Human Rights Arts & Film Festival Review: GTFO (USA, 2015)

It’s no secret that nerd culture has a problem with sexism. From last year’s #gamergate to the more-recent controversy around Allison Rapp, discourse in the games industry has been dominated by this ugly cultural intersection between woman and video games.

For those who haven’t been keeping tabs on things, GFTO is a reasonably effective primer as to why.

Directed by Shannon Sun-Higginson, the documentary is less interested the sensationalized-highlights of the last few years and more interested in sitting down with women throughout the gaming industry and giving you a firsthand look at the abuse and nonsense they have to deal with on a regular basis.

Developers like Brianna Wu, Rhianna Pratchett and Brenda Romero are represented, as are popular critics and writers like Maddie Myers, Leigh Alexander and Anita Sarkeesian. The film even devotes a healthy chunk of time to examining how sexist behavior pervades within the professional gaming community. It’s pretty generous in its scope and even as someone pretty familiar with the subject material, I ran up against scandals I hadn’t heard about before.

That said, the flip-side of this expansive scope is that the screen-time given to each figure feels a little lacking. The film feels more like a collection of anecdotes on sexism in gaming than it does a conclusive and nuanced documentation of the issue. GTFO is engaging stuff to be sure, but it never really extends beyond the sum of its parts.

The film was funded via Kickstarter and it shows. It lacks both the cinematic polish and narrative punch of other gaming docos like Indie Gaming: The Movie or The Story of Mojang. There’s a rough amateurism to the film but that’s not to say it blunts any of the arguments it sets out to make.

GTFO is unlikely to be the last word on sexism within the games industry and the culture around it but it’s a reasonable starting point.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Human Rights Arts & Film Festival is taking place from the 5th of May to the 8th of June. More info available here.