Andy Schuette has been gaming ever since he could hold a SNES controller in his hands and has been loving every minute of it. He's the funniest guy he knows, and the least funny guy everyone else knows.
Just last week the South by South West Interactive Festival, an annual week-long conglomerate of movie festivals, concerts, and conferences announced that it would be holding two panels about online gaming and the unfortunate state it resides in. That is, how harassment is running rampant throughout the world of multiplayer gaming, and the producers of SXSW were hoping to reduce it and get people back on track.
These talks were to be titled “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” discussions that could have really been beneficial to the state of online gaming and increasing the community by reducing the seemingly constant insults and general disturbance of enjoyment.
Unfortunately these conferences will not see the light of day. Hugh Forrest, the Director of the SXSW Interactive Festival announced that the aforementioned panels will be cancelled after… you guessed it: being harassed.
The decision to pull the plug on the panels came after “numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming” were received by the team at SXSW.
This is sad for two reasons: first, that people would threaten a group with violence when they are trying to open up a dialogue that could really help a situation that needs it; and second, it’s sad to see the festival cave to the kind of harassment that the panels were supposed to be reducing in the first place.
Forrest continued his post on the festival’s blog saying, “preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.”
Disappointed fans have taken to Twitter to give the directors of SXSW a piece of their mind using the hashtag #SXSW. The outcry about the news ranges from people stating that this is the reason the panel was needed to participants in the festival withdrawing themselves unless the panels are reinstated.
This is the kind of nonsense that paints a black mark on the gaming community. We, as a community, cannot allow people to threaten the public like this and force the hand of those who are trying to set up a positive space for discussion and change–these threats being an equivalent to a toddler throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way.
The worst part of all of this is that it isn’t uncommon. People are afraid of changes that they do not understand and abhor the changes they think they understand. Under this mindset, people who seek to inhibit change will do anything necessary, which unfortunately includes threatening public safety.
A vast majority of threats that pop up in these situations are completely benign and will not come to fruition, but all it takes is one person following up on their statement and those in charge will be under heavy fire from legal teams and media outlets.
I can’t blame SXSW for erring on the side of caution, but it’s just sad to see what could have been a good dialogue about a prevalent issue be scrapped before it has a chance to make a difference–because of that very same issue.