91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SXSW Pressured After Pulling Sessions On Gaming Culture

South by Southwest — the music and interactive media conference that takes place in Austin, Texas, each year — has a controversy on its hands.

On Monday, the organization announced it had canceled two sessions about sexism in video gaming culture because of threats of violence. Internet news companies BuzzFeed and Vox Media have said they will pull out unless SXSW reverses its decision.

Now, to meet those demands, the conference is considering adding a full-day event, according to tech news site Re/code (owned by Vox).

The world of online gaming often invents alternative universes for gamers to play in — and you couldn't get more starkly differing realities than the ones that triggered this virtual fracas.

There had been two panel discussions planned: one about addressing the harassment many women say they face in gaming culture; the other about Gamergate, a movement at the center of debates about misogyny in gaming and ethics in video game journalism.

"We've received threats, and we have been for a very, very long time," says Randi Harper, a former computer engineer and the founder of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative. "There are a lot of people who are angry that women are invading their online spaces and, you know, demanding that the threats stop."

Harper says gamers want to deflect public discussion of those topics — or make them impossible.

"It was unfortunate to see South by Southwest give in to those demands," she says.

Two months ago, the Society of Professional Journalists staged a related event in Miami. A discussion about gaming and the media went from lively to contentious. Watch a clip of the discussion:

A few minutes later, the event was evacuated due to a bomb threat.

Despite widespread belief that these threats come from hard-core gaming defenders, some Gamergaters say they are crafty efforts by critics to make the industry look bad.

Yet another argument in which each side talks past the other. Again: alternate realities.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.