A prominent figure in the GamerGate online gaming controversy is a 20-year-old budding sketch comedian from southern Maine who publicly revealed his identity this week.

Jan Rankowski, in an interview with the social news website BuzzFeed, said he was featured in a YouTube video in January as Jace Connors, a macho gamer who claimed to be obsessed with game developer Brianna Wu. The video features a car crash, which the Connors character says happened on the way to Wu’s house.

The GamerGate controversy surfaced last summer as several female game developers received threats of rape and other violence via Twitter and in online videos. Wu, a co-founder of the Boston video game studio Giant Spacekat, became a target of harassment and death threats in October after she used her Twitter account to denounce members of the GamerGate movement for their harassment of other women in the gaming industry. Wu announced last week that her company will not exhibit at the upcoming PAX East video game convention in Boston. She said she was not satisfied that security could be provided for her and her employees.

In Rankowski’s video, the Connors character is heard screaming profanities at the top of his lungs while a shaky camera films an overturned car. Then, in writing scrolled across the screen, Connors says he was driving to Wu’s house to “expose” her as a “corrupt gamer” and calls himself a “gaming vigilante.” The video is hard to follow and is not labeled as parody or satire.

But in an interview with BuzzFeed published online Monday, Rankowski said that he was trying to parody “the over-the-top, super-hyper-macho armed GameGater.” He has since been harassed and has been “terrified” by the reaction to the video, he said.

“They realized I was making fun of them with those videos,” Rankowski was quoted as saying. “I started it as a joke, but it’s become far too real and I wish I could take it all back.”

Rankowski could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Family members contacted did not want to name the town where Rankowski lives.

Rankowski told BuzzFeed that he has been making videos as the character Jace Connors for about two years, with Sam Hyde, a founder of the edgy online satire group Million Dollar Extreme. Rankowski also said that his current employer required him to sign a form saying he wouldn’t make any more Jace Connors videos.

Rankowski began making films and video as a grammar schooler, including a film on the making of Japanese paper that he made when he was 11.

Rankowski’s name was in the news in 2004 when he was 9 and his parents sued the town of Falmouth. Rankowski, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, was being home-schooled at the time and his parents often brought him to use the playground at the town’s Plummer-Motz School, while it was in session.

The town banned Rankowski from using the playground with other students after complaints about his behavior. His parents filed a discrimination lawsuit against the town, but a Superior Court judge ruled that the town had not discriminated against the youngster. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier

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