What to Watch This Weekend: “GTFO”

You’ve heard about #Gamergate, you’ve heard about harrassment in online games, you’ve heard about Anita Sarkeesian — probably from conflicting stories or multiple sources covering different time periods and perspectives. Well, what if you could see it all in one convenient location?

In March of 2013, documentary filmmaker Shannon Sun-Higginson had two questions she wanted to tackle: Why are women excluded from the gameing industry and community? And why does no one outside of video games seem to know about it? So she decided to start asking people these questions, revealing experiences in and opinions of one medium through another.

It’s a great idea, one I’m surprised hasn’t been tried before — women telling women gamers’ stories. #Gamergate attracted a lot of voices ready — to share their front page headlines, their forum comments, their op-ed pieces — but a lot of the voices I heard were male and a lot were non-gamers. Why not tell the inside perspective?

Sun-Higginson’s “GTFO”

GTFO: The Movie tells those female perspectives extremely well. There are so many women — academics, players, parents, young adults, developers — who were willing to tell Sun-Higginson their story and try to find answers to the questions she was asking. And many of them, a surprising number of them, aren’t anonymous; their passion about the issue is so great that they are willing to risk their own personal safety to take a stand on this issue. It’s a pretty awe-inspiring thing to see.

But it’s also not an easy movie to watch. Some of the examples of harassment made me want to turn off my TV and never play video games again, to give up hope in the gaming community. It’s sometimes easy to dismiss stories online about harassment — maybe someone is making it up, maybe someone is exaggerating. But hearing it in real time, from men who are clearly adult, as one of the female gamers being interviewed (Jenny Haniver) is playing Call of Duty…well, that’s harder to ignore.

Jenny Haniver, a gamer interviewed by Sun-Higginson

GTFO: The Movie is both hopeful and powerful: it’s powerful to see so many clear examples of women being excluded from play and from development, but it’s hopeful to see so many women on the screen together, many of whom know each other and are already working to improve the environment around them. Yes, they face a lot of obstacles, but one of the hardest steps is being accomplished literally as you watch the film: getting the word out, making people realize that this is happening right now to people you know. 

And what’s really interesting is that Sun-Higginson herself isn’t a gamer. This wasn’t a female developer getting fed up and deciding to talk to her friends about what they’re all dealing with. It was a woman who had never played Mario 64 or attended E3 who saw women gamers being harassed and realized that this wasn’t just an issue for people who played video games; this affected all women who suffered from sexism and emotional abuse and it deserved to be treated seriously. As Sun-Higginson explained in an interview with Time magazine: “I think that anybody who cares about gender equality would care about this subject. I’m trying to shine a light on a niche industry, but it’s really so mainstream.”

Shannon Sun-Higginson, director of “GTFO”

Bringing these stories and experiences and opinions to light, bringing them to audiences that might not realize what’s happening or why it’s important to care, is incredibly important. Involving women who have struggled with the same issues, but in the realm of film or music or TV, and helping everyone realize the support system that extends to other mediums and communities is incredibly important. But just watching GTFO: The Movie, watching it with someone who normally wouldn’t experience it like that, watching it by yourself and confronting a reality you might not confront otherwise — well, that’s incredibly important too.

Have you seen GTFOWhat did you think? Let us know in the comments!

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