The popular media conference South By Southwest announced recently they would be cancelling two panels on interactive media, specifically gaming, following numerous threats of violence toward the conference. The panels, called #SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community and Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games, were both apparently targeted by the threats, leading SXSW leadership to conclude that, for the safety of the conference, they should be cancelled. The threats began when the two panels were announced as part of the official schedule, over the course of seven days. The statement implies SXSW accepted both of these panels intentionally, in the hopes of encouraging the exchange of ideas.
While not apparent, the two panels are diametrically opposed. Level Up is hosted by Randi Harper, known for the creation of the GG Autoblocker, along with panelists Katherine Cross and Caroline Sinders. That panel was heavily supported by opponents of the hashtag #Gamergate, called either a fight for ethical and fair coverage and treatment of games and gamers or a harassment campaign depending on who you ask. The second panel, #SavePoint, was hosted by The Open Gaming Society, a group dedicated to fair representation of gamers in media. The panelists include Mercedes Carrera and developer Nick Robalik (better known on Twitter as @PixelMetal), who are well know proponents of #Gamergate, as well as Lynn Walsh, who participated in the SPJ “Gamergate” panel, Airplay. Airplay was similarly cancelled after receiving a bomb threat which caused the entire convention to be evacuated. SavePoint was to be hosted by Perry Jones, another developer and the founder of The Open Gaming Society.
On the original page for Level Up on the SXSW “Panel Picker”, a democratic site allowing people for vote for which panels they like to see, it was described as “a panel from experts on online harassment in gaming and geek culture, how to combat it, how to design against it, and how to create online communities that are moving away from harassment”. SavePoint earned their spot after contacting SXSW leadership, and originally was featured on the schedule, described as a discussion on “current social/political landscape in the gaming community, the journalistic integrity of gaming’s journalists, and the ever-changing gaming community, video game development, and their future”. Both of the schedule pages for these panels are already gone, though the SavePoint page was archived.
Randi Harper announced the cancellation of her panel via the Tweet below. Katherine Cross, one of the other panelists for Level Up, told Jezebel that they weren’t concerned with the SavePoint panel, and just wanted their panel to continue undeterred, saying,”Regardless of what they had to say, I feel like our solutions-focused panel would’ve been a great addition to the lineup and that’s what we were focused on”. The Open Gaming Society announced they would be releasing a statement later today, before SXSW made their statement.
SXSW just canceled our panel due to the number of threats of violence they have received.
— Randi Lee Harper (@randileeharper) October 26, 2015
— TheOpenGamingSociety (@OPGamingSociety) October 26, 2015
The Open Gaming Society released their own statement shortly after SXSW’s made their announcement, saying they would still hold their panel on their own dime around the same time. They ask that regardless of position on Gamergate, that people not attack SXSW for their decision to cancel the panel.
SXSW has not and likely won’t release the details of the threats nor go on record as to who they believe the threats are from. Whether there is an alternative recourse for the panels has not yet been shared. TechRaptor reached out to SXSW for additional comment but has not received any response as of yet.
Disclosure: This writer is friends with active participants in the Open Gaming Society.