Wu in 2015
|Born||West Virginia, United States|
|Occupation||CEO of Giant Spacekat, software engineer|
|Known for||Commentary on issues related to women in gaming|
Brianna Wu is an American video game developer and computer programmer. She co-founded Giant Spacekat, an independent video game development studio with Amanda Warner in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also a blogger and podcaster on matters relating to the video game industry, and is currently running for Congress.
Wu was born in West Virginia and raised in Mississippi by adoptive parents. 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. In 2003 she enrolled at the University of Mississippi, studying journalism and political science. At the age of 19, she 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. 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. 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.  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.
Wu is credited as head of development for her company Giant Spacekat's game, Revolution 60. It features female protagonists, said to echo the founders of the game studio. 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. The game, created with the Unreal Engine for a total budget of several hundred thousand dollars, was released for iOS devices in July 2014. In July 2013 Giant Spacekat ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Windows release of the game in addition to the iOS version. The fundraiser brought in $12,728, over 250% of the original $5,000 goal. Although the estimated delivery was August 2014, the Windows version was not released until September 2016.
Run for Congress
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 will not be challenging Rep. Katherine Clark of the 5th District, with whom she shares a suite of advocacy concerns, but rather Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of the 8th District, in an announcement she made on Twitter. Wu stated, in a radio interview, that Lynch did not sufficiently represent the Democrats, citing his positions on reproductive health care and LGTB rights. Wu also came out in favor of unions and collective bargaining. 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. Wu plans to move to the 8th District in order to challenge the incumbent Lynch.
Wu has also cited opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump and failures by Congress regarding technology as reasons for shifting from game development to politics, and more generally the failure of the contemporary Democratic Party to emotionally connect with its voters.
Professor Thomas Whalen of Boston University commented that the South Boston 8th district is traditionally conservative and Lynch is native to the area and has strong ties to labor unions, but thinks recent years of changing dynamics could help Wu. Meanwhile, David S. Bernstein, a long-time political reporter for Boston Magazine does not think Wu has a chance of unseating Lynch.
On Twitter in February 2017, Wu posted warnings about the militarization of space, along with 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.
In late October 2017, Wu used the streaming service Twitch.tv to raise awareness for her Congressional campaign. It 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.
In October 2014, Wu posted multiple tweets about Gamergate advocates, ridiculing them for "fighting an apocalyptic future where women are 8 percent of programmers and not 3 percent." 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. These threats have been widely attributed to Gamergate supporters. 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.
Along with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, Wu was one of the targets of GamerGate harassment. 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." Wu started a legal defense fund for women targeted by Gamergate. As of late 2014, the Wu family is also offering a cash reward for information leading to the prosecution of those who sent the death threats. 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. In March 2015, she said she had received 48 death threats during the previous six months.
In early 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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".
- Orlando, Alexandra (November 9, 2016). "Interview with Brianna Wu". First-Person Scholar. University of Waterloo Games Institute & IMMERSe. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
- Mantilla, Karla (August 31, 2015). Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 255. ISBN 9781440833182.
- Teitell, Beth; Borchers, Callum. "GamerGate anger at women all too real for gamemaker". Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
- "About Brianna Wu". Brianna Wu. Brianna Wu. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- Brianna Wu, post 7 December 2017. Accessed 13 December 2017.
- Starr, Michelle (July 30, 2014). "Revolution 60: A game by and about badass women". CNet. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- "Isometric podcast". 5by5 Studios. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
- LeBlanc, Steve (December 23, 2016). "After online threats, gaming engineer plans run for Congress". WJTV. Media General. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- "Depth takes a holiday with Amanda Warner and Brianna Wu" (podcast). The New Disruptors. Glenn Fleishman. July 24, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Wu, Brianna (April 11, 2013). "Choose your character: Faced with change, an all-female indie dev team evolves to a higher form". The Magazine (14). Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- 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.
- Martens, Todd (August 13, 2014). "The women behind the sci-fi adventure 'Revolution 60' work for gender parity". Southern Illinoisan.
- Montanez, Angelina (March 26, 2013). "The 10 best indie games of Pax East 2013". Evolve. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Bring Revolution 60 to PC and Mac!". Kickstarter. August 30, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Revolution 60 is out!". Kickstarter. September 6, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- 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.
- McNerney, Kathleen; Chakrabarti, Meghna (February 27, 2017). "Game Developer Brianna Wu On Why She's Running For Congress". WBUR-FM. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
- Knibbs, Kate (March 13, 2017). "Brianna Wu Wants to Play a New Game". The Ringer. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Tran, Susan (February 27, 2017). "Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu Responds to Threats". NBC Boston. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Larson, Selena (December 21, 2016). "GamerGate critic Brianna Wu to run for Congress". CNNMoney. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
- Cox, Anna (2017-03-15). "Brianna Wu Wants to Change the Democrats' Playbook". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Greenwood, Max (February 28, 2017). "Dem congressional candidate warns of 'militarization of space'". The Hill. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- Kriss, Sam (April 5, 2017). "The Patriarchy Hates the Moon". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Wilson, Jason (1 November 2017). "Brianna Wu's Congressional run appears to be the first to campaign on Twitch". VentureBeat. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
- Wingfield, Nick (October 15, 2014). "Feminist critics of video games facing threats in 'GamerGate' campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
- Bahadur, Nina (August 28, 2014). "One woman's amazing response to sexism in the tech industry". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Teitell, Beth; Borchers, Callum (October 29, 2014). "GamerGate anger at women all too real for gamemaker". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- Hart, Andrew (October 11, 2014). "Game developer Brianna Wu flees home after death threats". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- 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.
- Beres, Damon (December 2, 2014). "#GamerGate Harasses Brianna Wu After She Tweets About Her Dead Dog". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
- Elise, Abigail (October 13, 2014). "What Is The GamerGate Scandal? Female Game Developer Flees Home Amid Online Threats". International Business Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Dockterman, Eliana (October 16, 2014). "What is #GamerGate and why are women being threatened about video games?". Time. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
- Singal, Jesse (October 20, 2014). "The Gamergate controversy". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
- Takahashi, Dean (February 9, 2015). "Brianna Wu speaks up about death threats and personal cost of opposing #GamerGate". VentureBeat. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
- 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.
- Cox, Carolyn (October 31, 2014). "Brianna Wu Setting Up A Legal Defense Fund For Women Targeted By Gamergate". The Mary Sue. Abrams Media. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
- 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.
- Bray, Hiawatha (March 8, 2015). "Brianna Wu makes stand at PAX East". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
- 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.
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