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Time For Harassers To Be Held Accountable, Female Gamer Says


The #MeToo campaign forced many industries into a moral reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse.


But video game developer Brianna Wu says she's still waiting for the gaming industry to take a hard look at itself. Back in 2014, Wu and several other female gamers endured a campaign of harassment and abuse that was dubbed Gamergate. The FBI investigated but no one was prosecuted.

BRIANNA WU: I can tell you in 2018 looking back at it, nothing of note really happened. We expected help to come, and it didn't.

INSKEEP: Here's something that is happening in 2018 - Brianna Wu is running for Congress in the state of Massachusetts. She spoke with our co-host, Rachel Martin.

WU: The video game industry traditionally has been a very male-dominated field. You know, with the advent of the iPhone, the number of women gamers exploded. We're actually more than half of gamers in 2018. And Gamergate was kind of a very aggressive backlash to that growing diversity. And what ended up happening is women like myself that have been advocating for greater inclusion in our field, we received just an extreme avalanche of death threats and rape threats and really the destruction of our personal lives in a way that was just horrifying for many people to watch.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: So now we are in this #MeToo moment and the associated movement around this larger social reckoning about sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the broader culture. Is that changing things when it comes to online harassment and abuse?

WU: You know, it's hard for me because I want to have a hopeful message, especially for young women that are out there listening to this, but when it comes to the game industry itself, we are not having a #MeToo moment at all. I think what a lot of women in the game industry saw with Gamergate is they saw if they came forward, help was not going to come. They saw that they will be out there on the front lines and, you know, you'll certainly have journalists that are happy to capture the spectacle. But as far as change, as far as getting backup from the industry, I think that they are scared to come forward because so many women have had their careers destroyed trying to come forward. So what I need is I need our investigative institutions to start looking at game studios. Look at the hiring, look at the culture, look at who makes it up the food chain. Because we've really created a culture of silence in my field that is very similar to why Harvey Weinstein was able to go for so long unchecked.

MARTIN: So what are the broader implications if sexual harassment, gender-based abuse online isn't curtailed?

WU: So if you look historically at what engineering is, you know, engineers build societies. That is what we do. So when you have an entire field of engineering and STEM where women are kind of just shown the door very subtly, what that means is that women don't get a voice in how society is running. So I think what you're seeing with the Internet right now where it's an institution that was created by men for men, and there are a lot of voices that weren't heard in the creation of that. So when we're talking about women being able to pursue STEM careers, we're really talking about women having a voice in how online systems function.

MARTIN: Brianna, thanks so much.

WU: Always a pleasure.


INSKEEP: Game developer and congressional candidate Brianna Wu talking with our colleague, Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.