Geeks chase women out of game conference

frankenstein-villagersLeading women game designers have been chased away from the PAX East convention in Boston with threats of rape and death.

Brianna Wu, cofounder of the Boston video game studio Giant Spacekat, has pulled her company off the exhibition floor at next month’s event because of safety concerns for the five other women who work with her.

Last week, Wu said in a blog post that PAX organisers had refused her repeated attempts over several weeks to discuss security measures.

Wu said that she had not backed down in the face of threats but “if something happened to my team, God forbid, that would be on me”.

Other developers have said that gaming culture is male and they want a frat-house environment where women appear only as pixellated sex objects. PAX East is a celebration of this culture and it was silly for women to want to be there in the first place.

However executives at Penny Arcade, the group that stages the expo have been behaving oddly.  Instead of issuing a general statement stressing that “the safety of our attendees, panelists, and exhibitors is the number one priority for PAX” which is normal in such cases it has clammed up completely.  This has given the impression that it refused to protect women developers who showed up at its event.

Nina Huntemann, a professor of media studies at Suffolk University and cofounder of Women in Games Boston told the Boston Globe that the organises needed to make a stronger statement.  Its current stance is that there are not taking seriously the concerns of women while preserving a male-dominated culture that they’ve allowed to fester.

On message boards and at meetings of women gamers, some continued to question whether Penny Arcade founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik are serious about gender equality after they posted a comic on their website in 2010 that appeared to make light of rape.

The comic featured monsters that were serial rapists, and Holkins and Krahulik later began selling T-shirts based on the cartoon. They ultimately axed the shirts, but Krahulik said at a PAX event in Seattle in 2013 that pulling the merchandise “was a mistake.”