Brianna Wu

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Brianna Wu
Wu in 2015
Born (1977-07-06) July 6, 1977 (age 46)[1][2]
Occupations
  • CEO of Giant Spacekat
  • software engineer[3][4][5]
Known forCommentary on issues related to women in gaming
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseFrank Wu

Brianna Wu (born July 6, 1977) is an American video game developer and computer programmer.[6] She co-founded Giant Spacekat, an independent video game development studio, with Amanda Warner in Boston, Massachusetts.[7] She is also a blogger and podcaster on matters relating to the video game industry.[8]

In 2018, Wu unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Massachusetts's 8th congressional district.[9] Wu began a second campaign for the primary in 2020; in April, she announced her departure from the race, due to the COVID-19 lockdown preventing in-person campaigning.[10][11]

Early life and education

Wu was born in West Virginia and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi by adoptive parents.[12][13] She grew up in an entrepreneurial environment; her father was a retired US Navy doctor who opened his own clinic, and her mother ran a series of small businesses.[14][15] In 2003 she enrolled at the University of Mississippi, studying journalism and political science and writing for The Daily Mississippian, but never graduated.[12]

Career

At the age of 19, Wu formed a small animation studio to create an animated pilot episode. The venture was unsuccessful, resulting in her withdrawal from college and a move to Washington, D.C., to work in political fundraising for several years.[14] She later worked as a journalist until she was inspired by the release of the iPhone to work as a graphical designer and create a video game.

In 2008, she married Frank Wu, four-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. In 2010, she co-founded the company Giant Spacekat with Amanda Stenquist Warner.[14] Wu was co-host of the weekly Isometric podcast on Relay FM. The podcast was launched in May 2014 and covers the video game industry.[8] On April 18, 2016, the Isometric podcast was ended. The same hosts, including Wu, started a new podcast called Disruption on Relay FM, covering technology and culture.[16] In 2020, she and Cenk Uygur co-founded Rebellion PAC, a political action committee with a focus on running advertisements in opposition to Donald Trump and in support of progressive get-out-the-vote efforts.[17]

Revolution 60

Brianna Wu and Giant Spacekat co-founder Amanda Warner (2015)

Wu is credited as head of development for her company Giant Spacekat's game, Revolution 60.[18] It features female protagonists, said to echo the founders of the game studio.[7] The game was demonstrated at Pax East in March 2013, where it was listed as one of the 10 best indie games of the conference.[19] The game, created with the Unreal Engine for a total budget of several hundred thousand dollars, was released for iOS devices in July 2014.[18]

2018 congressional bid

Wu decided immediately after the 2016 American presidential election to run for a Congressional seat in the greater Boston area, focusing in part on privacy rights and online harassment, but also on the wider Massachusetts economy. She challenged Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of the 8th district,[20][21] in an announcement she made on Twitter.[22] Wu stated, in a radio interview, that Lynch did not sufficiently represent the Democrats, citing his positions on reproductive health care and LGBT rights; Lynch is a centrist on the former[23] and supportive of the latter.[24] Wu also came out in favor of unions and collective bargaining.[25] Wu feels that Massachusetts proportionally contributes more to the federal government than it receives in return and wants to use it as leverage in negotiations. She hopes that the Boston Bay area can rival San Francisco Bay as a technology hub.[26] Wu moved to the 8th District in order to challenge the incumbent Lynch.[27]

Wu also cited opposition to then-president Donald Trump, what she perceived as failures by Congress on technology issues,[28] and what she perceived as the failure of the Democratic Party to emotionally connect with its voters[29] as reasons for shifting from game development to politics.

Professor Thomas Whalen of Boston University said that, while the labor union-connected Lynch was native to South Boston's traditionally conservative 8th district, recent years of changing demographics could help Wu. Meanwhile, David S. Bernstein, a long-time political reporter for Boston Magazine, did not think Wu has a chance of unseating Lynch.[26]

On Twitter in February 2017, Wu received media attention after she posted warnings about the militarization of space, along with voicing her concerns over giving private space tourism companies sole access to the Moon. She wrote, "Rocks dropped from [the Moon] have power of 100s of nuclear bombs". She later deleted the tweets after receiving criticism.[30][31]

In late October 2017, Wu used the streaming service Twitch to raise awareness for her Congressional campaign. This appears to be the first instance of anyone using Twitch in this manner. "One of the reasons Millennials feel disenfranchised is politicians don't speak to them in ways that feel genuine," said Wu. "Twitch is one of the most important ways to engage younger people." When asked, neither Twitch, the DNC, nor the Pew Research Center were aware of anyone having had done such previously. Wu was playing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus during the stream.[32]

Wu lost to Lynch in the Democratic primary held on September 4, 2018, having received approximately 23% of the vote to Lynch's 71%.[33][34]

2020 congressional bid

Wu began a second campaign for the 2020 election, again with an emphasis on tech issues such as Elizabeth Warren's proposal to break up giant new media companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google. On a WGBH-TV panel, Wu said, "for whatever reason, our Department of Justice has been more reluctant to pursue antitrust cases against companies in the last few years, certainly since the Bush years."[10] She differs from certain elements of Warren's proposal, citing privacy concerns.[35]

She endorses the Green New Deal, legislative goals aimed at shifting the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.[36]

In April 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on her campaign, she suspended her congressional bid.[11]

Gamergate-related harassment

In October 2014, Wu posted multiple tweets about Gamergate advocates,[37][38] ridiculing them for "fighting an apocalyptic future where women are 8 percent of programmers and not 3 percent."[39] While she was monitoring 8chan's pro-Gamergate chanboard (/gg/), anonymous users posted sensitive personal information about her, including at least one post containing her address. Subsequently, Wu began receiving multiple, specific rape and death threats including her address, causing Wu to flee her home.[40] These threats have been widely attributed to Gamergate supporters.[39][41] In December, Wu said that she had received emails that contained images of mutilated dogs from people who identified as Gamergate supporters, following the recent death of her dog.[42]

Along with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, Wu was one of the targets of Gamergate harassment.[37][41][43][44] In February 2015, she said, "by attacking me so viciously, they're helping give me the visibility to usher in the very game industry they're terrified about."[45] Wu started a legal defense fund for women targeted by Gamergate. As of late 2014, the Wu family was also offering a cash reward for information leading to the prosecution of those who sent the death threats.[46][47][48] By February 2015 she said she was spending a full day a week contacting law enforcement, and was only attending events in the US with a security detail.[45] In March 2015, she said she had received 48 death threats during the previous six months.[49] As of May 2019, she and her husband were still living under aliases.[50]

In early 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) closed its investigation of the matter. The FBI identified four men who sent threats and obtained confessions from two of them, one of whom stated that they had sent the threat as a "joke" but "understood that it was a federal crime to send a threatening communication to anyone and will never do it again". The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts declined to prosecute, giving no specific reason. Reacting to the report, Wu stated the FBI did not care about the investigation and that she was "livid".[51] In the wake of the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting, however, she said that the FBI needs dedicated agents who understand online culture (8chan in particular).[52][53]

In August 2021, The Washington Post reported that "despite the attempts to discredit her, wreck her career and destroy her sense of safety, Wu has now become a vocal proponent of forgiveness for those who apologize and show they have grown." However, "insults and continued harassment" still outnumbered apologies "10-to-1".[54]

Wu said that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the harassment.[54]

References

  1. ^ Wu, Brianna [@Spacekatgal] (July 6, 2015). "Today is my birthday. A year ago, we'd just shipped R60 - and I was looking forward to a less stressful year. Then Gamergate happened" (Tweet). Retrieved September 3, 2018 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Wu, Brianna [@Spacekatgal] (July 22, 2018). "I'm 41, jerkface" (Tweet). Retrieved September 3, 2018 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ Orlando, Alexandra (November 9, 2016). "Interview with Brianna Wu". First-Person Scholar. University of Waterloo Games Institute & IMMERSe. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  4. ^ Mantilla, Karla (August 31, 2015). Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 255. ISBN 9781440833182.
  5. ^ Teitell, Beth; Borchers, Callum. "GamerGate anger at women all too real for gamemaker". The Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  6. ^ Brianna Wu, post December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Starr, Michelle (July 30, 2014). "Revolution 60: A game by and about badass women". CNET. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Isometric podcast". 5by5 Studios. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "Massachusetts Primary Election Results". The New York Times. September 6, 2018. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Dewey, Eliza (April 10, 2019). "Experts Debate Warren's Big Tech Break-Up Idea". WGBH-TV. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Fox, Jeremy C. (April 28, 2020). "Brianna Wu ends bid to unseat Rep. Stephen Lynch, citing coronavirus" The Boston Globe.
  12. ^ a b Whitford, David (2015). "Brianna Wu vs. the Gamergate Troll Army". Inc. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  13. ^ "About Brianna Wu". Brianna Wu. Brianna Wu. Archived from the original on December 12, 2016. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c "Depth takes a holiday with Amanda Warner and Brianna Wu". The New Disruptors. Glenn Fleishman. July 24, 2014. Archived from the original (podcast) on April 23, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  15. ^ Wu, Brianna (April 11, 2013). "Choose your character: Faced with change, an all-female indie dev team evolves to a higher form". The Magazine. No. 14. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  16. ^ Wu, Brianna; Dow, Georgia; Sargent, Mikah; Lubitz, Steve (April 18, 2016). "#1. We Crashed The Isometric Starship". Disruption (Podcast). Relay FM. Retrieved November 27, 2016.{{cite podcast}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Weigel, David (August 13, 2020). "The Trailer: The path ahead for Kamala Harris". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  18. ^ a b Martens, Todd (August 13, 2014). "The women behind the sci-fi adventure 'Revolution 60' work for gender parity". Southern Illinoisan.
  19. ^ Montanez, Angelina (March 26, 2013). "The 10 best indie games of Pax East 2013". Evolve. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  20. ^ LeBlanc, Steve (December 23, 2016). "After online threats, gaming engineer plans run for Congress". WJTV. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  21. ^ Sue O'Connell and Alison King, "Meet the 2018 Massachusetts Primary Candidates", NECN, August 10, 2018. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  22. ^ Wu, Brianna [@Spacekatgal] (January 2, 2017). "My message for Stephen Lynch is simple. You've never had a primary fight to represent District 8. Well, I'm about to give you one" (Tweet). Retrieved January 2, 2017 – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "Steve Lynch on Abortion". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  24. ^ Wirzbicki, Alan (March 10, 2010). "Gay-marriage advocates praise Lynch". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  25. ^ McNerney, Kathleen; Chakrabarti, Meghna (February 27, 2017). "Game Developer Brianna Wu On Why She's Running For Congress". WBUR-FM. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  26. ^ a b Knibbs, Kate (March 13, 2017). "Brianna Wu Wants to Play a New Game". The Ringer. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  27. ^ Tran, Susan (February 27, 2017). "Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu Responds to Threats". NBC Boston. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  28. ^ Larson, Selena (December 21, 2016). "GamerGate critic Brianna Wu to run for Congress". CNNMoney. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  29. ^ Cox, Anna (March 15, 2017). "Brianna Wu Wants to Change the Democrats' Playbook". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  30. ^ Greenwood, Max (February 28, 2017). "Dem congressional candidate warns of 'militarization of space'". The Hill. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  31. ^ Kriss, Sam (April 5, 2017). "The Patriarchy Hates the Moon". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  32. ^ Wilson, Jason (November 1, 2017). "Brianna Wu's Congressional run appears to be the first to campaign on Twitch". VentureBeat. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  33. ^ n/a, n/a (September 4, 2018). "2018 Primary Election Results". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  34. ^ "Massachusetts Primary Election Results". The New York Times. September 4, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  35. ^ Wu, Brianna (March 17, 2019). "Senator Warren is onto something: The best way to protect the tech industry is to break it up". Opinion. The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  36. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie (November 23, 2018). "Brianna Wu is Coming Back for 2020". Capital Source. The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  37. ^ a b Wingfield, Nick (October 15, 2014). "Feminist critics of video games facing threats in 'GamerGate' campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  38. ^ Bahadur, Nina (August 28, 2014). "One woman's amazing response to sexism in the tech industry". HuffPost. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  39. ^ a b Teitell, Beth; Borchers, Callum (October 29, 2014). "GamerGate anger at women all too real for gamemaker". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  40. ^ Hart, Andrew (October 11, 2014). "Game developer Brianna Wu flees home after death threats". HuffPost. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  41. ^ a b Sreenivasan, Hari (October 16, 2014). "#Gamergate leads to death threats against women in the gaming industry". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved October 20, 2014. That sparked a campaign that came to be dubbed GamerGate, highlighting perceived corruption among video game journalists. From there, GamerGate has grown to include outright harassment of women like Quinn and Sarkeesian who work in or critique the industry. Threats on Twitter even forced Brianna Wu, another game developer, to leave her Boston area home after her address was made public.
  42. ^ Beres, Damon (December 2, 2014). "#GamerGate Harasses Brianna Wu After She Tweets About Her Dead Dog". HuffPost. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  43. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (October 16, 2014). "What is #GamerGate and why are women being threatened about video games?". Time. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  44. ^ Singal, Jesse (October 20, 2014). "The Gamergate controversy". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  45. ^ a b Takahashi, Dean (February 9, 2015). "Brianna Wu speaks up about death threats and personal cost of opposing #GamerGate". VentureBeat. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  46. ^ Eisen, Andrew (October 31, 2014). "Harassed Game Dev Setting Up Legal Defense Fund For Harassed Women". GamePolitics.com. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  47. ^ Cox, Carolyn (October 31, 2014). "Brianna Wu Setting Up A Legal Defense Fund For Women Targeted By Gamergate". The Mary Sue. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  48. ^ Levy, Karyne (November 6, 2014). "Woman Who Left Her Home Because Of 'Gamergate' Death Threats Is Offering A Reward For Information". Business Insider. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  49. ^ Bray, Hiawatha (March 8, 2015). "Brianna Wu makes stand at PAX East". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  50. ^ I., D. (April 3, 2019). "The vile experiences of women in tech A book excerpt and interview with Emily Chang, author of "Brotopia"". The Economist: Open Future. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  51. ^ Edwards, Jim (February 16, 2017). "FBI's 'Gamergate' file says prosecutors declined to charge men believed to have sent death threats — even when they confessed on video". Business Insider. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  52. ^ Garsd, Jasmine (April 29, 2019). "Site's Ties To Shootings Renew Debate Over Internet's Role In Radicalizing Extremists". Site's Ties To Shootings Renew Debate Over Internet's Role In Radicalizing Extremists. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  53. ^ Zakrzewski, Cat (April 29, 2019). "California synagogue shooting puts fringe site 8chan in spotlight". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  54. ^ a b Anders, Caroline (August 5, 2021). "GamerGaters inundated her with death threats. Now some are apologizing — and she forgives them". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved August 8, 2021.

External links