In an effort to promote awareness of the treatment of female gamers within the gaming community, director Shannon Sun-Higginson is putting her creative skills to work in a soon-to-be-released documentary.
‘GTFO’ details the gaming life of Jenny Haniver, with specific moments relating to her abuse and harassment during online gaming sessions. In one scene, upon finding out that the fellow shooter in a Call of Duty game was a woman, the male players ordered her to leave, saying that women were ‘poor players and can’t drive’. “You’re useless when your hymen is broken,” one of the players stated. Another scene features Maddie Meyers, assistant games editor at Paste magazine, describing how few girls were left in her gaming circle growing up. “I went to a tournament a couple years ago, and there were only two women who entered,” Meyers explained. “It’s really demoralizing. How many women decided not to enter because they’ve had bad experiences, or didn’t even know about it, because there wasn’t any marketing of it for them?”
Haniver has reportedly dealt with a large amount of online harassment over the years, with comments ranging from your everyday trolling to death threats and stereotyping. “One guy said he was going to impregnate me with triplets and then force me to have a late-term abortion,” Haniver explained in an interview with NY Times. “Then he giggled.” Cases such as these are on the extreme end of the spectrum, but ‘GTFO’ aims to prove to the gaming community that they are not isolated incidents, nor are they simply kids shooting off at the mouth. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of 13-year-old boys,’ ” Haniver said. “The voice recordings let you hear it’s not just kids. You can tell these are adult men.”
Online harassment has definitely been a heated subject ever since the GamerGate controversy reared its head, with contributors Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu at the forefront of this ‘war’ against girl gamers. The subject was explored extensively even prior to the online explosion, and has since evolved into a widespread debate involving players as well as video game companies, writers, and developers. Strangely, even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit featured an episode last month where a female game developer was kidnapped and tortured by a group of angry male gamers. While there’s no doubt that female gamer harassment exists, there’s a line between raising awareness and fear-mongering – which is exactly what’s been happening in the past year or so.
“My biggest fear for this movie is that it scares young women away from this industry, which is really growing and thriving right now,” Ms. Sun-Higginson said. “Obviously the more women and the more diverse people in general who join the industry, the better.”
Production of ‘GTFO’ began in 2012, after the film’s director watched a player sexually harass his teammate in a live-streaming competition series, making lewd comments about her body and telling her to take off her shirt. According to NY Times, Sun-Higginston had initially planned to focus on sexual harassment, but began to focus on other kinds of harassment as well after speaking to more women in gaming. “I decided to take a step back and explore what it means to be a woman in gaming in general, both the positive and the negative,” she said.
‘GTFO’ is set to premiere on March 14 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and is only currently available to Kickstarter backers.