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Anita Sarkeesianvia Wikimedia Commons

Feminist video game critic cancels talk after death threats

Anita Sarkeesian and Utah State University were warned ‘this will be the deadliest school shooting in American history’

The feminist campaigner and video game critic Anita Sarkeesian has suffered a terrifying ordeal at the hands of an anonymous person who threatened "the deadliest school shooting in American history" in an email sent to the university that she was scheduled to speak at.

Sarkeesian had been due appear today at Utah State University to discuss #gamergate and the misogynist rhetoric currently taking hold of the gaming industry. The anonymous terror threat put paid to any chance of her appearance. The email read:

"I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it. You have 24 hours to cancel Sarkeesian’s talk. Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

Understandably, Sarkeesian opted out of attending after being informed of the threats by the university. She took to Twitter to explain:

The university said that there would be nothing that they could do to prevent people entering the building with a weapon if they had the correct permit. In a statement, Utah University explained: "Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue".

Sarkeesian is just the latest woman in the world of gaming to be threatened by misogynist trolls. Video game developer Brianna Wu has been inundated with harassment since writing a piece in July that outlined the endemic harrassment of women in the gaming industry. After Wu tweeted a meme riffing off the kind of insults she deals with on the daily, one troll took things into his own hands: 

#Gamergate began in August, when developer Zoe Quinn started getting harassed for creating a well-received game called Depression Quest. But many gamers were outraged that a text-based game (let alone one created by a woman) could garner that kind of critical reception. When her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni alleged that she had cheated on him with gaming journalists, they theorised that Quinn had exchanged sex for good reviews – and #gamergate well and truly took off.

Its supporters claim that the ongoing controversy is about ethics in game journalism and not, like, outright misogyny. But as the threats against women like Sarkeesian and Wu escalate, it's getting harder to pretend that this is about something much less lofty. Needless to say, something is clearly very wrong with the video game industry and its treatment of women.

Sarkeesian has been the victim of harrassment since she started her YouTube series Tropes V Women in Video Games. Check out one of her episodes below and support her fight to not get killed for actually doing her job as a game critic: