Game Developer Brianna Wu On Why She's Running For Congress13:01

Brianna Wu at WBUR (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Brianna Wu at WBUR (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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Brianna Wu is a game developer and one of the highest profile targets of online harassment. Back in 2014, she received violent rape and death threats during GamerGate, an online movement that harassed women in the gaming industry.

Now Wu is speaking out again — but this time it's in the realm of politics. She's launched a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch in Massachusetts' 8th Congressional District.


Brianna Wu, head of development at game developer Giant Spacekat who is running for Congress in the Massachusetts 8th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Rep. Stephen Lynch. She tweets @Spacekatgal.

Interview Highlights

On why she's entering politics

"A lot of people don't know this about me but actually I started in politics. My very first job out of college was interning for a local senator [Trent Lott (R-MS)] It was a long time ago. This is back in the [1990s]. I don't vote that way anymore. But really it's a return to my original passions. I kind of went out, worked in tech for a few years, but I just feel like I can't sit out this what's happening in our country right now."

On why she's running against Rep. Stephen Lynch

"My frustration with Stephen Lynch has been going on for quite a while. I think most people would agree with me when I say he's a very very conservative Democrat here in Massachusetts. I personally don't consider him a Democrat. I look at his background on voting for reproductive health care, I look at some of the bills he tried to pass about LGBT rights, and I personally think Massachusetts can do so much better. I think he doesn't stand for my values and the values of a lot of people here in our state.

... We keep looking at his record, my campaign, and there's this pattern that comes up where he is kind of on the right of an issue, and then when it becomes politically inconvenient for him to stay on the right of that issue, he kind of changes it. I don't think it's coincidence those positions changed once he decided to run for Senate which he was unsuccessful at.

We think and talk a lot in my campaign about what his focus seems to be and you can say whatever you want, but someone that really goes to bat and spends time in their career fighting for access for women to have reproductive healthcare, we just don't see that. And I feel very strongly we can improve on that."

On supporting unions

"I work in the tech industry and my husband works in biotech. He's head of IP for a company listed on the NASDAQ. And we have a lot of discussions in tech and biotech about the role of unionization in our industries. I think it's desperately needed in the game industry. I've never seen Stephen Lynch at any of our industry events talking about this. Or doing any work in this field. I don't doubt that [Lynch] came from the steel background and I think that is a useful background for unions and collective bargaining. But I feel strongly that can be improved on.

I also believe in unions and collective bargaining but I wanna bring that into the modern era. I want to get a bigger piece of the pie and rather than hang onto these industries that are shrinking in the U.S., like the steel industry, I want to incorporate tech workers, I want to incorporate game developers, I want to look at biotech and how can we all work on this together. I think he's working with the playbook I believe in, it's just an older playbook."

On why she can't advocate for her issues as co-founder of a company, rather than as a politician

"This is kind of coming back to my experience with harassment. There's no good way to have a 'Law & Order' episode made about you, but I've had a 'Law & Order' episode and a different show about my experiences being harassed as a woman in the game industry.

We did everything correctly. I worked with the police, we hired people at my company to document the things that were happening to us. We had press all over the world, done hundreds and hundreds of interviews, we did everything right and every system failed us. There's a story that came out just a few months ago documenting the depths of the FBI's failure.

I believe very strongly that we've hit an asymptote about what women asking the system to do will accomplish. And I don't think writing about it or speaking about it or talking to reporters about it is gonna get us much farther. I feel very strongly that Congress right now is 4 out of 5 men. And I think when we up that number and have more women represented in the legislative process, I think we'll get some of these problems solved a lot better cause I don't think asking the system to do the right thing works."

On the 8th District, where she's running

"We don't talk about where I live but I will say we will be living there by the end of the election. We have deep ties to District 8 through family.

... It's a really interesting district isn't it? You can be over there by South Station like kind of downtown Boston and that's part of it, yet you go over to Dedham where it's like gorgeous houses and like private airports out there. It's such a very diverse district and just to be really honest with you, cause that's how I roll as a software engineer, one thing we're going to have to do is to widen our message out ... What I'm known for nationally, my advocacy for feminism and women and online spaces and women entrepreneurs, that's not really gonna play well with the with those voters out in District 8 and kind of the suburbs of Boston that have a home and are really thinking more about the economy. So that's what we're really working to develop that wider economic message for those voters."

On her company, Giant Spacekat

"We have "Rev60" that came out originally. Then we had the special edition which was a really redone, remastered version of it ... Different versions of the core product. It was a huge bet by the way. The cost of it was just off the charts for indie games."

On her accomplishments and why they make her the right person to represent voters in Washington, D.C.

"I'm a reasonably accomplished journalist. I've worked as an investigative journalist, I've done crime beat stuff. To this day I write and speak all the time. And I do have to say if you worked in the game industry, you would know just how much work it's like. One game is such a massive accomplishment when you've got a small team doing it ...

I feel very strongly, something I've always looked for when we hire people at our company, I love people that don't take the straight and narrow to where they want to be. I love people that kind of have those life experiences that take them different places. So for me, I started off and I founded a company when I was 19, just like I was trying to follow after my father's footsteps who's a very successful entrepreneur. I worked in politics for a few years, I worked as a journalist for a few years, I worked doing various tech work for a few years, doing server infrastructure things. And I came back to here. And all of those experiences are what made me who I am today. So I'm very proud of that."

This article was originally published on February 27, 2017.

This segment aired on February 27, 2017.


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