Earlier this week, Brianna Wu, head of development at Giant Spacekat, was forced from her home following death threats to her and her husband from extreme GamerGate supporters. Wu is the latest woman in games to unfortunately feel the hostility of the GamerGate crowd, and the movement has now gotten the attention of mainstream media. In the last few days, Wu was invited on MSNBC and CNN to discuss the threats and the treatment of women in general in the games business.
According to the IGDA, women account for just 22 percent of the workforce in games, but Wu is concerned that recent threats against women will cause that figure to dwindle. While noting that extremists have driven some of her own colleagues out of the industry, she remarked to MSNBC, "I know almost all of the women in the games industry at this point. All of us are terrified about this. We're terrified about our jobs, we're terrified that we are going to be next, and what we feel is that there is a literal war in this industry on women.
"[Some are] bullied to the point where you say, 'Hey I have other career opportunities. I'm going to go work somewhere else. I'm a software engineer. I can work in other industries different than this one.' I have to tell you, a question I ask myself a lot lately is 'Do I want to go get a job in an industry that's frankly less sexist?'"
While Wu told CNN, "I do genuinely believe my life is in danger," she also remains steadfast in her resolution that she won't back down. "I am not going to get bullied out of this industry," she said.
As bad as things seem for women in games right now, Wu believes it can get better. But action needs to start from within game companies. It's not just about gamer culture; it's about culture in the workplace.
"It needs to happen from the top down... This is a problem with the gamer culture but it's also a problem with the professionals within the gaming industry. If you look at sites like IGN and Giant Bomb, these are sites that are predominantly run by men and they are choosing not to cover what's happening to women in the industry. If you look at the industry's hiring practices as a whole they are titled very severely against women," she continued in her discussion with MSNBC.
"Many of [women's] roles are in marketing. In tech as a whole, women make up little more than 20 percent of programmers, but here in the games industry we're only three percent of programmers. So I think you have to look at the culture from the top down that's sending these messages very subtly and unconsciously. 'You're not welcome here. This is a boy's club. This is our turf.' It's not that the men are conscious that they're doing this. I love and respect the men who work in this industry with me, but they have attitudes frequently that they don't understand are antagonistic. What we need as an industry is a dialogue about this. We need men to listen to women when we tell them what our experiences are."
Update: Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek has contacted us to note that the site has indeed covered the threats against Wu.