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Engaging in #GamerGate: "There is that fear going into it, as a woman"

Anita Sarkeesian
Anita Sarkeesian, author of the video blog "Feminist Frequency," has been harassed for her critique of sexism within the industry

This month, the video game industry has found itself at the center of a dispute that's led to intense debate under the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate.

The #GamerGate controversy started with concern over ethics in video game journalism and quickly turned into a conversation on how women are treated and perceived in the world of video gaming – an industry that has been mostly dominated by men.

In the past month, several female game critics were harassed and threatened to the point where they felt the need to leave their homes. Their experience led others to share stories of mistreatment of women within the industry.

Jessica Vazquez is a writer at Game Revolution, who says that it's hard to jump into the conversation about women in the gaming industry when the chance of harassment is so great.

"There is that fear going into it...if the trolls are a little worse today than they were yesterday because I’m a woman, but it’s not going to stop me from writing," she says.

In this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with three panelists - all gamers since they were kids, now in academia - who are watching what’s going on and asking questions about what it means. They share their predictions for how #GamerGate will impact video game journalism in the future and whether video gaming is becoming a larger cultural entity, rather than niche community.

Joining the conversation: Kyle Moody, assistant professor in the Communications Media Department at Fitchburg State University, Cindy Tekobbe, doctoral candidate in rhetoric, composition, and linguistics at Arizona State University, and Karen Dill-Shackleford, psychology professor at Fielding University.

River to River listener, Stephanie from Cedar Rapids says: "I loved the Metroid series specifically because Samus (the protagonist mentioned earlier) was a woman. Everybody assumed she was a man until the first game was won, when she was revealed to have been a woman. The "girl in a swimsuit" could be fairly seen as sexist, but could also be interpreted as making abundantly clear that the character who just saved the world all by herself was a woman."

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River