Well this is a mess but here goes, two gaming events have been cancelled at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival that is due to take place next year (March 2016), after organisers confirmed they have become victim to continuous threats of violence which includes a direct message of the potential for violent behaviour “on site”.
At first, the content of the discussion panels seem compelling and rather innocuous considering the alleged reaction, the first was coined “SavePoint: A discussion on the Gaming community” while the other was named “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” The former was there to primarily analyse the social and political landscape within the ever-changing and diverse gaming community as well as a closer look at the journalistic integrity of gaming journalists themselves; the latter was focussed on data around abuse in larger gaming communities as well as other related topics.
Sounds interesting right? Indeed, the reason this has somewhat blown up in the organisers faces is down to the panels referring to the madness known as “GamerGate” neither panel was officially linked to this subject but did intend to discuss issues associated with both sides of the row. SavePoint was due to feature prominent GamerGate supporters while Level up was likely to feature an argument, sorry discussion against Harassment in games and I would have thought GamerGate would have come up at some point.
So that’s it, no, supporters of the GamerGate campaign suggest that they themselves have been the victim of “abuse after they tried to highlight conflicts of interest in the video games industry. The organisers of SavePoint have announced that they will go ahead with plans to host a panel discussion themselves and will do so by other means.
To add to the complications, media organisation BuzzFeed has threatened to boycott SXSW unless the festival reinstated both parties, which looks unlikely at this time considering both panels are fearful of their safety. Buzzfeed released a statement that reads as follows,
“We will feel compelled to withdraw [our staff] if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day – to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment. We hope you can support the principle of free speech and engage a vital issue facing us and other constituents on the event.”
I have always felt rather non plus with the ideology of threats of violence, granted, if you received one then you are well within your rights to take it with the utmost of seriousness, but, if someone intended to hit you, they probably would not warn you that they intended to do so in the first place, it rather defeats the point. It’s a tough one, free speech should be the number one focus, but, free speech itself does not mean you can say what you want if there is a chance that it could cause major offence.
It does seem silly though that two gaming events have been cancelled because it has caused this reaction, can’t people debate like adults and others listen with respect like adults without the need for threats?