What It's Like to Be the Woman at the Center of Gamergate

PHOTO: Zoey Quinn appears in this video grab from the YouTube video, "Harassment In The Games World" posted Oct. 15, 2014.YouTube
Zoey Quinn appears in this video grab from the YouTube video, "Harassment In The Games World" posted Oct. 15, 2014.

The woman at the center of a viral controversy known as Gamergate says her life has been turned upside down by Internet thugs intent on ruining her life.

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Zoe Quinn told ABC News the scandal started when her disgruntled ex-boyfriend wrote a blog post accusing her of infidelity. Anonymous users of the website 4chan took it as an opportunity to vilify Quinn, one of the few female video game developers, by attacking her and her family and friends.

"Very early on, my Tumblr was hacked. My personal details were posted, my family's address and personal details," Quinn said. "People started calling my father and harassing him, telling him, 'Your daughter is a whore.'"

"Another developer stood up for me, he was harassed and attacked," she added.

Quinn said she's received death threats and sat in 4chan chat rooms where users traded "vivid rape fantasies" about her, and discussed ways they could get her to commit suicide.

"They were focused on how they could find someone to hurt me or get me to hurt myself," she said.

PHOTO: People protest on the campus of Utah State, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah.Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
People protest on the campus of Utah State, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah.

Quinn said she is still being harassed, but the Gamergate conversation has begun to shift to a bigger issue: general disrespect of women in the gaming industry.

"I've never spoken to a woman in the industry who hasn't caught some form of nastiness due to her gender," Quinn said.

"The first time I ever showed a game in public I had multiple people tell me they didn't believe I had coded it myself," she added.

Another time a developer at a major conference told Quinn she was only there because of her breasts, she recalled. And at a job interview, Quinn said she was once asked what she does to bring on sexual harassment.

As a female developer, she said she's grown used to the harassment.

"I've gotten rape threats before. It's become so common," Quinn said. "I actually have a folder on my computer called 'Just Another Day In the Office,' it's people calling me a c***, telling me I don't deserve success, telling me someone should put me in my place and implying physical violence, death threats, rape threats."

Media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who has a video series about the negative ways female characters are portrayed in games, has also been vocal about gamers' treatment of women. She has a video series that focuses on the negative, sexist ways female characters are portrayed in games, and, in a New York Times opinion piece published today, called gaming culture a "sacred boy's club." Sarkeesian said she, too, has been harassed by Gamergate supporters.

Quinn says it's a small group of gamers who are giving gaming culture a bad rap.

"It's this one contingent that's so change-adverse," Quinn said. "Which is sad, because it's holding the games back. They want games to stay the same, they want the people who make the games to stay the same. It's frustrating. Gamergate has undone so much progress."

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