Bomb Threat Targeted Anita Sarkeesian, Gaming Awards Last March

Bomb Threat Targeted Anita Sarkeesian, Gaming Awards Last March

An anonymous e-mailer threatened to blow up a bomb at the Game Developers Choice Awards this past March unless the hosts rescinded an award recognising feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, the organisers of the event have confirmed to Kotaku.

"We can confirm that approximately 25 of GDC's organisers received an anonymous email early in the morning of Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 during GDC 2014," the organisers said in a statement.

"The email stated the following: 'A bomb will be detonated at the Game Developer's Choice award ceremony tonight unless Anita Sarkeesian's Ambassador Award is revoked. We estimate the bomb will kill at least a dozen people and injure dozens more. It would be in your best interest to accept our simple request. This is not a joke. You have been warned.'"

The threat merited the attention of the San Francisco Police Department's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Division, which sent officers and bomb-sniffing dogs to the Moscone Center, where GDC is held.

"Our EOD conducted a sweep of the premises and found nothing," SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told me this week. Asked what became of any investigation of the threat, he said the department had "no further information to share about that." Esparza said that the department responds to all bomb threats.

GDC organisers did not inform attendees of the threat but told me this week that "additional security staff were brought in to conduct random bag checks as attendees entered the Awards. The Awards occurred without incident."

The GDC website describes the Ambassador Award as one that goes to "an individual or individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art."

While the provenance of the bomb scare against Sarkeesian and GDC attendees is unknown, it appears to be part of a pattern of extreme threats made to the critic. Her controversial Tropes Vs. Women In Video Games series has stirred a reaction well beyond standard cultural criticism and counter-criticism, eliciting hate as well as rape and death threats, all but clouding out any civil discussion about her critiques.

The March bomb threat came to my attention last week while I was investigating claims that Sarkeesian had misled the public about measures she'd taken in response to threats she'd allegedly received in August, following the publication of her latest video about women in gaming. Sarkeesian had tweeted early this month that she'd notified the police about new, vicious threats.

Bomb Threat Targeted Anita Sarkeesian, Gaming Awards Last March

But one of the people behind a planned anti-Sarkeesian documentary called the SFPD and recorded a representative there saying they had no record of this. In the days that followed, the SFPD corrected themselves and stated that Sarkeesian had indeed reported threats to them. Officer Esparza confirmed as much to me yesterday saying "our department was notified and forwarded [the threats] to the FBI," which he said is handling the harassment against Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian has shared many of the threats she received publicly and passed along to me what she says is an example of one recent and vicious to me to illustrate her frustration and concerns for her safety.

Bomb Threat Targeted Anita Sarkeesian, Gaming Awards Last March

"There are ongoing investigations in multiple municipalities regarding death threats targeting me and my family," she told me. "Despite the seriousness of the situation, a group of obsessive cyberstalkers have started a witch hunt against me attempting to prove some sort of paranoid conspiracy theory about fabricated threats." She described such measures as a "witch hunt" that "has further compromised my privacy and my personal safety as well as serving as a distraction to authorities during an ongoing investigation."

Of the GDC bomb threat, she said, "I decided to go on stage and accept the award anyway, but it was a nerve-wracking evening to say the least."


    She can be insightful at times, and annoying at others. That being said, I don't wish her any harm, she's expressing her opinions on a topic she feels strongly about, which we all have the right to do.
    How can anyone say she's worse than terrorists? Seriously, what the fuck?
    What grievous wrong has she committed against that soldier for him to not only want her dead but to be the one to do it?!

      What grievous wrong has she committed against that soldier for him to not only want her dead but to be the one to do it?!

      I seriously doubt that the author of the email was indeed a soldier. It's a typical bullying tactic that most trolls often use.

      Make it look like one is in a position of authority and expertise in hopes it intimidates the recipient.

        And if the author's father and grandfather fought in WW1 and WW2 then they'd probably be in their sixties, which seems a bit old for the war in Afghanistan.

      She can be insightful at times...
      I watched her first couple of videos hoping she just might be then quickly realised she wasn't at all.

        The Tropes vs. Women in Video Games videos don't present novel and relevant criticisms of the gaming landscape to a mainstream audience?
        Please, think carefully about what you mean by "insightful" if you choose to respond.

          Will a dictionary definition suffice as a starting point? The one that comes up on Google is close enough: "having or showing an accurate and deep understanding; perceptive."

          I would concede "accurate" to a point in that she accurately identifies a trope. She accurately indicates that tropes are used in video games. She's inaccurate a lot too, but the point is that she has the demonstrated capability to at least sometimes be accurate.

          However, having a deep understanding or being perceptive? No, for this you need to reveal something about the data you are presenting which isn't merely a collation of said data. She has not revealed any substantiated causes nor posited any potential solutions. She has just edited various sources of information together. When you make a study of a subject you do indeed do this - collate data - but the paper is worthless without furthering knowledge in the field based on the foundation that collection provides. Without it you're just creating a centralised library for that info.

          I get that there are tropes for males and many other non-gender topics in video games, however I don't think you have to give them equal time all the time and it's okay to analyse one aspect of a broader topic, such as the female perspective, which I was initially looking forward to. But I cannot view Anita's videos as an honest quest on the topic. Conclusions are drawn first and scenarios manipulated to fit them. This is not a good thing to present to a mainsteam audience and there is no insight to be found.

            posited any potential solutions.

            Oh i am sure the solutions will come at a later date............. at a cost of course she is not going to give that information out for free.

          TLDR: I commend Anita as a person, but the content that she has produced on video games is mediocre at best.

          I'm with longjocks. Anita's videos boil down to:
          1) Identify trope
          2) Suggest that trope is sexist, but provide little to no real rationale as to why.
          3) List games that use this trope, regardless of context.

          She hasn't really provided any novel or relevant criticisms that have been logically argued. MsPacman is sexist because she has lipstick and a bow. Any game where a woman is kidnapped is sexist. Mass Effect is sexist because posters had the male Shepard, and people referred to their female Shepards as fem-Shep - BUT, it's also sexist because there aren't significant differences between the genders. So should female characters be represented differently, or should they be represented the same? I don't know. Anita seems to think both are bad.

          I commend Anita for her courage in persevering through the threats that have been made against her, but her content is really lacking in logic, rationale and thoroughness.

          I'd love to see some insightful videos on the sexism present in the gaming industry and gaming titles, but unfortunately, Anita doesn't seem to have the capability to provide that.

          Last edited 18/09/14 6:35 pm

        Same here. I wasn't expecting much, though.
        But seriously, all this needs to stop. And I mean from both sides. I'm so sick of it.

    Like others I've seen some of her videos. Personally, I find that she arrives at a conclusion first then goes looking at examples that support her views.

    Despite this, she is far from being worst than a terrorist and it is actually good she published that email. This brings the matter into the public space and weakens the grip on control the aggressor may have had.

    Last edited 18/09/14 8:23 am


      I still dont understand how people who dont like her just dont watch her.
      I personally cant stand her videos, but it just means i dont watch them.

      No biggy, i just move on with my life.

      Some people have too much time on their hands.

    Oh my goodness. What is wrong with people?

    This is a woman talking about VIDEO GAMES. She's not saying they should not be made. She's not saying they're bad. She's giving examples of what could be better in a few dozen games, and people think that's incentive to kill her?

    There are multiple politicians who continuously try to control - like, actually control - people's lives through healthcare, welfare, education, but they are largely ignored, and definitely never targeted to this extreme.

    To an outsider (ie, someone who doesn't play video games), I can completely understand why "gamer" is a derogative.

    Sorry to rant. I've never really said much about this before, but it's too much. Enough already.

      Oh my goodness. What is wrong with people?

      It's typical bullying: some attention seeker or bully with his or her own warped views (or even both) doesn't like what she's saying and has decided it has no place in reality and needs to be stamped out.

      A lot of people think that if you just ignore them, the problem will go away. That advice as I found first hand is a giant load of rubbish.

      The best way to deal with such bullies/trolls is to bring the matter into the open. They don't like it because it takes control away from them over the situation.

      I don't agree with her videos but I commend her for taking the right actions and not letting the bullies have their way.

        Exactly right. Agree or disagree with her videos, there's no place for threats and intimidation. The level of abuse some people dish out (especially to women who dare to write about sexism or bullying) is simply mind-blowing.

      Look at what they're arguing and their "points". Things like healthcare, welfare and education are far beyond their comprehension. They understand enough to know men and women are different and that terrifies them.

    Children arguing about their toys. This shit is embarrassing for us all.

    Yep as all of us have concluded - Annoying human that over exacerbates feminism in the gaming industry does not equal worse then terrorist.

    I'm glad that didn't take us that long.

    meh - great publicity.

      Yeah, and if she died I'm sure all her videos would get so many views, clearly this is all a PR stunt. /sarcasm

      EDIT: Forgot even the < / sarcasm tags get parsed.

      Last edited 18/09/14 8:55 am

        Unfortunately, I've seen comments like this made in all seriousness. There's a disturbing cross-over between reality and satire these days. Poe's Law alive and well.

        if this, if that -- if you live in a world of hypotheticals, are you living in the real world or the fantasy you wish existed?

        This is a storm in a teacup and it's got nothing to do with playing games.

    These animals need to be caged. Who gives a flying fuck whether her message is destroying games or not, who cares if she's slandering your precious toys, grow the fuck up and realize that in our civilization this is not tolerated regardless of what message she is spreading.

    Is she spouting Pro-choice/life debate? No.
    Is she declaring war on entire continents for some religious crusade? No.
    Is she an outspoken woman with an opinion that people pay attention to? Yes, so?

    The Westboro Baptist Church is currently receiving less flak than her FFS! Get your priorities straightened out you pigs, this shit is wrong.

      Wait are you saying that people who debate about pro-choice/life should be blown up? :P

        No I'm saying that something that actually does affect lives is currently being ignored and yet people are threatening to kill someone over video games

          Well, this probably does affect their lives more than those other issues do, so that would make it more of a problem for them.

          Not to say I think it's right at all, just musing on your reasonings.

            Ok, this is ridiculous, I used pro-choice/life as an example of one of many things that actually make a human difference to the world and you've decided it's the only other cause they could be angry about instead.

            The point I'm trying to make is that this is a stupid cause to be killing people over as it doesn't "kill" anyone, it doesn't hurt anyone, it does nothing but change the themes in games at most.

      ...realize that in our civilization this is not tolerated...Well, not entirely true. Most of our civilisations are constantly threatening and/or killing each other or themselves with various degrees of support by large portions of their respective populations. Best not invoke 'civilisation' as a whole and stick to secular reasoning as to why we shouldn't conduct ourselves like this.

        This issue seems to have high-lighted the disconnect between the real world and the fantasy of cushy western faux intellectuals (including myself).

        The real issues are overpopulation, energy deficit, species extinction and climate change.
        the other issues are the luxury of the human-sphere and social in nature with ZERO impact on the real issues facing life on earth.

      The Westboro Baptist Church is currently receiving less flak than her FFS!

      I find that hard to believe.


    Last edited 18/09/14 9:12 am

    This is terrorism. And if the person responsible is apprehended, they should be charged with just that. This shit (bomb threats, swatting, etc) needs to stop.

      Eh, in todays world you can only be a terrorist if you're an Arab.

        I know that was just a joke, but it was still a racist joke.

          Yes, that was the point. To point out the absurdity of it.

    EDIT: Oops, posted in the wrong place.

    Last edited 18/09/14 9:15 am

    what doesn't kill us....

      ...threatens to kill our family, friends and hurt us instead.

      Can make us stronger or weaker.

      I'm pretty sure killing people was something bombs were made for.

        Weren't they originally used to clear mines?

        I'd like to get a quick history lesson on bombs, but I'm afraid what it might look like it if I google search bombs while at work.

          I was referring to makeshift ones. Probably should've worded it better.

    I don't really like her but I dislike the fact she is getting rape and death threats more though. No one should have to put up with crap like that.

    This isn't just limited to women online though. This is a big issue that is happening to lots of online celebrities male or female.

      You're right, it's not limited to women online. But the nature and extent of the abuse women get pales what most men see.

    I used to work at Woolworths and over the two years I worked there we had at least 4 bomb threats. Two of which I am fairly certain they were just friends of staff who wanted to get them out of work early. Kids do dumb shit all the time.

      Why don't I get interesting things like bomb threats at my store >.<
      Though our store did get held up at knife point a few times, had customers hiding in the freezer at the back end of the store and I had to think to myself, The fuck are you doing? what's he going to do, throw the only weapon he brought in some 100 meters to the opposite end of the store with any sort of accuracy and take you out?

        I'll be honest it was pretty exciting and a great excuse not to work for an hour.

        Ok, I'm going to sound like a total dick, but if he managed to do that it would be pretty sick.

          Oh indeed it would have but I still stand by my point :P
          And besides, if he had the skills to perform that feat, surely he would be making more of a profit knocking over something more lucrative than a woolies.

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