October 27, 2015


SXSW Harassed Into Canceling Panels About Gaming Harassment

Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Smithsonian
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Smithsonian

Female-directed harassment—sexual and otherwise—in the video gaming community is being exposed increasingly by the week, and Austin's South by Southwest Festival seemed ready, last week, to jump into the fray for their 2016 event.

Now SXSW interactive director Hugh Forrest writes that "numerous threats of on-site violence" have led to the cancelation of two panels, "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games." The panels' direct focus on Gamergate—the shorthand for the widespread sexual harassment issues in the culture—has been debated.

Referencing its "healthy community of digital innovators" and the importance of "strong management to survive," Forrest said in a blog post:

"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, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming. 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."

Visit the Verge and Kotaku for detailed analyses on the developing story.