SXSW cancelled two gaming panel discussions planned to be included in the South by Southwest Interactive following threats of violence. The two discussions, namely “Savepoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” were removed from the festival’s programme. This was confirmed by Hugh Forest, Interactive Director for SXSW.
Forest wrote, “We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic. However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, South by South West has received countless threats of on-site violence related to this programming.”
Caroline Sinders, Randi Lee Harper and Katherine Cross were to be featured in the “Level Up” discussion. This data-driven exchange of views was going to be about how abuse comes into larger gaming communities. They would have also discussed ways in which to combat harassment on the design aspect of game development.
Journist Lynn Walsh was to be featured in “Savepoint” alongside Mercedes Carrera – game designer and adult entertainment star – and Nick Robalik an indie game developer, in a talk mediated by Perry Jones – the Open Gaming Society founder.
Although these two panels appear to cover almost the same topics, they really are on separate ends of the political range. All the speakers of the “SavePoint” discussion have been linked to the “GamerGate” hate group at different points, and had been portrayed as “pro-GamerGate.”
On the other hand, all of the “Level up” contributors have spoken out against GamerGate through their own work as well as through social media. The panel was to discuss the broader problem of online harassment, and not GamerGate specifically.
Presently, the targets or nature of these threats is not clear. An open letter was posted by the Open Gaming Society addressing the cancellation.
Randi Lee Harper was surprised by the cancellation and expressed that each and every conference she has spoken at had been the receiver of mob harassment. She also said that at one conference, someone who had been making threats at her had to be removed, thankfully prior to her arrival.