Brianna Wu’s studio, Giant Spacekat, pulls out of PAX East due to safety concerns (update)

Giant Spacekat, the game studio headed by developer Brianna Wu, is withdrawing from the PAX East 2015 Expo Hall due to safety concerns, the company recently announced.

“The reason is pretty straightforward,” Wu said in an email to Polygon. “Two people here in Massachusetts have made videos with threats explicitly threatening to murder me. Law enforcement has not arrested anyone, and PAX East is not responding to our security concerns.

“We don’t feel safe. A lot of our employees have families.”

In a public statement, Wu said that the decision to withdraw from the Expo Hall comes from concern that, due to the sheer volume of crowds at PAX East, “the safety of our team can not be guaranteed.” Wu added that the decision was made after speaking with her team, and that her goal is to prioritize their safety.

“Working a PAX show floor means interacting with thousands of strangers a day for three days,” Wu wrote. “Given that two of our most serious threats have come right here in Massachusetts, that threat is something I must take seriously as a leader. In addition to threats of violence, my team is frightened of being harassed by GamerGate supporters.

“As their leader, I heard that and I’m going to respect it.”

“We had a conversation as a team, and they voted. They do not feel comfortable with this. As their leader, I heard that and I’m going to respect it.”

In regards to security concerns at PAX, Wu said she has “personally been frustrated in trying to communicate” with the organization.

“I called them on three occasions trying to talk to them about security concerns, and did not have my calls returned,” Wu said. “I was able to attend both Arisia and Boskone, events taking place at the hotel next to PAX, with the help of their security teams. I’d hoped to come to a similar arrangement with PAX East.”

Polygon has made multiple attempts to contact PAX East officials and will update accordingly. In a separate interview with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority director of communications, conducted earlier by another Polygon staff member, a spokesperson declined to comment about the specific safety procedures that will be put in place at this year’s PAX East.

Wu added that PAX is “a big event,” and that she doesn’t believe organizers made a conscious decision to ignore GSX.

“After posting our decision to withdraw, PAX East did get in touch with me, and attending in 2016 will be a different story,” Wu said. “I think the PAX Enforcers are awesome, and I think it’s a safe event in general for people.”

In a separate statement to Polygon, Wu explained that the developer now has specific contacts at PAX about security and will be able to take appropriate precautions in the future.

“By 2016, hopefully the lunatic fringe gamers will accept that women are in games to stay,” Wu told Polygon. “We’ll hopefully have prosecutions, and it will put and end this culture of threats and violence.”

“very little has been accomplished by law enforcement towards the goal of apprehending these criminals.”

In her original statement, Wu added that she will still be taking press meetings at the event.

“I made a professional commitment to participate in PAX East panels and I will follow through on those commitments,” she said.

The statement was released yesterday and updated by Wu today. Wu has been a vocal critic of GamerGate, appearing in video segments on Nightline, HuffPost Live and more, and speaking to numerous mainstream media outlets about harassment and her personal experiences.

“GSX has continually attempted to get support from law enforcement with prosecuting the individuals behind explicit and detailed death threats,” Wu continued in her post. “I’ve had 46 sent to me in the last 5 months. They often target me by name. The most frightening ones say who, what, where, why and when I will be murdered.

“Despite the credibility of those threats, and despite attempts by one of these criminals to follow through on his violent threats, very little has been accomplished by law enforcement towards the goal of apprehending these criminals.”

When reached today by Polygon, Arlington officials declined to comment “on the specifics of an ongoing investigation.”

Update: A Penny Arcade representative responded to Polygon with the following:

The safety of our attendees, panelists and exhibitors is the number one priority for PAX. To achieve this, the show:

  • Conducts bag searches for all people entering the building
  • Has Boston PD in addition to the in house Building Security on site during all hours of the show
  • Enforces the six rules of PAX at every event, since the very first PAX

For the safety of our attendees, exhibitors and panelists we cannot divulge the specifics of our security programs. That said, the well-being of everyone attending PAX always has been and always will be the highest priority for the city of Boston, the convention center and PAX. ​

​PAX prides itself on helping tens of thousands of gamers come together to share what they love most, in a safe environment.​​