Over the weekend we posted a story on Facebook about Alanah Pearce, a 21-year-old video game journalist in Brisbane, Australia, who received vile rape threats from online trolls, and brilliantly responded by telling the teenage abusers’ mothers what their kids have been up to.
Among the many supportive WYSK readers, several commented and asked questions about why Alanah responded to the trolls, why she took the approach she did, and why didn’t she contact the authorities.
WYSK has connected with Alanah to answer your questions, learn more about her brave and bold move, and what it’s like to be a woman on the front line in the gaming industry.
How did you get into reviewing games?
AP: I got into game reviewing almost accidentally – I saw a listing for a volunteer gaming news writer on a website when I was job hunting, and was so excited about the idea of doing it. I got that position, loved it, and very progressively worked my way up from there – I’ve now been working in games media for around 2 years, and it took 1 and a half years of hard work, plenty of volunteer work and a lot of networking before I managed to make it full time. If you told me 5 years ago that I’d be reviewing games for a living, I probably would’ve cried.
Why do you think young boys feel like it is ok to send these types of hateful messages?
AP: It’s really hard to rationalise something like a ‘rape threat’ – I certainly have no response for the people who suspect I’ve done something to deserve it. I’m fairly certain the sexual harassment I receive online is just an attempt to get a reaction, ‘for fun’.
What made you say enough is enough, and set out to do something about it?
AP: There wasn’t so much a ‘tipping point’ as there was a frustration. Everyone says ‘ignore the trolls!’ so flippantly, but that is not a pro-active solution to anything. While I never reply, I feel like ignoring it entirely is the same as letting the trolls ‘win’, and that feels so unfair. So, I thought of ways to not only teach a lesson, but to get back at the people who ‘troll’ me. It’s like trolling the trolls.
What made you decide to reach out to the moms?
AP: When I realised how young the boys that contact me are, I decided that talking to them rationally probably wasn’t going to resolve anything, and it’s also likely they send similar things to plenty of other women. So, I thought about a way to give their actions real world consequences, in hopes they might learn from the experience. Since information is so readily available on Facebook, I decided to go with mothers!
Everyone says ‘ignore the trolls!’ so flippantly, but that is not a pro-active solution to anything.
What do you hope to have happen to the boys regarding repercussions for their vile behavior?
AP: I’d really like to see the young men saying these kinds of things be taught that it’s not acceptable in any form, even if they genuinely don’t mean the threat. I certainly don’t want them to get into major trouble; I just want to prevent this from happening again.
Some of the criticism of your “approach” is that you should be reaching out to the police, why didn’t you?
AP: While I don’t think that contacting the police is necessary because I don’t believe the threats are genuine, it’s a reasonable criticism. To put it simply, it would be absolutely exhausting for me to contact the police every time I am subjected to harassment or ‘rape threats’, because of the sheer volume of them and the fact that, thanks to the internet, a lot of the people contacting me are from different countries entirely, or are minors. I don’t believe the police would take it seriously, and I’d be absolutely exhausted. However, if the same people were to harass me repeatedly, I would absolutely contact them. In the mean time, I would love to see Facebook and Twitter specifically handle bullying more appropriately.
Why do you think there is such a high level of misogynistic behavior being placed on women in the gaming industry?
AP: I don’t know if the things I receive are directly related to the games industry or just to the fact that I’m a woman in the public eye, but there are a few possible answers to that question. The nature of games is changing – it’s becoming more diverse, which is affecting those who belong to a demographic that are used to being personally, exclusively catered to. Gamers are extremely passionate people, likely because the games industry produces a lot of really emotional content, so when their medium changes before them, I think they feel defensive and unsure how to react. Of course, this is a result of women, so women are the target of harassment. I believe it’s all just resistance to change, which is unfortunate, but probably necessary.
“It’s really hard to rationalise something like a ‘rape threat’ – I certainly have no response for the people who suspect I’ve done something to deserve it.”
Do you think there will ever be a time where women will be accepted in the gaming industry?
AP: Within the industry itself, women are welcomed with open arms, and applauded for dealing with harassment. The industry is such a supportive place, and is lovingly cautious of scaring women away. The community itself is definitely shifting, probably as a part of industry folk leading by example, and I’ve certainly seen that shift before my eyes.
What advice do you have for other young women wanting to get into the industry?
AP: To young women looking to get involved in the gaming industry, please keep in mind that harassment is a very small portion of what happens online, that is unfortunately very easy to give too much weight to. Of all of the comments I receive, probably 1% are overly negative, and vast majority are welcoming, encouraging and desperately, desperately want you here.