An Australian journalist who reviews video games is employing an interesting tactic to combat the threats of sexual violence she receives from teen gamers, and to highlight the problem of widespread misogyny in gaming culture.
Alanah Pearce, 21, who writes about games for a radio and television station in Brisbane, is forwarding rape threats she receives from boys on social media to their unsuspecting mothers — sometimes landing young players in hot water with the very people who control their access to the games.
Pearce has already taken screenshots of some of the most threatening messages she’s received and sent them to the mothers of at least four individuals.
In one such exchange, Pearce forwarded a mother a threat her son allegedly made on Facebook: “ill rape u if I ever see u,” followed by an expletive.
The apparently shocked mother apologized to Pearce: “omg little shit. IM SO SORRY.”
Pearce posted a screenshot of the exchange on Nov. 27 to Twitter. The tweet has since garnered 60,000 favorites and has been retweeted more than 37,000 times.
In an interview with The Guardian, Pearce said she decided to confront the gamers’ mothers instead of the gamers themselves because she realized “a lot of the people who send disgusting or overly sexual comments to me over the Internet aren’t adult males.”
“It turns out that mostly they’re young boys and the problem is they don’t know any better, so responding to them rationally didn’t resolve the situation,” she said. “It was just a way to try to reach a resolution, to productively teach young boys it’s not okay to be sexist to women, even if they’re on the Internet."
Both the video gaming industry and the culture it has spawned have often been criticized for encouraging misogyny and perpetuating harmful stereotypes of women.
Not only are female characters often scantily clad, but sometimes even abused. In Grand Theft Auto V, for example, players can punch prostitutes and run them over with cars. In God of War II and III the main character has sex, sometimes even orgies, with women. And in Dead or Alive Paradise, women strip on poles.
Women gamers and media critics who dare criticize the negative portrayal of women in such video games — which are rated unsuitable for children — are often met with disdain, sometimes even threats.
Earlier this year, game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, faced a massive harassment campaign by gamers using the hashtag #gamergate.
The gamers, apparently angered by allegations that Quinn had entered into a romantic relationship with a video game journalist to influence reviews of her game, took to social media to threaten her and the two other women — who came to her defense — with violence, including rape.
The threats were so frightening that the women reportedly fled their homes.
In October, Sarkeesian canceled a speaking engagement at Utah State University after school officials said that they had received terrorist threats related to her appearance at the school, and that staff were powerless to ban concealed weapons under existing state laws.
Speaking to NPR after the cancelation of that event, Sarkeesian said she believes part of the problem with the industry is that gaming has drawn in men rejected by the “larger alpha male culture” so they can fulfill the “alpha male role” via the “testosterone posturing you get in a lot of these big, [big-budget] games.”
“So they're going after women, they're going after queer folks, they're going after trans folks, and especially anyone who speaks up and is critical in any way about gaming,” she said.