The Entertainment Software Association is speaking out against the threats of violence and harassment in video gaming, a topic which is becoming a national discussion in mainstream media's coverage of game culture.
This morning, The New York Times ran a front page story on the topic in an article titled "Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats" following controversy earlier this week when an email sent to Utah State University officials threatened to terrorize the school with a deadly shooting over a talk to be delivered by feminist critic and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games creator Anita Sarkeesian.
The paper offers a look into hostile threats against women, which has since become connected to a broader movement from campaigners who have rallied around the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate.
In a Washington Post article yesterday, an ESA spokesperson spoke out against personal attacks within the video gaming community, stating: "Threats of violence and harassment are wrong. They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community - or our society - for personal attacks and threats."
Following threats made to Utah State University, university president Stan L. Albrecht confirmed in a letter to students that both state and federal agencies, including the FBI Cyber Terrorism Task Force, have been contacted.
"As you are aware, several USU staff members received a threatening email at 10:15 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13 regarding Anita Sarkeesian's talk scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 15," the statement reads. "As you probably have read, this email threatened both Ms. Sarkeesian and those who attended her event.
"The safety of our students, staff and USU community is paramount to us. USU police were contacted immediately, as were state and federal agencies, including the Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center, the FBI Cyber Terrorism Task Force, and the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit.
"Prior to the threat, USU police were already making preparations for security as Ms. Sarkeesian had received threats in the past. After receiving the email, USU police added heightened security measures, including securing the Taggart Student Center auditorium far in advance, ensuring her safety to and from the event, and bringing in additional uniformed and plain-clothed police officers.
"Throughout the day, Tuesday, Oct. 14, USU police and administrators worked with state and federal law enforcement agencies to assess the threat to our USU community and Ms. Sarkeesian. Together, we determined that there was no credible threat to students, staff or the speaker, and that this letter was intended to frighten the university into cancelling the event.
"The safety and protection of students and those who attend our events is our foremost priority at Utah State. But we are also an institution of higher learning. In this case, the Center for Women and Gender had invited a nationally known speaker to bring her perspective about an important topic to USU. After a full assessment of the situation, the USU administration, in consultation with law enforcement, chose to continue with the event.
"When our law enforcement personnel spoke about security measures, she was concerned that state law prevented the university from keeping people with legal concealed firearm permits from entering the event, and chose to cancel. As a Utah public institution, we follow state law. The Utah law provides that people who legally possess a concealed firearm permit are allowed to carry a firearm on public property, like the USU campus.
"We are disappointed that students and other community members did not benefit from her presentation. While we will always prioritize the safety of our community, no threat changes Utah State University's unwavering advocacy of academic freedom and free speech rights of everyone."
Threats made to Utah State University follow a growing history of hostile remarks made toward Sarkeesian herself and women in the video game industry at large. In August, following the release of another episode of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, Sarkeesian fled her home after receiving "some very scary threats" against her and her family. During GeekGirlCon, which took place this past weekend, officials previously confirmed to Polygon that a threat was made over her appearance there.
"GeekGirlCon became aware of the threats and actively worked with authorities, along with Anita," a spokesperson told Polygon. "Our highest priority is a safe and fun con experience for all of our attendees, contributors, and volunteers."
The GamerGate movement and Twitter hashtag is a social campaign defined by most supporters as a call to effect change in video game journalism and to defend the "gamer" identity. The movement is difficult to define because what it has come to represent has no central leadership or agreed-upon manifesto. The hashtag was first used by actor Adam Baldwin in August after intimate details of a personal relationship between a video game developer and a video game journalist were made public and led some to allege cronyism between press and developers. The campaign is now also linked to ongoing and well-established harassment of women in video games, including Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn, Sarkeesian and Giant Spacekat head Brianna Wu, though many of GamerGate's supporters deny the campaign should be blamed for harassment.