SXSW organizers this week said they would cancel the panels in response to threats of violence. In response, BuzzFeed and Vox Media said they would not participate in SXSW if the event does not find a way to address the online harassment issue.
One canceled panel centered on "Overcoming Harassment in Games" and the other was titled "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community."
Organizers apparently feared the panels would become a flashpoint for the ongoing controversy in the video game community pitting those who say the games need to be more diverse and progressive against those who say games are being tainted by political correctness. This latter group has dubbed itself "gamergate."
In canceling the panels, SXSW reiterated its commitment to diverse ideas and opinions. But in the statement, SXSW interactive director Hugh Forrest did not give details of the threats. SXSW organizers did not respond to requests for comment.
"We were disturbed to learn yesterday that you canceled two panels, including one on harassment in gaming, in response to the sort of harassment the panel sought to highlight," BuzzFeed said in a statement Tuesday. It was signed by Ze Frank, the head of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures; Dao Nguyen, BuzzFeed's publisher; and Ben Smith, the site's editor in chief.
Writer and activist Arthur Chu dissected how the panels came to be -- and came to be canceled -- in a long-form article published in the Daily Beast on Tuesday.
Soon after, a panel called "SavePoint: A Discussion in the Gaming Community" was submitted for approval. Like "Level Up," it did not explicitly reference gamergate. But as Vice explained, the moderator and the panelists were all public supporters of the movement.
Gamergate began last year, when a group of gaming enthusiasts rose up against those who were calling to make video games more diverse and less of a boys' club. The Gamergate camp became known for its frequent verbal attacks on women, and the men who supported those women.
Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy.