Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Will PAX Ever Learn?

Safety concerns continue to mount with female developers at public events. Brianna Wu, who has been a target of #GamerGate and threats to her life over the past year has recently pulled her company, Giant Spacekat, off the PAX East expo floor. Given her high profile status as of late, even if you don't know the company or the games she's made, her issue is well known in the media after a series of death threats late last year forced her to leave her home in Boston. Why? Because she's a women who likes video games and wants to make changes to the industry to be more accepting of different people and cultures. (Sorry #GamerGate. You can't convince me that the whole scenario is about 'journalistic integrity.' Not when you threaten people.)

Wu originally reached out to the organizers of PAX, Reed Expo, and asked that security be visible at her booth to ensure the safety of her staff members. In a blog post on her website, she goes into detail about her concerns and how Reed Expo wouldn't respond to her request, which seems fairly light-handed. Make security visible? That shouldn't be a problem, right? Reed has not responded to comments regarding the situation, but have pointed to the policies on the PAX websites that safety is the #1 priority.

Though Giant Spacekat won't be on the show floor, Wu will be appearing at several panels throughout the weekend with her own security measures at hand. She isn't stopping her staff from attending as fans (the badges have been paid for, after all) but because Reed can't provide visible security, she doesn't want to risk her employees safety. It's not a double standard: she's trying to be responsible for her staff.

Unfortunately this isn't the first time we have seen issues like this occur with PAX. The Dickwolves shirts, for example, spawned from a Penny Arcade comic strip, caused a foul stir for some fans, while others praised it - mostly male gamers. When questioned about the shirts being pulled from their storefront, Mike said it was a mistake, to a roar of applause from the crowd.

Having attended a few PAX events, it's an odd dichotomy. On the show floor, in the panel rooms, talking to developers you don't feel singled out as a female or as a minority. You're a gamer just like everyone else. These instances of sexual and racial discrimination haven't happened before my eyes. In 2013 a camera crew went around harassing female cosplayers at PAX East. I never saw it. But the PAX staff dealt with it upon notification by banning the team from that event and all future PAX events. Apologies have been made. Things have changed in the rules to protect attendees and exhibitors alike. But instances like Wu's story still happen. Why? I thought PAX was better than this...but maybe they're not? Maybe I'm caught up in the cloud of gamer greatness that I'm overlooking these moments? Because I don't see this happening. I'm always treated with respect by attendees, devs, and fans. They don't talk down to me because I'm a woman as I have at other conventions. I'm one of them. You like Metal Gear Solid? Cool. So do I. Here's the demo.

Maybe I need to open up my eyes a bit wider? Whatever happens with Wu's situation, I hope she's able to attend for the panels she's promised to sit on and co-host. I'm curious to hear the outcome.

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