Culture

Actress Felicia Day Opens Up About GamerGate Fears, Has Her Private Details Exposed Minutes Later

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Author Felicia Day signs autograph during New York Comic Con 2011 in Javits Center on October 15, 2011 in New York.

Instead of greeting two male gamers wearing Halo and Call of Duty shirts, prominent gamer and actress Felicia Day crossed the street.

“Seeing another gamer on the street used to be an auto-smile opportunity, or an entry into a conversation starting with, ‘Hey, dude! I love that game too!’ the Supernatural actress wrote on her Tumblr. But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn’t smile. I didn’t say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn’t walk by them. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.”

That change is GamerGate — an online movement where a small subset of gamers have harassed female media critics, developers and bloggers with violent and graphic death and rape threats.

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who was driven from her home by gamers’ threats, recently had to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University after a letter threatened a massacre if the school did not cancel its event. While the written threat was jarring, Sarkeesian cancelled her talk because of Utah’s concealed carry laws, which meant the school couldn’t guarantee her safety. Game developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn have also had to leave their homes because of the massive amount of death and rape threats.

Day said she has kept quiet on GamerGate, which recently forced Intel to pull advertising from gaming site Gamasutra, largely out of “self-protection and fear.”

“I have been terrified of inviting a deluge of abusive and condescending tweets into my timeline. I did one simple @ reply to one of the main victims several weeks back, and got a flood of things I simply couldn’t stand to read directed at me. I had to log offline for a few days until it went away. I have tried to re-tweet a few of the articles I’ve seen dissecting the issue in support, but personally I am terrified to be doxxed (having personal information such as an address, email or real name released online) for even typing the words ‘Gamer Gate.'”

In fact, Day was reportedly doxxed within an hour of writing her post on GamerGate. The immediate doxxing of female GamerGate critics, including Day, has been pointed to as an example of the sexism of the movement. Former NFL player Chris Kluwe, who wrote his own post calling GamerGaters “basement-dwelling, cheetos-huffing, poopsock-sniffing douchepistols,” said Day was only targeted because of her gender.

“None of you fucking #gamergate tools tried to dox me, even after I tore you a new one. I’m not even a tough target…Instead, you go after a woman who wrote why your movement concerns her,” Kluwe said on Twitter.

In her post, Day explains that, like 18 percent of internet users, she’s experienced her share of severe harassment, and has even had stalkers show up on her doorstep. But that while she is sickened by the stigma and fear GamerGate has had on the community, she encourages everyone to keep gaming.

“Games are beautiful, they are creative, they are worlds to immerse yourself in. They are art. And they are worth fighting for, even if the atmosphere is ugly right now,” Day said. And that odds are the gamer guys she avoided on the street weren’t part of GamerGate and “would have been awesome to talk to.”

Complaints of tech companies’ lax online harassment policies have escalated as tech and gaming circles have try to combat criticism of a culture that shuts out and abuse women and minorities.

Twitter has been heavily criticized for not taking online threats seriously. In July, users derailed an online Q&A with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo by pointing the conversation to the site’s toothless online harassment policies. Twitter also caught flack in 2013 when the site made it so blocked users could still follow and see posts from the users that blocked them. The policy was reversed and Twitter has since vowed to revamp its policies after Zelda Williams, daughter of late actor and comic Robin Williams, received graphic images of her father after his death in August.