SXSW cancels panels on gaming harassment, citing threats

Oct 27, 2015, 05:08 AM

The South By Southwest Festival Monday canceled two video game panel discussions after organizers got threats of violence. SXSW Interactive festival scotched two sessions that had been planned for the March 2016 event in Austin: "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games." Hugh Forrest, director for SXSW Interactive, said the festival had received "numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming," in a statement posted on the SXSW website and on Twitter. Concern about the panels stemmed from the #Gamergate controversy, a more than year-long culture clash that involves equality for video game players, developers and characters, as well as unethical practices by video-game journalists.

The issue was not stated in either of the panels' program description, but some of the planned panelists had been publicly vocal on the issues. An August event held by the Society of Professional Journalists about the issue was disrupted by bomb threats.

Caroline Sinders of IBM, a speaker on the Level Up panel, posted on Twitter that the panel was about "stymying harassment in interactive spaces" and that "hopefully we can take this panel discussion to another space and or conference."

The Open Gaming Society, of which founder Perry Jones had been scheduled to appear on the SavePoint panel, posted a note on its website that "we still plan to have a panel regardless. This has been a backup plan from square one and now we are forced to act on it."

Many other comments on Twitter about SXSW's action were not too kind.