16 Individuals and Groups Working To Stop Violence Against Women In Gaming

Since the 1980s, the link between video games and its potential to cause or instigate violent behaviour (particularly in children and youth) has been a topic of comment, study, and research. Yet while sexism, misogyny, and violence against women (VAW) in video games has been noted as far back as 1982 with the protests against Custer’s Revenge by women’s groups for its inclusion and depiction of rape, VAW continued to be exploited by video games and normalised as part of gaming culture.

The major turning point arrived when the #Gamergate controversy erupted in 2014 and the sexism and violence in the gaming community and industry caught the attention of mainstream media as many women developers and gamers were publicly targeted by male gamers through online abuse, doxxing, and rape and death threats. Some of these women even moved homes because of the magnitude of the threat of violence.

Gamergate highlighted the urgent need to address the large-scale sexism and violence experienced by female gamers, especially in the tremendously popular MMO games where gamers gather online in teams and bullying and harassment is as easy as sending a volley of abusive misogynistic vitriol over one’s microphone. Many individual activists, groups and gaming companies have started working on accelerating ongoing efforts, preventing and addressing this violence. Their change-making efforts are slowly paying off: post-Gamergate there has been an increase in women entering the gaming industry as developers, reviewers, and players.

In this list, we present 16 individuals and organisations working to directly address and eliminate VAW in gaming in various ways ranging from critiquing video gaming violence and conducting research on gaming and sexism to building more female-friendly spaces in gaming and paving the way for VAW-free videogames in the market.

With 52% of gamers identifying as women, it’s definitely time to stop violence against women in gaming. Together.

Introduction by Rubina Singh and Regina Yau; Written and compiled Rubina Singh with additional content by Regina Yau


Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #1: Anita Sarkeesian – Canada

Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist social critic and founder of Feminist Frequency who has been fighting to end VAW in gaming for many years. Through her web series Tropes vs Women in Video Games, Anita shone a light on the rampant sexism and violence against women prevalent not only in video games but also within the gaming community. Thanks to her work, Anita has been the target of vicious harassment campaigns time and again including the infamous Gamergate. While her work to bring an end to VAW in video games continues, Anita is also working towards online safety for women.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #2: AnyKey – United States of America

AnyKey is an organisation dedicated to supporting and advocating for diversity in esports by fostering welcoming spaces and positive opportunities for competitive players of all kinds. Currently, the organisation’s research and initiatives are focused on women in esports, including providing competitive gamers with resources, support and opportunities, as well as collaborating with women in the industry to build better gaming spaces for women and girls.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #3: Brianna Wu – United States of America

Brianna Wu is a video game developer and the co-founder of the game development studio Giant Spacekat. She also created one of the first video games with only female characters. A vocal opponent of sexism and VAW in video games, Brianna found herself facing extreme harassment and abuse in the wake of Gamergate. Brianna is now running for congress so she can participate in making changes at the policy level to ensure safety for women.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #4: Code Liberation Foundation – United States of America

Code Liberation was started in 2013 to teach women, non-binary, femme and girl-identifying people to program. As part of their approach to addressing the underlying sexism in gaming, Code Liberation provides access to computer science to people who may not have considered entering STEAM fields because of sexism. By creating a supportive atmosphere for women and other non-binary folks, Code Liberation hopes to bring some much-needed change in the gaming industry.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #5: Douglas Gentile – France and the United States of America

Dr. Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, has been trying to shine a light on the impact of VAW in video games. In a recent study, Dr. Gentile and his team of researchers surveyed 13000 French adolescents and found a link between video games and sexism. While there has been previous research about the amount of VAW shown in video games, it would be dismissed on the grounds that it did not encourage users to emulate similar behavior. Dr. Gentile’s study, however, provides the missing piece of the puzzle – evidence that video games encourage sexist attitudes in young people.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #6: Emily Matthew – Online

In 2012, Emily Matthew undertook an online survey with 874 participants to find out more about VAW and sexism in video games. According to her findings, 60% of female respondents faced harassment while playing video games and 79.3% agreed that sexism is prominent in the gaming community. Talking about why she undertook the research, Emily shared in an interview, “I have been a target of sexual harassment, especially when playing online on public servers with people I don’t know. I think that the community recognizes that it’s there. But there’s never really any sort of empirical data to use when discussing it or arguing against it. I only have anecdotes to describe what’s happening to me, and I think people take that less seriously than if you have hard data to support your claims.”

Note: Ms. Matthew’s photograph and country details are unavailable.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #7: Jennifer Brandes Hepler – United States of America

Jennifer Brandes Hepler is the editor of Women in Game Development: Breaking the Glass-level Cap – a book which highlights the personal accounts of 22 women who work in the game industry regarding the encounters they have faced ranging from sexism and harassment to hostile employers. In the book, Hepler wrote: “If there is one thing you get from reading this book, I hope it is to recognise that there is no single narrative of being a ‘woman in games’. But although the characters change, the setting is the same, and the hostility and ignorance we have all faced continue to be a defining part of many women’s experience of games.” It is her belief that continuing to speak out about discrimination and violence against women in the industry as well as playing and creating games that counteract sexism and misogyny is the way forward.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #8: Kanane Jones – United States of America

Kanane Jones is a video game developer and creator of the game Final Girls. As a survivor of abuse, Kanane wanted to develop a game that focuses on what happens to a survivor after the trauma and how they move on with their lives. While creating the game was cathartic for Kanane, she also hoped that it would bring more attention the issue of VAW.


Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #9: Leigh Alexander – United States of America

Leigh Alexander is an author and journalist who focuses on writing about sexism and VAW in video games. She was former editor-at-large for Gamasutra and later became editor-in-chief at Offworld a gaming site focused on diversity and inclusiveness within the gaming community. Like many of the women on this list, Leigh was also harassed and abused during Gamergate.


Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #10: MissCliks – Online

MissCliks is an organisation comprising gaming community leaders who  banded together to use their influence and voices to champion a world where people of all genders can participate in geek and gamer culture without fear of prejudice or mistreatment while enjoying acceptance and opportunity. At present, the MissCliks team is focused on “recognising the under-representation of women as role models in geek and gaming culture, giving support and exposure to those female role models, and helping to create a culture of authenticity, advocacy, unity, and bravery.”

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #11: Nina Freeman – United States of America

Nina Freeman is a game developer who is transforming the industry by creating innovative video games about sex and relationships without any form of VAW.  Many of her games are autobiographical in nature and she has also made a game called Freshman Year that explores abuse and unwanted attention in a college setting. Talking about the relevance of her work, Nina shared, “It felt really good to be a part of a community of women who care about helping the industry become more diverse and inclusive. It’s definitely an important pursuit.”

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #12: Punchdrunk Games – United States of America

Led by a group of women and non-binary folks, Punchdrunk Games is a video game development company that creates games without any form of VAW. Their most popular game to date has been Regicide: Tale of the Forgotten Thief, where the player follows the story of a female lead. One of the team members, Jelly Rains shared in an interview about how she feels that their involvement in the gaming industry will help to make it safer for women: “When I heard about GG [Gamergate], I realised that there was a need to make the gaming industry safe for my daughter and all other young women. The only way I can make sure that happens is by me being in the game industry myself.”

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #13: Randi Lee Harper – United States of America

Post-Gamergate, Randi Harper wanted to facilitate systemic changes which prevent online abuse from occurring. As a game developer, Randi faced online abuse even before Gamergate and had created a tool known as ‘ggautoblocker’ to protect users from mob harassment on Twitter. She later founded the Online Abuse Prevention Network to prevent and mitigate targeted abuse online.


Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #14: Re-figuring Innovation in Games – Canada

Re-figuring Innovation in Games (ReFIG) is a project undertaken by a team of researchers and led by Professor Jennifer Jenson from York University. A team member – Dr. Alison Harvey from the University of Leicester’s Department of Media and Communication – explained, “Women and girls have largely been excluded from games culture − as players, makers and protagonists. Additionally, many of those who do participate in games have been publicly harassed both online and offline as exemplified by the ‘Gamergate’ hate campaign. Addressing long-standing gender inequalities in the global digital games industry is a vital means by which to stimulate innovation and sustain the growth and consolidation of this massive creative arena.” Through the project, the team seeks to address these issues and develop an inclusivity toolkit for the games industry and gender-inclusive curricula for game programmes and incubators among other outcomes.

Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #15: Shannon Sun-Higginson – United States of America

To bring mainstream attention to sexism and misogyny in the gaming industry, Shannon Sun-Higginson directed a documentary called Get The F**k Out (GTFO) in 2012. The documentary looked at the commonplace VAW in the gaming community through interviews with video game developers, journalists and academics.


Campaigner Against VAW in Gaming #16: Zoe Quinn – United States of America

Zoe Quinn is a video game developer and programmer who was at the center of the infamous Gamergate controversy. Zoe had spoken out about gender inequality in gaming for many years, and post Gamergate, she faced immense online harassment and abuse. The controversy brought mainstream attention to VAW in gaming. She is now working to address online abuse through her organisation Crash Override.



Photo Credits:

  1. Anita Sarkeesian – From “Anita Sarkeesian” (Jessica Zollman / Anita Sarkeesian)
  2. Brianna Wu – From “Brianna Wu vs. the Gamergate Troll Army” (Michael Friberg / Inc.)
  3. Code Liberation Foundation – From “Interview with Phoenix Perry of Code Liberation Foundation” (VG Revolution)
  4. Douglas Gentile – From “Researchers find Video Games Influence Sexist Attitudes” (Iowa State University News Service)
  5. Jennifer Brandes Helper – From “How women in gaming face hostility” (Polygon)
  6. Jennifer Jenson – From “Distinguished Scholars – DiGRA
  7. Kanane Jones – From Kanane Jones on Google+
  8. Leigh Alexander – From “Leigh Alexander Bio” (Kotaku)
  9. MissCliks – From MissCliks.com
  10. Nina Freeman – From “Meet Nina Freeman, the Punk Poet of Gaming” (The Guardian)
  11. Punchdrunk Games – Still of Regicide from “Punchdrunk Games” (Facebook)
  12. Randi Lee Harper – From ‘Randi Lee Harper on Twitter’
  13. Jennifer Jenson – From “Distinguinshed Scholars – DiGRA
  14. Shannon Sun-Higginson – From www.shannonsun.com
  15. Zoe Quinn – From “Gamergate Target Zoe Quinn can Teach us How to Fight Online Hate” (Wired)


The Pixel Project Selection 2015: 16 Notable Anti-VAW Activists and Organisations You Should Follow on Twitter

twitter1-300x225Twitter has quickly become a reliable news source for many individuals.  It offers a real-time view and perspective of what is occurring both elsewhere and in our own communities, enabling us to become more aware of social issues like violence against women and join discussions to become more involved with these causes.

Twitter allows us to share information, a tool to help us better our world through understanding, and create an atmosphere of solidarity worldwide. Being able to look up a hashtag – #vaw for example – in order to find news sources, helplines, or other activists is a simple yet incredibly useful way to become involved.

With that in mind, The Pixel Project presents our 2015 Twitter selection of 16 organisations and individuals leveraging Twitter in the cause to end violence against women. These are groups and people who will keep you informed simply because they share the passion to create a better tomorrow for girls and women everywhere.

Written and compiled by: Rebecca DeLuca

Call To Action: Help us reach the $25,000 fundraising milestone for our Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign this holiday season by giving generously to our “16 For 16” fundraiser (which also includes #GivingTuesday)! Find out more and donate to get awesome book and music goodies at http://is.gd/16DaysGT2015 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #1: The A21 Campaign (@A21) – Global

A21 LogoThe A21 Campaign’s mission is to end human trafficking in the 21st century. A21 follows a “4 P model,” focusing on prevention, protection, partnerships and prosecution. Working in over 21 countries, A21 has offices in Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Norway, Thailand and more. Followers of the A21 Twitter Page have the opportunity to follow real updates, lobbying efforts and number of rescues as they occur.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #2: Alexandra Pham (@DaughtersRising) – Thailand

AlexandraPhamAlexandra Pham is the founder of Daughters Rising, a nonprof0it organisation fighting sex trafficking by empowering and educating at-risk girls. Alexandra and her team created the RISE workshops to teach girls real world skills, including computer skills, women’s health and more. Pham also founded Chai Lai Orchid where she runs training and educational programming.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #3: AWID (@awid) – Global

AWID LogoThe Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is an global, feminist, membership organisation committed to women’s human rights. AWID works with various organisations to create a collective voice against gender injustice. The multilingual AWID Twitter page shares news on global, national and local levels and provides timely and accurate information for activists to use in their own programs and projects.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #4: Chime for Change (@ChimeForChange) – Global

CHIME-FOR-CHANGE-LogoChime for Change is a global campaign raising awareness and funds for girls and women around the world, ensuring accessibility of education, health and justice. The organisation uses creative projects and programmes to achieve their goals, including short documentary films, global concerts and more. The Chime for Change Twitter page updates followers on over 409 projects across 86 countries. Following the hashtag #ChimeIn allows followers to interact with the organisation and give their opinions and thoughts on different programs, news, and events.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #5: Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) – United States of America

Feminist Frequency LogoCreated by media critic Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency is a video web series that discusses the portrayals of women in pop culture narratives. The videos serve as an educational resource and encourage creators to improve the representations of women in their work. Sarkeesian focuses many of her online discussions on the stereotypes and harassment of women in online and gaming spaces. She received the 2015 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award, was nominated for Microsoft’s 2014 Women in Games Ambassador Award, and is a judge for the Games for Change Awards.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #6: He for She (@HeForShe) – Global

he-for-she-logoHe for She is a movement founded by the United Nations, and supported by big names such as Emma Watson, President Obama, Matt Damon, Ban Ki-moon and more. The He for She movement brings together men and women in support of equality for women. Supporters take action against gender discrimination and violence and understand that equality benefits everyone.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #7: Its on Us (@ItsOnUs) – United States of America

ItsOnUs LogoFounded by Generation Progress and the White House, the It’s on Us Campaign aims to change the culture around sexual assault on campuses across the United States. The organisation provides resources to recognise, identify, and intervene in sexual assault, and develop a safe environment to support survivors. The It’s on Us Twitter page provides important news, legal updates and information on campus sexual assaults, keeps its followers updated on events through live-tweeting, and retweets videos and programmes from colleges and universities supporting following It’s On Us initiative.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #8: Konbit Sante (KonbitSante) – Haiti

KonbitSanteKonbit Sante’s mission is to create lasting change in Haitian healthcare. The organisation believes in promoting the empowerment of people to meet their own needs. Of their many clinical initiatives, Konbit Sante focuses on women’s health and works to improve maternal outcomes in Cap-Haitien. In Haiti, more women die in pregnancy and childbirth than any other country in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, Konbit Sante works to improve emergency response time at the regional referral hospital and provides education and outreach at the community level.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #9: Män för Jämställdhet (@ManForJamst) – Sweden

ManMän för Jämställdhet, translated to Men for Gender Equality, is a Swedish organisation engaging men and boys in violence prevention. Operating on a local, national and Global level, Män för Jämställdhet fights masculine stereotypes and aims to reform them to support women’s health and rights. Follow Män för Jämställdhet on Twitter for receive updates on their various programmes, including Machofabriken (The Macho Factory) or Killfrågor.se (BoysQuestions.com).

Twitter Follow Recommendation #10: Refuge (@RefugeCharity) United Kingdom

RefugeRefuge is a provider of specialist services for women and children escaping domestic violence. Through provision, protection and prevention, Refuge empowers women and children to rebuild their lives, free from violence and fear. Leading the charge against domestic violence since 1971, Refuge funds and plans campaigns, participates in lobbying efforts, publishes information on the effects of domestic violence, trains staff of various organisations and respond to individual needs. The multi-lingual Twitter page is a resource for news on supporting survivors, ending domestic violence, and more and is staffed Monday through Friday.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #11: Safe Delhi Campaign (@JagoriSafeDelhi) – India

safedelhihomepagelogoInspired by the many noninclusive changes of Delhi’s infrastructure, the Safe Delhi Campaign was founded in 2004. The campaign focuses on women’s rights to participate in city life and their right to be guaranteed an equal opportunity to use public spaces. Members of the Safe Delhi Campaign partner with citizen groups, create and promote public awareness campaigns, and conduct safety audits in commercial, residential and educational areas across the city to identify unsafe issues. The Safe Delhi Campaign programming fights poor urban infrastructure, lack of apathy on public transportation, and other ideas and beliefs about appropriate behavior.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #12: Speak Up for the Poor (@SpeakUp4ThePoor) – Bangladesh

SpeakUpForthePoorSpeak Up for the Poor is an organisation that works to create safe homes for girls born into brothels, rescued from human trafficking, or at risk of exploitation. It also runs an educational program and investigates and handles cases of abuse against girls. Those following the Speak Up for the Poor Twitter account will not only receive updates on programmes and successes in Bangladesh, but also worldwide.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #13: Together for Girls (@together4girls) – United States of America

Together For GirlsTogether for Girls is dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. Together for Girls also publishes Safe, the first magazine on violence against children. The yearly magazine shares stories of survivors and highlights various individuals, activists, organisations, and communities who are working to protect children.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #14: UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women (@UNTrustFundEVAW) – Global

UNTrustFundThe UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women is committed to ending all forms of violence against women and girls. The UN Trust Fund is a grant-making mechanism that works with various global and local organisations. The organisation’s Twitter page shares global news and updates from its various partners, including news from Mongolia, South Africa, Asia and more. The UN Trust Fund empowers groups and communities to take part in prevention efforts, provides services to survivors, and lobbies for legal changes.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #15: Womens Link (@womenslink) Spain and Colombia

WomensLinkWomen’s Link’s bilingual Twitter page provides important legal updates, statistics and reports in English and Spanish to support gender equality around the world. An Global Human Health Risk Research (HHRR) organisation, Women’s Link uses the power of the law to create change in various ares, including gender justice, human trafficking, global gender crimes, global discrimination, migrant women rights and sexual and reproductive rights.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #16: Women Thrive (@WomenThrive) – Global

WomenThriveWorldwideWomen Thrive is an American lobbying organisation bringing the voice of global women directly to Washington, DC. Advocating for change on a national and global level, Women Thrive looks at women and poverty in Africa, education for girls, economic opportunity and poverty, violence against women and girls, women and world hunger, women, global assistance and more. The Women Thrive twitter page provides an inside look at important conferences, programs, and legal updates by sharing resources and live-tweeting events such as the #Gender360Summit.