels are held by gamergaters or those harassed by gamergaters. It seems they had no idea of what they were doing.

  4. Pretty much the only people still paying attention to Gamergate – who don’t need to for self-protection – are trolls, so this isn’t really surprising. Disappointing, but not surprising.

    I’m also a little tired of people trying to act like Gamergate and not-Gamergate are equal in number and equivalent in value.

  5. This was such a terrible idea to have both these panels at the same place. I also have a problem with this idea of wanting to be neutral between the harasser and the harassed.

    So much THIS.

    #Actually, it’s about ethics in false equivalence?

  6. While this is disheartening news there is a silver lining. [..] Though SXSW has cancelled the panel, we still plan to have a panel regardless. This has been a backup plan from square one

    Or to put that another way “The session about online harassment is cancelled and we’re going ahead with our pro-GamerGate panel anyway, it’s a win-win for us!”

  7. Here is one of the serial harassers who should have been part of the gamergate panel:

    https://twitter.com/PixelMetal/status/656270200891920386

    And here is how PixelMetal is part of serial harassment of Zoe Quinn.

    https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=from%3A%40PixelMetal+%40TheQuinnspiracy&src=typd

    So SXSW first gave green light to this kind of panelists. It says a lot about the organizers. And a lot about gamergate that they have this kind of people representing them.

  8. Hypnotosov on October 27, 2015 at 4:32 am said:

    Or to put that another way “The session about online harassment is cancelled and we’re going ahead with our pro-GamerGate panel anyway, it’s a win-win for us!”

    We should remember that the Gamergate definition of ‘win’ involves providing ample evidence to the entire world that their ‘movement’ is a collection of trolls and immature losers.

  9. Both of these groups attract the extreme trolls. Probably not a good idea to have a panel(s) in real life considering all the issues at past events. And the overwhelming majority of the industry and gamers will ignore these events since this conflict doesn’t interest or affect them.

  10. Exactly which “extreme trolls” do you think a panel by Caroline Sinders, Katherine Cross, and Randi Harper would attract, other than frothing at the mouth GGers angry that women are talking?

  11. It’s probably the same few 4chan trolls targeting both sides with the bomb threats etc. For the lulz.

  12. I think this was the GamerGaters plans in the beginning. Go to the same conference, Publicize “death threats” that were likely crafted by GamerGaters, get both panels cancelled, end then go on to hold their panel with free publicity.

    In short, they played SXSW like chumps, and won.

  13. Chris Nelson:

    ” And the overwhelming majority of the industry and gamers will ignore these events since this conflict doesn’t interest or affect them.”

    I would say that a panel named “Overcoming Harassment in Games” would talk about something that affect lots of people, most of them women. And what I’ve seen from other panels on the subject, this is something that interests even more people.

  14. It sure did not take too long for the “both sides are equally bad” crowd to show up.

    No. No. They are really not.

    One side is the side of death threat makers and bomb threat makers and SWATters who joined a movement started by an ex-boyfriend who posted revenge porn and lies about his ex-girlfriend.

    The other side is professional women in video game design.

  15. @Hampus

    So, the Nick Robelik who was due to be on the pro-GG panel is @PixelMetal? If so, that’s just all the nopes to SXSW ever inviting him to take a speaking spot. That twitter feed is just a sewer of harassment.

  16. This news doesn’t have any ties to science fiction, but I hope it gives some SF convention organizers pause before actively seeking GamerGate-related panels and guests. The whole thing’s just a magnet for trolls and harassing behavior.

    I am looking forward to when EPH is ratified and the GamerGate crowd moves on from the Hugos to some other group to annoy.

  17. In other GG related news, a collection of the “movement’s” shining lights have penned “The Doctrine of Gaming”. It is so ridiculously stupid it is almost hilarious.

  18. I would say that a panel named “Overcoming Harassment in Games” would talk about something that affect lots of people, most of them women. And what I’ve seen from other panels on the subject, this is something that interests even more people.

    Possibly.
    I have a spouse that’s a gamer who has worked in the industry. (And she has worked in other industries that have much more problems with harassment than gaming.) Most of the issues they dealt with poorly parented children that were griefers to everyone, until their accounts got suspended. And the very small percentage of anti-social people that caused problems due to anonymity. More of the issues dealt with fraud than harassment. (Amazing what crooks would do for the latest version of FIFA.) As a gamer herself, she has had few issues other than the normal issues that are not gender specific. (Loot stealing in random matches, aimbots, lag, bad patches, bad reviews, guild politics, yada…)

    I’m not a hardcore gamer myself, (more of a occasional gamer due to many other interests and hobbies) but my larger circle of acquaintances includes programmers and artist from a few of the medium sized studios in the area. The overwhelming opinion amongst the people I have talked to is that situation is being exploited by the extremes, some whom have no stake in gaming other than being trolls or elevating their importance in an industry they have no commitment to. Most of them think the burnout rate of the workers in the industry is an more important issue than the cause celebre pimped by professional gadflies. (Note: This is their opinion, not mine.)

  19. Chris Nelson:

    “(Note: This is their opinion, not mine.)”

    Nah, more like #TheyAreYourShields.

    There are a lot of people who have problems with harassment in games. And not all of them are people working in the industry. A lot of my friends have started to use male names in games just to avoid all harassment. So if the only thing you want is to make us ignore an existing problem, then I’ll happily ignore you.

  20. @Hampus

    Cheers.

    @Aaron

    I knew that would be bad, but I wasn’t expecting it to jump the shark in the very first sentence.

  21. Oh look, here’s Chris’s opinion on something else.

    Chris has worthless opinions on games, and worthless opinions on the Pups as well. What a surprise. You would think that pro-Pups and pro-GGers would have figured out that pretending to be “neutral” just doesn’t work.

  22. @Hampus

    A lot of my friends have started to use male names in games just to avoid all harassment.

    I’m not ignoring a problem, I’m stating the opinion of some people in the industry. We can have a dialogue without you taking what I report them saying personal. (The author isn’t the character. Accusing me of using them as a shield is a stereotypical behavior that isn’t flattering to you.)

    I think the problem is multi-fold. Anonymity of harassers with few consequences, mainly. (Even though some of the connection services are trying vainly to curb this, it’s perpetual September online now days.) And the industry has become mainstream entertainment and very large in the past two decades. Just like people placed their children in front the television, people hand their kids the controller. Also the socially maladjusted can escape to John Barnes’ “Box” and not deal with much of the real world.

    (Personally I don’t online game except with family, I’d rather like the solo or in person social interaction with friends. I do see how anonymity leads to sociopathic behavior, it’s evident in the daily driving experience.)

  23. Chris Nelson –

    I have a spouse that’s a gamer who has worked in the industry.

    Mine plays games with me online a lot as well and her experience and treatment online compared to my own is amazingly different from the moment they realize she’s a woman and overwhelmingly in the negative. Of course that’s as a player and not as a professional.

    The burnout and work environment for video game development is certainly an issue, there are a lot of things that have become status quo in game development that would be considered terrible treatment in pretty much any other industry. I find the idea that some of the people who have been harassed by GG to be doing it for elevating their importance or for attention (typically accused of being professional victims) to be an amusing claim however since even if you consider such to be true then the easiest thing for people to do would be to stop elevating their importance or giving them attention.

    While second hand anecdotal evidence is interesting, the amount of sheer amount of spite that flows when a woman posts a critical opinion of women in games on Youtube is so out of any kind of rational proportion that it there might be deeper issues present than your and your wife’s experiences.

  24. I’m a gamer and a woman, and women being subject to intense harassment for, essentially, having failed relationships, making indie games, or having opinions on the internet is relevant to me.

    Crunch is also an ethical issue in gaming, and certainly one that needs addressing, but that being true does not mean that talking about harassment of women in gaming is unimportant. Such arguments are always tiresome; don’t talk about [a] because [z] is bad. Nonsense. If both are bad then we should be talking about both.

    All Gamergate talks about these days is how mean people are to Gamergate, which is not a major ethical issue in gaming, or indeed anything else. Especially since “mean to Gamergate” includes accurately representing their words and actions – quite similar to certain Puppy complaints, really.

  25. @ Arron

    I could be apathetic. Or I could be anonymous. I could try dialogue with people with varying opinions and viewpoints. Or I could wait to see how long it takes to be accused of being a shield.

  26. If anonymity was the primary issue, people would say less terrible things using their Facebook accounts. A glance at a few comment sections ought to disabuse people of that notion quite quickly.

  27. Both of these groups attract the extreme trolls

    One attracts the attention of extreme trolls, the other are extreme trolls. There is no equivalence.

  28. I could try dialogue with people with varying opinions and viewpoints.

    You do realize that this “both sides” routine you are trying to pull is bullshit, right? After months, neither GG or the Pups have put forward anything that isn’t any more valuable than sewage. GG has done nothing in its entire existence other than harass people who are either women or have said things about games they don’t like, or both. You’re promoting a ridiculous false equivalence, which is why your opinion on the issue is completely worthless.

    Also, you should pay more attention to your spelling.

  29. Chris:

    If you don’t want to voice your opinions, only saying that somewhere in the world there are some anonymous people that don’t see harassment as a big problem, then it isn’t really interesting.

    And it is really horrible of you to call out victims of harassment as “professional gadflies”. If it is not “your opinion”, why did you think that kind of disparaging comments from others was important to mention?

  30. Aaron:

    “Also, you should pay more attention to your spelling.”

    Please, lets not go there.

  31. @Meredith

    Crunch is also an ethical issue in gaming, and certainly one that needs addressing, but that being true does not mean that talking about harassment of women in gaming is unimportant. Such arguments are always tiresome; don’t talk about [a] because [z] is bad. Nonsense. If both are bad then we should be talking about both.

    I think they may be related since owners/management that is willing to toss employees on the bonfire may not be committed to policing customer behavior. There is some effort like Gamer Score and bans, but the bad players may be overwhelming the system police.

  32. @Meredith

    To be honest, I think that GamerGate has almost finished morphing entirely into an anti-Third Wave Feminist movement by this point. The ‘gamer’ aspect is still up as a front, but their ‘leaders’, so to speak, are pretty much now from outside of gaming in the professional anti-feminist movement.

  33. @Nigel and Aaron,

    Randi Harper is one of the biggest trolls and harassers out of either end of the aGG/GG spectrum. You can just do a google search for “randy Harper go set yourself on fire” and the first link is her telling someone “literally go set yourself on fire.” https://www.google.com/search?q=randi+harper+harassing+examples&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS649US649&oq=randi+harper+harassing+examples&aqs=chrome..69i57&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8&hl=en-US#hl=en-US&q=randi+harper+go+set+yourself+on+fire

    If she was to be on a SXSW panel, it shows just how much hate and abuse that organization was willing to tolerate.

    Silly But True

  34. Randi Harper is one of the biggest trolls and harassers out of either end of the aGG/GG spectrum.

    Jesus but you are a moron if you think anyone is going to buy that line of sad and tired bullshit. Just look at your search results: RalphRetort, StoptheGRBullies, and Breitbart. Its like a laundry list of the least credible collection of assholes on the internet upset that Harper has the temerity to speak. If you think that proven serial harassers like the RalphRetort or StoptheGRBullies or even Breitbart smearing someone they don’t like is an actual response, then you really don’t have anything to say that anyone should ever bother with.

  35. Yes, if we google “Randi Harper” we will notice how the harassers of gamergate are continuing their assault against her.

    These hateful people who thinks it is the same to harass someone as to angrily respond to harassment.

  36. @Hampus Eckeman

    And it is really horrible of you to call out victims of harassment as “professional gadflies”.

    Not my opinion and incorrectly stated. The opinion stated is that there are people taking advantage of the situation that are gadflies. Not the victims or the those trolling them. Gadfly == Milo Yiannopoulos

  37. Oh look, there’s also a link from Reaxxion on the search results: A failed “game reporting” site created by an MRA to spew misogynistic hatred. You couldn’t have made a less credible response than the search result you linked to if you had been trying to.

  38. Aaron,
    The hypocrisy is loud and clear. It doesn’t matter when Randi tells people to die, only when people tell her to die.

    There’s no defending her hate, but it looks like you’re trying for the impossible on that one. Go big or not at all as they say.

    Silly but True

  39. The hypocrisy is loud and clear. It doesn’t matter when Randi tells people to die, only when people tell her to die.

    There is no hypocrisy. When you cite smear articles from known harassing asshole sites like RalphRetort, StoptheGRBullies, Breitbart, and Reaxxion, you lose all credibility. The smear attacks on Harper are bullshit, and your attempts to pass them off as something more than that are pathetic.

    You’ve been teetering on the edge of irrelevance with your stupidity thus far, but trying to pass off this GG propaganda just shows you are completely worthless.

  40. @Arron

    Also, you should pay more attention to your spelling.

    That’s a microaggression!

    LOL!

  41. I notice the hit results from the google search and see sock puppets that had harassed Harper for weeks And even one person who posed as friend, trying to get close to her, and then switching sides.

    Yes, some of us remember these tweets. Remember what was said around them. And understand why she reacted so angrily to her harassers. But pro-gamergaters hope we have short menories, take screenshots out of their context in long conversations over time.

    Everything to continue their harassment of a person who tried to help the victims of one of internets largest stalker groups.

    This is just horrible.

  42. Yes, some of us remember these tweets. Remember what was said around them. And understand why she reacted so angrily to her harassers.

    What GGers like Silly but True don’t seem to realize is that an angry tweet is not harassment. Harassment is, at a minimum, repeated, unwanted attacks, or participation in a group of people attacking someone. Harper telling one of her attackers to die in a fire isn’t harassment, especially since her primary next response is to block them so they can’t communication with her any more.

    Harper’s crime that made her the target of harassment from GG was that she created a blocking tool that allowed the victims of GG to stop the torrent of abuse. For this, GG has spent months attacking Harper, and once in a while she tells someone to fuck off before she blocks them.

  43. Well, telling someone to set themselves on fire isn’t okay – but taking that out of context isn’t okay either. Gamergate cherrypicking angry responses after days, weeks, or months of harassing that person doesn’t make those things equal.

    @Chris Nelson

    I appreciate the clarification re: gadfly.

  44. SbT

    You can just do a google search for “randy Harper go set yourself on fire” and the first link is her telling someone “literally go set yourself on fire.”

    It really isn’t. First link is to Encyclopedia Dramatica. Second is to Breitbart. Third is your post here.

    Also, if I tell someone to “literally go soak their heads”, am I encouraging waterboarding?

    I always am amused by the narrative that ignores the plank in GGs eyes while desperately pointing out the motes elsewhere.

  45. Wow, that is one of the most egregious examples of false equivalence I’ve seen in a long time.

    ETA: I haven’t been keeping up with GG lately, who do you ask?

  46. It doesn’t matter when Randi tells people to die, only when people tell her to die.

    Apparently it ONLY matters when after being harassed and trolled and threatened she has the temerity to not be a wilting flower about it.

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