Brianna Wu to Rebrand Giant Spacekat as She Battles Social Media, Death Threats, and the Gaming Industry

Last week I had an opportunity to sit down and pick the brain of the Co-founder and Head Developer of Giant Spacekat, Brianna Wu. Her indie game studio created the well-received Revolution 60 for the iPad launched just last March. But outside of Spacekat’s video game success, Wu has a well-known alter-ego on social media. She calls herself the “Godzilla of feminists” and has been one of the main focuses of the “Gamergate” controversy. On Twitter, Wu confronts the gaming industry’s gender inequality, pointing out its obvious lack of diversity and its penchant for objectifying women. But as is the nature of social media snap judgment, many of us forget Wu isn’t just the feminist Godzilla; she’s a person.

convo

As we talked on the phone, Wu was traveling to expand on Giant Spacekat’s venture capital. “I am exhausted,” she confessed, but all I could hear was the enthusiasm she had for Giant Spacekat’s new opportunities. “It’s going really well, and we’re really excited about where we’re going as a studio,” she said. She shared some exciting new details about the next game in the Revolution 60 franchise, a sort of Revolution 60 1.5, hopefully to come out sometime later this year. “We want to experiment more with the dialogue wheel,” Wu revealed. “We are going to go all in with innovating on that mechanic. The next game we’re going to ship is basically going to be all about dialogue and choice with all the people in the Revolution 60 universe.”

revolution60

Characters from Giant Spacekat’s Revolution 60. From left to right: Minuete, Holiday, and Amelia.

Although things are going well with the new game and Giant Spacekat, the company will be changing its name. And the reason is, as you may have guessed, Wu’s stark online presence. “It could blowback on my employees,” Wu explained. “I have no problems speaking my mind, but I don’t want the other people on my team to get blowback too.” The new name serves to communicate the values of the studio, and hopefully separate Wu from her company.

However, this still leaves Wu a target for Gamergaters. “The more I speak out, the more death threats I get,” she said. Since last October, the threats have slowed down slightly, but not by much. In the past six months, Wu’s received 50 death threats, yet she doesn’t want to fight Gamergaters themselves. What she’s really fighting is the culture the gaming industry has bred and continues to foster.

Gamergate is about gamers who feel like the culture belongs to them, and they don’t feel like it belongs to women, people of color, or gay people, or transgender people,” she said. “And why would they? Everything about games has been built for a very specific kind of consumer for 30 years now. When’s the last time you saw a game from a triple A studio that had a person of color as a protagonist? When’s the last time a game from a triple A studio that had a gay person as a protagonist? How many times do you see these messages that women are the damsel in distress, or the reward, or the sexualized eye candy? I think on the game development side, we’ve been very guilty in setting this culture.”

Indirectly, the gaming industry tends to promote a specific image: white, straight males. “Look at Game Informer,” points Wu. “The people at Game Informer are good people, but it’s hard not to notice that when you look at that company, 17 out of 18 of their editors are men. It signals to the consumer that this is only for this type of person.”

Wu is also quick to note that she’s not trying to push men out of the industry; she just wants them to realize what they do affects everyone. For example, Lionhead Studios (the creators of Fable) recently tweeted a drawing of a busty woman covering her breasts with overflowing beer steins for Cleavage Day. It caused outrage. Lionhead quickly removed the tweet and issued an apology.

“I wasn’t personally offended by the post. But when you see good men in this field doing things that unconsciously say games are only for this specific type of person, what you’re seeing now is organized pushback,” she claimed. “I think what you’re seeing now is a more organized effort to make games more inclusive to hold the industry accountable. Over time, that accountability will lead to direct changes.”

The video card manufacturer NVIDIA also received some recent internet-backlash after featuring scantily-clad pole dancers at its sponsored party at the 2015 Game Developers Conference in March. Redditors were quick to jump on the controversy along with as was Wu to retweet pictures of the event to her followers.

All of this pushback is still fairly new for this industry, and consumers likely won’t see significant changes in the industry for some time. And it’s not that the gaming industry is evil or directly trying to discriminate, either; it likely just hasn’t woken up yet. Wu doesn’t demonize it, or even hate it–she’s just a game developer trying her best to show the industry that its perpetuation of a white, male-centric culture is harmful. And hopefully, it listens.

For more from Brianna Wu, check out the video below to see her speaking out on Gamergate:

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  • Jimm Russla

    Sounds like she’s on the ropes. Her career is shot, a few more pushes and she’ll be gone.

  • Guncriminal .

    “She calls herself the “Godzilla of feminists””

    In the sense that she causes chaos on a mass scale, I’m inclined to agree. But least Godzilla didn’t go around mocking autistic people.

    http://i.imgur.com/YjS5UdP.png

    Eight months after Gamergate and not a single arrest made, despite FBI involvement. That should tell you something about the credibility of the death threats.

    “How many times do you see these messages that women are[…]sexualized eye candy?”

    (*Looks at collage or Revolution 60 characters and laughs at the irony.*)

  • hurin

    No one is or have been threatening Wu. This is all made up, to get sympathy and Patreon money.

    Example 1: Wu claims GamerGaters have driven him from his home, proceeds to give 6 media interviews in the home he supposedly had to flee from.

    Example 2: Wu harasses himself on the Revolution 60 steam page but forgets he is still logged in using his developer account.

    • TechVoid

      You haven’t been on the internet very long if you think she made it up. Look around. Watch the video a the bottom of this piece.

      • hurin

        Yeah because this looks like a really credible threat. Screencapped after 7 minutes LOL! If I was sending fake tweets to myself, I would at least try and make it look believable.
        But since his audience are idiots, I guess he didn’t see the need.

  • Calano

    Please read this https://instagram.com/p/z7DTsFih6v/ . Apparently Techvoid wants to dictate what women can do, how feminist.

  • Andrew

    “Wu confronts the gaming industry’s gender inequality, pointing out its obvious lack of diversity and its penchant for objectifying women.”

    While producing a game about women with skintight clothing, the one on the left displaying her ass, the one in the middle displaying her barely-concealed mound and the one on the right showing cleavage.

    I wonder if the author was laughing while making this article.

    • Darknut

      “While producing a game about women with skintight clothing, the one on the left displaying her ass, the one in the middle displaying her barely-concealed mound and the one on the right showing cleavage.”

      Are they bending over in impossible contortions to stick out their tits and asses? Would their costumes fall off in real life if not for “butt glue” or tape? I’ve seen women stand like that every day, and their costumes make sense for what they’re doing. Do the costumes the women wear in Tekken 2? No, they’re ridiculous. Rev 60 cover isn’t anything much beyond what you see on the street in a normal city situation. They’re not standing in any un natural uncomfortable poses and their costumes look utilitarian for what they’re doing.

      Looking good and looking like a stripper are not the same thing.

      Comparing Rev 60s women to the throg of over-sexualized pornified video game chicks is the dumbest level of false equivalence I’ve seen since the ridiculous “this is He-Man” meme morons have been passing around like they “got something.”

      • Andrew

        Anita has many times pointed to women looking similar and called it objectification, as do numerous other feminists on a daily basis.

        Are you feigning ignorance or is it the real kind?

      • Andrew

        Additionally how is a half-naked, impossibly attractive man a false equivalence to a half-naked, impossibly attractive woman?

  • Rene Caron

    Wu has lost over $300,000. The game is a flop. Why do journos insist on portraying the game as a success? What gives?