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GTFO: Don't film the trolls

Filmmaker launches Kickstarter to shine a light on sexism in the games industry

Shannon Sun-Higginson thinks she's prepared for the worst. As the filmmaker behind GTFO, the new documentary that aims to highlight the abuse suffered by female gamers and women in the games industry, it's not as if she doesn't know what to expect.

"I've gotten a few messages so far that are like, I'm an 'attention whore' which is a hilarious assessment to gather from trying to make a movie about women in gaming," she tells GamesIndustry International.

"I have been lucky that I haven't gotten too many trolls yet, but I think actually being an outsider probably helps in that respect."

Emily Compton of Muse Games, speaking in GTFO

By outsider she means not a blogger, or a developer or even someone who could necessarily chat about the ending of BioShock Infinite. She admits straightaway that she isn't a gamer herself and only became aware of the problem when friends of hers spoke being abused online. But she thinks that her role as an outsider comes with both its disadvantages and advantages.

"It has been a lot more challenging in that I didn't start out with any contacts at all in the industry, but this is a really important movie to get made and I can't just hope that someone else will make it," she explains.

"I wanted to tell people like myself, outsiders who aren't aware of this about this problem... I heard about it and I have always cared about womens' and feminist issues, and I didn't realise this was happening under everybody's nose."

Because after all, we've talked and talked about in the games press, but at times it doesn't feel as if it's getting us anywhere. If anything, the more women try to speak out the more resentful sections of the industry seem to get. Don't agree? Check out any of the comments on our stories on the topic, and remember that we're a site where people have to share their real names and job titles to be allowed to post. Clearly, we still have a long way to go.

"This is a really important movie to get made and I can't just hope that someone else will make it"

"I didn't think there was still an industry that in 2013 everyone was just fine with being really really sexist," she says.

"I don't think, obviously, it's the entire industry - that would be incredibly presumptuous and not true, it's just a very vocal minority."

So far Sun-Higginson has travelled to Pax East, the Major League Gaming event in Anaheim and New York's Columbia University, and has conducted a number of interviews, as well as speaking to the people behind sites like Fat, Ugly Or Slutty and Not In The Kitchen Anymore that publish the abuse and rape threats received by female gamers that dare to play online. She's been funding it herself, but has now launched a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the ongoing costs.

But what about chatting to the trolls, the people who are acting out in sexist or aggressive ways towards female gamers, blogger and indeed anyone who dares address the issue, like Anita Sarkeesian?

"I don't think the goal of this is, and I don't think it would be even possible to open a dialogue necessarily with the people who are doing this," she says on the topic. Plus she points out most of the abuse comes from anonymous sources.

"A lot of these anonymous people who are saying that they're going to do horrible things to these women, it would hard to get them on camera, I would think, and I would hope... I wouldn't mind giving them airtime because then their face would be on the project and it would be a detriment to them, not to myself."

Julia Childress, who also appears in GTFO

Her goals are much more far reaching than just naming a shaming a bunch of sexist trolls from the bottom half of the internet.

"There are a few goals, one of them is to make more awareness and more of a stigma for those people so that they see it and they're like 'oh, wait, maybe this is not an acceptable thing to do, maybe bad things will happen if I do this.'

"And the other thing from the developers' end and the monitoring end for people get muted and reported so that this happens less and less, and to make it easier for women and men and anybody who gets harassed to report these people so they won't be allowed to do it to anyone else."

If you'd be interested in contributing to the project, either with your perspective on the topic or cold hard Kickstarter cash, you can contact Sun-Higginson through the campaign page.

"If I can stop people abusing women that would be a success but I think it's more about not speaking directly to those people, but making it more of a taboo, more shameful to do that. And the second aspect is making everyone aware of this as a huge problem that needs to be fixed."

"It's awful to think that half of the community, meaning women, are being abused and their talents aren't really being used in the video game industry as much as they could be."

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Rachel Weber avatar

Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.