SXSW Faces Backlash After Pulling Two Panels on Gaming Culture

Organizers pulled two panels after receiving threats of violence.

— -- The organizers of South by Southwest, the annual festival where technology and entertainment converge, are responding to backlash after cancelling two panels on gaming culture due to threats of violence.

"We want the SXSW community to know that we hear and understand your frustrations and concerns about the recent cancellation of two SXSW Gaming panels," Forrest wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. He did not specify the specific nature of the threats or who may have sent them.

"The safety of our speakers, participants and staff is always our top priority," he wrote. "Moving forward, we are also evaluating several programming solutions as we continue to plan for an event that will be safe, meaningful and enjoyable for all involved."

Forrest did not say what would replace the panels "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games." One possibility being weighed, according to Re-Code, is an all-day panel on harassment in gaming.

Gamergate has become a hot button issue that has splintered the gaming community and has resulted in some female game developers reporting harassment after criticizing the way women are depicted in gaming culture.

Anita Sarkeesian, who runs a video series critiquing how women are portrayed in pop culture narratives, called on SXSW to re-instate the harassment panel and issue an apology for including the "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" panel, which some view as a forum for GamerGate supporters to express "hate speech."

The Open Gaming Society, which was set to host the other panel, said in a statement the cancellation was "disheartening" but said the society plans to host its own panel around the same time as SXSW "to allow for the largest possible audience."

"They want to encourage open discussions, but they don’t want to fuel a vicious online war between two sides who are extremely opposed to one another," a statement posted on the group's website said. "We’re all very passionate about this medium and sometimes we let that passion get the best of us – and that’s on both sides of the table."

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