Part 1 of this series talked about Brianna Wu’s battle with Twitter. They were addicted to it, but a side-effect of that was the fact people would actually say things to Wu they disagreed with. In Part 2, we analyze how Wu and the media worked together hand-in-hand to spread Brianna’s message. Whatever that might be.
“A consequence of Gamergate is the press more hesitant about discussing Giant Spacekat or the work we do. They’re literally hurt my business,” Brianna Wu said in a tweet on September 21st, 2014. By the end of that year Wu was named in Polygon’s Top 50 Admirable Gaming People of 2014, with the harassment drama that was on display over the past few months becoming inseparable from anything on a Game Developer job description basis. Brianna Wu wrote a blog post called “My Career is not about Stopping Gamergate” to try and deny that.
Before GamerGate started, Wu barely registered on the media’s radar. The occasional Gamasutra mention here and there, and a piece about Revolution 60 every so often, and a few from Polygon – but that was it. But when GamerGate arrived, Wu took that and pushed themselves into the public eye with it as much as humanly possible.
And it began on the night of October 10th with that @chatterwhiteman incident. Gameranx and Venture Beat were the first two places to cover it, doing so that very evening. By the 11th: Boston Globe, BoingBoing, Huffington Post, Niche Gamer, Recode, Polygon, and The Verge followed suit. This was the same pattern of behavior that GamerGate had come to expect after the Gamers are Dead articles released closely to one another at the end of August 2014. But this time there was more. On October 12th: Arcade Sushi, Bostinno, Bustle, Buzzfeed, CHUD, Daily Mail, and even local mainstream outlets like Boston’s FOX News affiliate picked up the story.
The Brianna Wu incident pushed GamerGate discussion beyond containment of the gaming community. Pushing out from the industry and the circle of usual outlets, to the rest of the world.
The first time most folks in GamerGate got to first see Brianna Wu on video was when they saw them on MSNBC’s The Reid Report on October 13th. It was here that Wu, along with Eric Johnson of Recode, brought GamerGate to the mainstream for the first time. This was the first instance of the movement being mentioned outside the confines of their corner of the internet, and now it was reaching the homes of a national audience. Brianna claimed sites like Giantbomb weren’t adequately covering their situation to the best of their ability, seemingly slamming gaming journalism for being too tame on the harassment angle. That same day, Patrick Klepek put out an article on the Wu Twitter incident over at Giantbomb, directly slamming the movement as something born out of “incidents of extreme harassment” and denying any assertions of unethical journalism as meritless.
But there’s more to it than the MSNBC reveal. When Brianna Wu went on TV that day, they were also skipping out on being a guest on the Milo Yiannopoulos show, Radio Nero. The reason this is relevant is due to the fact it would go against the message of reaching out and trying to have a discussion with GamerGate directly. Brianna’s intentions with their media circuit would be brought under scrutiny, as the excuses for bailing out leveled against Milo wouldn’t be taken without a grain of salt. GamerGate had grown more attached to Milo in his efforts to cover the movement, and when he made a blog post explaining the situation in detail it made him look like the more mature party. In a motion of transparency, Yiannopoulos shared the extensive list of questions he intended to ask Wu in the first place.
On October 14th, VICE connected the @chatterwhiteman tweets to Brianna as being GamerGate’s fault. In a piece titled “Does Someone Have to Actually Die Before #GamerGate Ends?,” the author mentions Wu’s incident from the evening of October 10th. They proceed to analyze the reaction from members of the movement, in addition to summarizing the events of the past few months.
GamerGate, to date, has taught us nothing. OK, maybe it’s taught us that certain men are horrible and have no shame in announcing their hatred of women to the world in the most hideous manner available to them. If GamerGate really was about ethics, Wu or Sarkeesian wouldn’t be going through what they are.
It didn’t exactly correlate the two things directly. There was harassment going on with Brianna Wu, and there was GamerGate. These two separate things were only linked together because Wu themselves said so. The same day during a HuffPost Live interview between Brianna Wu, Fredrick Brennan of 8chan, and Erik Kain, Fredrick told Brianna “8chan’s not all about you,” on air. CNN would also do a video report on the Brianna Wu situation that day. Wu had also begun to write articles about their situation themselves, whenever possible. As seen in the case of “IT HAPPENED TO ME: I’ve Been Forced Out Of My Home And Am Living In Constant Fear Because Of Relentless Death Threats From Gamergate” on XOJane. By the 20th, ten days after the @chatterwhiteman incident – Wu wrote a piece on the Washington Post asking why men weren’t rallying behind female gamers.
October 21st was one of the first times Wu would use the articles written about them as leverage. GamerGate’s boycott campaign against gaming media outlets had started to gain traction from advertisers, and that day Adobe had acknowledged GamerGate directly – stating that they weren’t advertising on Gawker in the first place, and would ask the website to remove their logo from mention. GamerGate had used Sam Biddle’s tweets as ammunition for their letter writing campaign to advertisers, and Adobe told GamerGate the company had an anti-bullying stance. Wu came into the picture by tweeting Adobe about GamerGate and linking them to an article the Guardian had written about Brianna’s harassment situation. Wu would later announce they were able to get in touch with Adobe, telling people to “Stay tuned,” in a tweet. The final results came a week later with a blog post from Adobe, clarifying their position on the GamerGate controversy.
On October 27th, Brianna Wu would be on the David Pakman Show. “Brianna Wu accused me of doing a hit piece attack interview on gamergate today. Interview will be posted later,” he tweeted. This set in motion how the tone of the conversation between the two took a downward turn. The interview itself was a spectacle. While it’s recommended to watch the whole thing, tensions flared up at the end of it. The next day, Milo Yiannopoulos took his turn in the David Pakman hot seat. Following the same sort of pattern as the Radio Nero incident, Milo was able to time his moves carefully in order to appear as the more mature party in the conversation.
This would be further exacerbated when Brianna Wu made these comments on November 1st:
When 8chan’s owner and head administrator Fredrick Brennan went on the same program a week later (November 5th), the headliner of the video was that he denounced Brianna Wu’s doxing and harassment. But that didn’t make a difference to Wu, personally. They’d line up an interview with Katherine Cross and Feministing called “Standing in the Firing Squad: An Interview with Brianna Wu” on the 7th. Cross was a close associate of Anita Sarkeesian, so they’d be able to push the cultural angle of the GamerGate narrative even more to the media.
“I’m so sick of news with clickbaity headlines, I’m just going to pay for the NYT.” – Brianna Wu
On December 3rd, Keith Stuart wrote a GamerGate piece over on The Guardian. While it mostly focuses on Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu’s situation is also brought up. The timeline at the end takes the effort to mention the fact Wu shared a meme some GamerGate people thought was offensive, and he describes that as a motive in the accusation that GamerGate was responsible for Brianna’s doxing. However, any mention of Brianna Wu creating a fake Twitter account in the month beforehand is absent. Al Jazeera America had a GamerGate segment on December 9th, with Wu prominently featured at the center of it.
On December 15th Georgina Young wrote a piece on TechRaptor about why Brianna Wu should take a break from Twitter. Wu would display how closely they watched what the media said about them, when they told Young they “don’t appreciate that description of me,” when Georgina called Wu controversial. To clear things up, it was revealed that Wu and Young were in touch directly, wherein Wu expressed their approval at the contents of Georgina’s article. Earlier that same day, Brianna had gotten into a Twitter fight with Oculus staff after asserting their team had a lack of diversity based on a picture they posted. Right after that, Wu attacked the Unity Asset Store Twitter account because they mentioned the fact that breasts are a part of anatomy. The next day they joined in praising Steam Greenlight for removing the video game Hatred, claiming that the games industry needed to raise their standards and look at themselves.
To understand what was going on, there’s a revealing tweet from Wu. “We CAN make any message we want. As an industry, what kind of message SHOULD we make?,” they wrote. Brianna’s plan was to go all-in on their criticism of GamerGate and the industry itself. In a now deleted tweet made a few days later they remarked “I’m a bitter to pull this much agro for the team while everyone else gets to make games.”
On January 21st 2015, Wu would shine a spotlight on a petition to revoke Adam Baldwin’s invitation to the Supernova Pop Culture Expo. Brianna would accuse Baldwin of being problematic in making geek culture open to women. “This is very straightforward: Are you comfortable with bullies in geek culture? Because @AdamBaldwin is a sexist bully. He needs to go,” Wu tweeted. “RT if you want this bully gone,” said another. Brianna would deny it was because of any past altercation between the two personally. Media sites like The Daily Dot would fan the flames.
On February 9th, Brianna Wu would do a VentureBeat interview talking about GamerGate in greater length. Its at this point in the timeline that the argument Brianna Wu is fanning the flames of GG and essentially keeping the public’s attention to it alive starts to gain traction. Certainly, it might’ve not been positive press entirely. But sparking people’s curiosity to check the situation out for themselves is undeniable.
Capitalizing on the Law and Order SVU episode that would be airing that evening (February 11th), Brianna Wu released a piece called “I’m Brianna Wu, And I’m Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate” on Bustle.com. Wu used the Jace Connors situation as their opening paragraph, and set it up as if that farce was on the same level as the events that would be depicted on television that evening. They proceeded to try and use all that as a means of connection to the problems of harassment in the tech industry. Out of nowhere, Brianna Wu says “I am calling on the Obama administration to arrest and prosecute Fredrick Brennan, the owner of 8chan,” at the tail end of their article. Even though Wu was previously aware that Brennan disavowed any harmful activities against them that were occurring on his site.
Brianna would use the Bustle article in their public attack on Ethan James Petty (a Ubisoft employee and a writer on the Watch Dogs video games). They made a callout tweet tagging him and Ubisoft together with a link to Wu’s article, claiming that they’d “love to talk” about why Petty doesn’t think GamerGate is a hate group. Brianna claimed Ethan’s thoughts are problematic for women, making them question if they’d want to work for Ubisoft. “I encourage @ubisoft to reach out. We’ll have a conversation re: your comments and how they’ve affected women working there,” Wu said. They’d go on to accuse Ethan of being a detriment to the company’s ability to hire talented people, calling him ignorant on the issues in the gaming industry.
February 24th is when Buzzfeed came out with a story that explained Jace Connors was kidding around, revealing to the world he was a professional troll. Gawker would follow suit in writing a similar story about them. Jezebel didn’t seem too enthusiastic to hear the story they reported on earlier that month was a hoax. It would end up being one of the few things Wu actually writes about to their Patreon supporters.
CBS News releases “Video game designer drops out of convention over death threats” on February 26th. The Boston Globe would eventually become a prominent outlet for Brianna Wu stories, covering the PAX East situation in detail, starting with one called “Brianna Wu on why Gamergate trolls won’t win” on March 4th. They ended up pushing another about it on the 8th. WGBH News (a Boston area media outlet) was able to get an interview with Amanda Warner, the other co-founder of Giant Spacekat. Boston seemed to have a likening to Wu, a Massachusetts denizen.
Inc Magazine would do a lengthy piece about GamerGate and Wu in April 2015, “Brianna Wu vs. the Troll Army”. The author of that one followed Brianna around for a month in order to get an accurate picture of them as a person for their article. “Every word of @davidwhitford’s piece is accurate. Ask him if I represent myself honestly – he did a LOT of fact checking,” Wu commented about it later on. Around the same time, Brianna and an employee of their’s would join in on a collaborative article over on Cracked.com – “5 Ways The Gaming Industry Is Way More Sexist Than You Think”. Wu would end up throwing TheRalphRetort out of their panel after they believed Ralph was instigating conflict based on their previous interactions. On the 27th Brianna said they would be “keynoting law enforcement’s National Cybercrime Conference,” but that wasn’t accurate. According to a press release from the event, Howard A. Schmidt was the person that did the keynote address.
In May 2015, Boston Magazine made a long GamerGate article and included a section about Brianna in there. On the 7th, they were a guest at a Hate Crimes in Cyberspace talk that took place over at MIT, hosted by legal scholar Danielle Citron. The National would include Wu in their Social Media Shaming video released on May 12. An abridged version highlighting Brianna’s part of the video is available here, along with an open comments section. The media tour would continue with Inspirefest 2015 – which took place in June, and Wu did a speech there about sexism in the gaming industry.
June 16th 2015. Brianna Wu would go after PC Gamer because they believed the outlet didn’t invite any women speakers for their E3 coverage. “The program doesn’t reflect the final roster that’s on stage, to be clear,” Editor-in-Chief Evan Lahti replied. Brianna Wu responded with indifference in return, accusing Lahti of bad optics and hurting women because of that webpage.
Here’s a video of AMD CEO Lisa Su, at the exact PC Gamer E3 conference Wu is talking about.
June 23rd had Wu giving a speech about Women in Tech at DevNation.
July 3rd 2015, Brianna and the media that covered them would shift their attention to the gaming industry as a whole. Blaming all of it instead of individual elements when it came to covering their harassment ordeal. But as seen in this Slashdot AMA from July 14th, the internet-at-large would still have a whole host of unanswered questions. But that doesn’t mean Brianna didn’t take the time to reply. They did that on the 22nd, picking and choosing a la carte what they wanted to talk about. “First of all, if you are “neutral” on the horrific abuse many women have suffered at the hands of Gamergate, you are a part of the problem,” Wu wrote. On July 11th, Brianna joined the Society of Professional Journalists. It’s unclear by this point if they were serious about it, or if it was done in jest to mock GamerGate’s SPJ Airplay event that would be happening in August.
July 13th. Wu would be featured in a Playboy Magazine article titled “6 Women Whipping the Video Game Industry Into Shape,” demonstrating the shift in presentation Brianna would take in the public eye. At the end of that month, CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin would publish a response to the complaints about how GamerGate was introduced in regards to Wu’s appearance on the Q program back in February 2015 (they were also on it in October 2014 after their initial Twitter incident) , with the final verdict being that it didn’t live up to journalistic standards. William Usher wrote a whole article specifically about this, but what it boiled down according to the Ombudsman was as follows:
Given the level of controversy, to state that “GamerGate is an online movement that harasses and threatens women” is too unequivocal. CBC journalistic policy demands clarity in its use of language. I strongly suggest that when harassment of women gamers is being discussed the language should be very precise and nuanced. Like many controversial issues, both sides point to definitive ‘facts’ or narratives to prove their point. This is far too amorphous for that to be the case.
It was all about word choice and presentation. The introduction for Wu during the #BlogHer Conference on July 18th was incredibly vague and bland when it came to describing what Brianna actually did for a job. In regards to being precise and nuanced, Brianna Wu was lacking in that department by August 2015. “I have fought and bled on the front lines for WIT. I have done unpaid work all year. I have suffered unspeakable trauma,” they tweeted at the time. The failure to provide a clearer understanding to the public about what that means exactly (providing specific examples at the time of using those descriptors and so forth) – this “culture conversation” Wu was attempting to have, wouldn’t yield any tangible results in the long-term.
That divisive sort of rhetoric from Brianna is what caused GamerGate to get lost in the shuffle. The more Wu talked about GamerGate, the effect and impact of their words was progressively and gradually watered down. On the 13th of August Brianna demanded a tech blog called The Loop retract their article about Apple’s diversity statistics improving from 2014. They thought the 2015 numbers weren’t enough of an improvement to define it as progress. The author, Jim Dalrymple, politely declined and felt personally insulted by Wu’s claims. As seen here in this NBC piece from August 19th, Wu’s own story is only a part of the article. Alongside them are stories related to Reddit (well, “anti-Reddit”) and Github. Specific sorts of horror stories about harassment, lumped together into an article intended to critique issues in the broadest way imaginable. Supporting this is a piece from the 21st of August – Wu marking the first anniversary of GamerGate with an article on the Guardian. “The women that make your games are war-weary, exhausted by a cultural battle that we never asked for. We are professionals trying to do our job, screamed at by children who don’t want girls in their clubhouse,” they wrote. Wu’s shift in focus from GamerGate to the gaming industry as a whole would continue on the 26th, when they returned to Huffpost Live to do another interview about the topic. The anti-GamerGate subreddit GamerGhazi posted some notes on it. BuzzyMag.com would get a turn interviewing Brianna on the 27th.
But don’t let me define what Wu’s stated goal was. Let them tell you. “It’s frustrating to have to spend my time holding the game industry to basic standards when the press is unwilling to,” Wu tweeted. Further, from a blog post on August 31st 2015:
From the beginning, I have had a single goal as a public figure in the game industry. It’s something that I think many people don’t understand when I read articles about how I want to censor all games, or ban all white men from being developers, or usher in a feminist totalitarian state. None of that is true. They have to misrepresent my position, because what I actually want is so eminently reasonable. So, here it is – my actual mission in bold:My mission objective is to raise professional standards about diversity in the game industry.
Brianna Wu would occasionally write pieces of their own on sites like Polygon. Sometimes about harassment drama or broad topics like that (as seen here in July 2014, before GamerGate even started) but also simpler things like this September 2015 piece on how you can play Metal Gear Solid 5 as a woman. But the shift in priorities becomes more prevalent. It wasn’t about video games. Rather, Wu would be in it for discussions about gender and race (sometimes) in tech/pop culture. Brianna started to make remarks about women’s roles in movies, and eventually at least one outlet took them seriously. “What would you do if you had a large platform to speak from?,” Wu asked Twitter one day. “I’m going to make all the difference I can, while I can. Sadly, enduring endless barrage of personal attacks is part of changing the world,” they said in a reply to themselves.
One of Brianna’s admitted issues was a lack of focus on their own company. Attention was drawn away from their company and game development with all the feminism related activities they filled their days with. Looking at how Brianna’s Twitter bio has changed over the past few years helps illustrate the identity crisis they were having. On the 9th of October Brianna would admit they weren’t well liked because of the fact they were “assertive” in how they interacted with others. Wu also had a problem with showing specific examples of what happened to them. An example on October 14th has Wu saying “When my dog Crash died, #gamergate sent me pictures of mutilated dogs to celebrate,” but the picture they attached is more telling. Instead of providing examples of this happening, Brianna decided to link a screenshot of the Huffington Post article about it instead. None of the links used in that piece when it’s talking about the incident directly correlate GamerGate to the tweeters. Wu said they were, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Does this look like a mutilated dog to you? Then on October 20, Wu would return to VentureBeat for another interview with Dean Takahashi. In “For Brianna Wu, VR offers a chance to broaden gaming and escape Internet hate” we get a transcript of the conversation between the two as it took place at the GamesBeat 2015 conference (gamesindustry.biz wrote a piece in the week prior describing the main idea Wu was trying to get at). On the 27th, Wu would do a video about what they described as a lack of empathy in gaming culture.
Then came the SXSW ordeal. The media would drag this one out over the course of several months. From when the controversy first started out, to when the actual conference took place.
Huffington Post releases an article titled “Tech’s Harassment Problem Is Much Bigger Than This SXSW Catastrophe” on October 27th. A controversy had recently broken out involving two panels that were supposed to be at SXSW, each of which had taken opposite stances on GamerGate. Rather than dealing with any headaches trying to sort the ordeal out, the organizers decided to just cancel both of them. Brianna claimed it wasn’t a two sides sort of situation, calling GamerGate criminal harassers. “As I understand it, the “Open Gaming Alliance,” has been suspended from Twitter for harassing me and others. It was openly planned on KiA,” Wu tweeted. That claim would be completely false. Open Gaming Alliance is a separate organization that had nothing to do with the SXSW situation. This was where the shift in Brianna’s focus starts revealing itself. “If they don’t reverse course, they are going to turn the public perception of the conference into one that is hostile to women,” Wu said in the HuffPost article. This is when Brianna would go full on megaphone. Slamming SXSW’s organizers, Wu told people to share a story from The Daily Beast that Brianna implied was how the conference reacted behind the scenes when dealing with the situation. On the 28th, Inc. Magazine and The Boston Globe jumped in on the fervor too.
Wu came to think of the work they did as a punishment. At the end of November 2015, Brianna would appear in an Entertainment Weekly article about how an all-inclusive gaming industry is profitable. Sponsored by Hyundai. Wu would continue to attempt to dictate the direction of the gaming industry when they went after The Game Awards that year, as described in this article on MTV. “So,
@MTVNews’s @ShaunnaLMurphy wrote about women being excluded from the Game Awards. My quotes are fairly brutal,” they said about it.
The reason Wu was able to spend most of their 2015 going around on a media parade to talk about GamerGate and the issues of diversity and online harassment is because of their Patreon account. “Behind the scenes, I have helped change policies of major companies. I’ve had 100s of phone calls this year encouraging diversity,” they tweeted. That wasn’t the only thing Wu did behind the scenes. At one point, they publicly admitted to exerting pressure on the website to ban 8chan from using it. This was a result of a long and drawn out campaign over the allegation that 8chan condones child pornography. Similar to their “productive call” with Adobe in October 2014, by the end of December that year Wu had a similar telephone conversation with Patreon. This of course was after Brianna had floated the idea of encouraging people to cancel their accounts in protest and told the masses on Twitter to send messages to Patreon about the 8chan rumors. “I’ve said this before, changes to
@patreon are coming. I know unsavory people are using it, but this will not last long. Trust me,” Wu stated.
Although the purpose of the account is unclear, seemingly changing from its initial stated goal when it started on December 19th 2014. On January 7th, Brianna announced that they hired an employee to deal specifically with internet harassment. This person would handle the
@gsxoffice twitter account (identified by Wu themselves here), which hasn’t been in use for the past year by the looks of it right now. They’d refer to this account whenever they mentioned something involving Twitter related matters, like making block lists.
Hey, this is Brianna Wu. So, if you are/were one of my Patreons — please write me at email@example.com. I’m more than willing to introduce you to the woman we hired. We can do a three-way call. Here are some facts. There are litrerally hundreds of journalists, venture capitalists, tech insiders, law enforcement people and other professionals that know her. In fact, the Gaurdian requested an interview with her yesterday. We’re also working on a joint piece with our ample harassment data for one of the biggest news sites in the world.
Look, I was willing to entertain the outside chance you were legit — even though the odds were astronomical this was Gamergate. But give me a break, this is the adult world. I wasn’t born yesterday. Or, as we said in Mississippi growing up, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck. If you’re legit, write us, we’ll check your name against our records — and have a phone call with the person you think doesn’t exist. But you’re not legit.
From January to March 2016, the big thing going on for Brianna Wu was the SXSW conference.
On the 26th of January, Wu said “Like the Game Awards, #sxsw only nominated white men for YouTube work. This isn’t about diversity, it’s about bias,” in a tweet. The accompanying picture they posted showed the finalists for the #SXSWGamingAwards Most Entertaining Online Personality category. While Brianna claimed it was only white men who were nominated, two of the people in the picture (Markiplier and Joe Vargas) were not that. Vargas himself would reply to Wu by clarifying to them they were a “proud Hispanic,” seemingly surprised that didn’t qualify as diverse anymore.
During this time, Wu continues with speaking engagements. One such occasion was on BBC Three’s “The Dark Side Of Gaming – The Females Fighting Back” (aired February 17th 2016) where they had a segment. Brianna showed up for the Gaymer X conference on March 1st to speak at the Gaming While Trans panel.
Brad Glasgow would make a series of tweets (archive of the chain) reporting on what was being said at Wu’s panel as it was happening on March 12th 2016. The morning of the show, Wu would panic at the notion that Milo of Breitbart was possibly given press credentials for the event. Brianna took the opportunity to slam GamerGate’s deepfreeze.it website, claiming it went disproportionately after female journalists (proven false). Next Wu claimed someone impersonated them in order to get their college records. Then Wu asserted GamerGate went after their veterinarian when their dog was dying (actually Brianna themselves had publicly attacked their Vet on Twitter at the time). On a more positive note, Brianna Wu talked about how Twitter was working hard to address harassment. The sentiments weren’t shared with Wu’s opinions on Facebook and Reddit, however. According to Glasgow, Brianna had Spacekat studios take matters into their own hands. In what was described as an “experiment,” they posted (presumably) negative comments on YouTube in order to gauge if they would be removed. Wu proposed a rather broad solution to harassment – asking that social media websites submit themselves to the authority of an independent auditor, and making changes based on what they think is necessary. Brianna rounded off the panel by demanding Kotaku in Action’s subreddit and 8chan be shut down permanently. This is a stance that Wu would later apply to their thoughts 4chan as well. The same day, The Daily Dot did a spotlight feature on what Wu’s conference at SXSW was about. Eventually, thenextweb.com came out with one as well. It was praised as being more even-handed in their take on the situation.
On the 13th, we’d come to find out that not everyone on Brianna’s side of the aisle were pleased with their behavior. Randi Harper would make a series of remarks about the SXSW conference, indicating they believed Wu was incapable of finding solutions to the problems they alluded to when they spoke at events. “I wanted to back out the second I found out the Godzilla of feminism was going to be there because I knew I was going to get stomped on,” Harper wrote. This sentiment would not be a one-time thing, as Randi would continue to distance themselves from Brianna in the months to come.
Continuing their media tour, Wu would surface in a CNN Money preview video on March 16th for their “The Internet Ruined My Life” episode on SyFy. The official website for the SyFy show had “Brianna sends a tweet supporting women’s rights in the gaming industry and wakes up to thousands of gamers calling for her death,” when describing Wu’s situation. The episode itself was basically a rehash of what’s been said already, but over-dramatized with actors and edited with special effects to give it a TV sort of feel. They’d specifically associate Jace Connors and Tyce Andrews as being somehow connected to the GamerGate movement, despite the fact Wu themselves previously acknowledged it being a hoax. According to Brianna, they did it to get their story out there. But there would be skeptics as a result. One of the ways Brianna decided to address concerns was with a thumbs-down emoji. Multiple times.
It boiled down to 10 minutes. Many things I said didn’t make it. Also, here’s another false assumption you are making. When you do reality show, the producer is asking you questions. In this case, they asked me what I was feeling that moment. That day, it was a strange interview because if I spoke for more that three sentences, producer would stop me. Eventually, I assumed I was narrating a reenactment. So, I stuck to just saying what I felt at the time.
At the end of the month, Brianna tweeted they were a part of a book called “Women in Tech,” which was essentially a compilation of stories (funded by Kickstarter), with Wu’s included. This wasn’t a complete surprise out of left field for most folks, as there was an effort to make people aware of it beforehand (including a February 2015 Reddit AMA that got removed because the OP asked for upvotes on Twitter).
The transition from game developer to self-proclaimed diversity spokesperson was complete. The internet didn’t “ruin” Brianna Wu’s life. They used that doxing incident as a stepping stone for themselves. On April 2nd, Wu tweeted “With elections coming up, I’ll be heading to DC on Monday for several meetings with policy makers.” This was the same person who only a few years prior was primarily a game developer. Here they were traveling around to colleges on April 15th talking about social and cultural issues.
The Winnipeg Free Press did an interview with Wu in May 2016, when they were there for the Spur Winnipeg 2016 conference. But that began to not matter to Brianna anymore. “Geek culture is the one that’s turned into a supervillian, not Captain America. When did we become the bullies?” Wu lamented at the end of that month. They talked about the cultural victory Geeks had accomplished in the last few decades. “We became the bully stereotypes our heroes fought against. It’s disgusting. Another thing we blasted in the 90s was religious right, declaring culture blasphemous. It’s not the religious right anymore. It’s us,” they added.
In July 2016, Wu had involvement in another book – titled Women in Game Development: Breaking the Glass Level-Cap, with a chapter dedicated to them in particular. Kotaku wrote an article about it. But by then, Brianna’s attention had turned to political matters.
August 25th 2016. “I love that Clinton’s attack ad specifically names the alt-right, which includes Gamergate,” Wu tweeted. The first time the US presidential elections and Brianna Wu really started to come together was on September 4th. A campaign account for Hillary Clinton tweeted a bustle.com piece Wu had written in response to a recent speech Hillary gave in Nevada at that time. The main message of the speech was Hillary telling voters about Donald Trump’s campaign chief Steve Bannon and Breitbart. Wu would make the assertion that GamerGate is connected to the alt-right and white supremacy, linking Ben Garrison cartoons as evidence. On September 6th, Brianna would link to a piece from this very website when they first heard news of Ethan Ralph’s arrest. “I intend to call prosecutor’s office today – and give the background on Ralph and what he’s done to women. He should not be given leniency,” Wu said. They intended to increase the odds of Ralph getting a harsher sentence. Brianna even offered up their email as a tips line, for anyone who could help corroborate evidence against Ralph’s case. Wu penned their own article about it for The Daily Dot.
It also ended up on the Washington Post on September 9th:
Ralph was also accused of “doxxing” game designer Brianna Wu — publishing documents containing her personal information online. Wu fled her home in 2014 after receiving death threats. “After he published the information . . . the posts [were] truly terrifying,” Wu said in an interview. “It puts so much information out there in one place, it puts a target on my back.” She added: “I think he attacks women in the gaming industry because it’s trying to fill some hole in his heart.” Ralph denied wrongdoing. As some on social media criticized Ralph for his arrest, Ralph described it as “a personal issue that I got myself into.” He said he hoped his case wouldn’t be turned into “an alt-right or a Gamergate issue,” but thought it inevitable.
Just did an interview where I was asked how it feels be one of the most prominent figures for women in tech. You know how it REALLY feels? Like I didn’t ask for this fight. It fight was brought to me. I’m not doing anything but asking to be treated like a human being by gamedev
Their words have no meaning. Back then, Brianna had acquired the same media resources as they did when responding to GamerGate. One time, Wu wrote an April 2014 piece on The Mary Sue responding to GitHub’s internal investigation into harassment allegations made against them. Here’s how Brianna got the ball rolling on making that one happen. Wu spent time making the media connections they’d utilize after GamerGate started up. They showed an overall sense of awareness as to what they thought gaming journalism was as well. Brianna also did panels about sexism in the gaming industry back then, as well as try to get people fired.
“Obscurity is a far bigger threat to creatives than theft,” Wu tweeted in April 2014. Brianna focused their interests on people they thought were important (measured by Twitter followers). They’d want a social media website where journalists and celebrities had priority. If you were a nobody, you’d be treated with indifference, mocking, and ridicule. Wu could point out something about someone’s religion and make fun of them about it, but when tables are turned? Brianna abhors the behavior they themselves are guilty of.
But the catalyst that sustained Brianna’s platform was their views on political topics. “I don’t usually discuss right/left politics, because I think women’s equality should be an non-partisan issue,” they tweeted at somebody. Brianna reminded Twitter that they were making a video game from time to time, mostly when it came to sharing tweets of harassment. Wu would claim they worked to get a chance to release articles for media outlets (like with Glenn Fleishman and Macworld), but the truth is also Brianna was able to do that based on connections.
“I’m a progressive that likes to get stuff done,” they said.
Brianna Wu is someone that thinks: men can hurt women’s rights unintentionally, that sexism is a male behavior problem, in structural sexism, that straight white men are in a position of power and privilege, and that white supremacy and violent misogyny are related to each other. According to Wu, issues of feminism and race were intertwined. Brianna believes it’s important that white people stay clear of black related issues. That wouldn’t stop Wu from trying to relate to that whenever they could, however. When Justice Anton Scalia died, Brianna celebrated the fact he would no longer be a judge and made it about themselves. “I think Scalia was terrible. One of the worst judges in history of SCOTUS for my rights. Just a nightmare,” Wu tweeted.
By the time the 2016 Elections came around, Wu (and others) took what they did to GamerGate and applied it to Bernie Sanders. “You were an asshole,” Brianna said at one point during an evening Twitter discussion with one of his supporters. Calling them BernieBros, what it boils down to is they’d accuse his supporters of harassment. The reason for this ire was most likely due to Brianna tending to be a Hillary supporter. “I expect her to be the nominee and will enthusiastically vote for her,” they had said. Although to be fair, Wu flip-flopped a bit on the topic. But they weren’t afraid of mocking people who liked Bernie Sanders, certainly. Brianna counted Sanders out before the nominations were finalized, claim Glenn Greenwald harassed them for being pro-Clinton, and by the end of July they had pretty much folded into Hillary’s corner. Election postmortem, Wu confessed they were wrong about Hillary’s chances and believed Bernie would’ve won against Trump.
It all came to a head the week of Election Day on November 8th. Brianna had somehow acquired press credentials from Bustle, and was able to go to the actual event the Clinton campaign was intending to have that evening. They even wrote an article to help rally people to vote, while still having the time to try and associate GamerGate with Donald Trump. When the Election results started to go in Trump’s favor, Wu turned on a dime and went from optimistic to concerned. “I can barely stand, I’m so nervous. I’ve never been this scared in my life,” Brianna tweeted. They quickly alluded to a worst case scenario where people under Obamacare and transgenders would die under a Trump administration, according to them. As Clinton supporter emotions turned bleak that evening, Brianna said sexual assault was now being normalized.
“Now that sexual assault has been normalized in America, women in your life expect it to happen to them and to their friends” – Brianna Wu, November 10th 2016.
“Here she is, the first woman accepting the presidency – showing unequivocally that America denounces the hatred and xenophobia of Trump,” Brianna tweeted on the 9th, after the Election results had come in. Wu said they were crying in public with a Muslim woman as they were checking out the hotel. On Twitter, they told LGBT people their best option was to abandon their friends and family and leave “Red States” as quick as possible. The state of grieving didn’t stop Brianna from talking to the media, however. When they turned their profile picture black as a response to the results from the previous night, mic.com wrote about it.
“I spoke with
@BuzzFeed today about possibly running for office in Massachusetts in the aftermath of Trump,” Wu wrote on November 10th. Coming full circle – Brianna told Buzzfeed they were planning on running for office. They described Wu as a victim of GamerGate, and described Brianna’s initial platform as something focused on diversity and bringing jobs to tech sectors.
Brianna Wu’s intention in running for Public Office is to pass the sort of legislation they had vied for during the GamerGate years.
That’s it for Part 2. In Part 3, we examine Revolution 60, and how the things mentioned here and in Part 1 play a role in how Wu responded to development of their game, and within topics surrounding the gaming industry as a whole.
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