Video Game Developer: Twitter Rape, Death Threats Forced Me From Home

An Arlington-based video game developer said she and her husband had to temporarily leave their home after they received graphic threats of sexual assault and death on Twitter—a response, she believes, to her online activism on behalf of women in the tech industry

Brianna Wu, head of development for the indie video game publisher Giant Spacekat, contacted Arlington police Friday evening after a Twitter account named “Death to Brianna’’—whose profile description read, “I’m going to kill Brianna Wu and her husband Frank’’—posted a number of graphic death threats.

A screenshot of the messages is included in the tweet below (warning: some readers may find them disturbing):


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Arlington Police confirmed that the department is investigating the origin of the message. Twitter has since suspended the account.

Wu said she is “harassed on a daily basis,’’ often receiving rape threats and unwanted pornographic images, but that Friday night’s messages “crossed a line to the point [she] felt scared.’’

“I left the house because I felt unsafe,’’ Wu wrote in a Facebook message to Boston.com. “I told the officer, and he felt that was reasonable.’’

Wu, who may be best known for her podcast, Isometric, and her advocacy to make the notoriously male-dominated tech industry more inclusive of women, is only the latest prominent woman to receive such treatment. In August, indie video game developer Zoe Quinn and feminist theorist Anita Sarkeesian were so severely harassed they had to go into hiding. Other female journalists have been targeted so ruthlessly they say they’ll never write about video games again.

The threats coincide with the rise of the “GamerGate’’ movement, an online community of video game enthusiasts ostensibly concerned about the perceived coziness between the gaming industry and the press that covers it. Key word: ostensibly.

Others observe that the movement is home to a coded, reactionary faction of gamers who oppose the broader representation of women in video games. Whatever your take, at least some (though not all) in the community clearly have a strange preoccupation with women, particularly for a group that says its strictly concerned with issues of journalistic ethics.


For example, Wu said the threats came after she shared fairly innocuous images implying her GamerGate detractors were crybabies:

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That prompted some to reappropriate the imagery to harass her en masse:

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A number of the images were too inappropriate to include here.

“I went for a workout [that] afternoon, said to myself: ‘This is my industry. These jerks aren’t going to intimidate me,’’’ Wu said.

After she tweeted a similar sentiment, Wu said her personal information — including her address — was posted on online forums in retaliation.

“I am a target,’’ Wu told Boston.com via email. “My entire agenda in the industry is to make it possible for more women to pursue a career in this field…and that simple goal scares the hell out of these people.’’

Wu said the threats have not deterred her from speaking at ComicCon in New York, where she was scheduled to appear on a panel discussing “representation in games and how it’s personally affected us in our lives.’’


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