Gaming Editor James Law argues that angry online mobs continue to stagnate the games industry

Gaming Editor. Was told it's probably a good idea to change my bio from being a Garth Marenghi reference.
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Images by ArenaNet

ArenaNet, the studio in charge of Guild Wars 2 has fired writer and producer Jessica Price, as well as coworker Peter Fries, over comments made on social media that angered some fans of the game.

Price, on Twitter, posted this tweet.

ArenaNet writer Jessica Price tweets frustration about frequent negative interactions on social media

It was a response to the quoted tweet in which a player attempted to respond to Price’s point about characterisation in MMORPGs as opposed to single-player games. As can be clearly seen, Price took exception to the tone and content of the response. It appeared to many as an example of ‘mansplaining’ – the act of a man explaining their unwarranted point of view to a woman, deliberate or otherwise, without necessarily having expertise on the subject on par with the woman on the receiving end of the explanation. Price is an active user of Twitter, and frequently discusses the difficulties experienced as a woman in the games industry. It would appear that her employer saw this as a ‘last straw’, posting this on the Guild Wars 2 forums:

ArenaNet president Mike O'Brien announces the sacking of Jessica Price and Peter Fries

From this comment, it would appear that ArenaNet values the individuals who make their game less than they value the angry mobs that chase, harass, and otherwise make it more difficult for women to succeed and feel safe within the games industry. It’s easy to justify this by saying that Price’s tweets were unpleasant towards the company’s fanbase, but this argument is ridiculous. Women in games are constantly second-guessed, talked down to, and treated as if they are undeserving of their position, even though it’s so much harder for women to break into the industry, at every level. Price, and countless other women in games, deal with this constantly, but apparently responding negatively to a comment that was seen as patronising (whether or not it was intentional) is enough to get you fired.

It should be mentioned that the individual concerned, a streamer known as Deroir, apologised for the way the comment was received, but in doing so still failed to understand why Price was unhappy with what was said. Just because you don’t think it has ‘anything to do with gender’ doesn’t mean that your subconscious biases didn’t play a part in the comments you made. Also, regardless of the content of his response, it was too late. Mobs flooded inboxes and forums in the blink of an eye, demanding the ousting of Price for the heinous crime of speaking her mind (on her own Twitter account and all) and it worked.

Fellow writer Peter Fries was fired too. It seems that even bringing up the fact that the comments directed towards Jessica Price were unwarranted, as she never asked for that input, is unacceptable. No one has a right to your time. It doesn’t even matter how dismissive the response seemed – firing people for reasons like this sets a dangerous precedent (if it hasn’t already been set). It’s going to make people in the industry, particularly women and minorities, more susceptible to these angry online mobs, which is exactly the goal of such harassment and defamatory campaigns.

Gamer entitlement has to stop, before it ruins even more lives.


Update: Since the time of writing, this issue has snowballed. Women in games development have been harassed, and their employees have been contacted to attempt to capitalise on the disgusting treatment of Jessica Price. Responses have been incredibly toxic, with Reddit posts surfacing expressing jubilation for the harassment mob’s role in getting Price fired, indicating that this is not the last time we’ll see this happen. In fact, it looks like the ArenaNet firings have sparked the idea that this is even remotely acceptable.

ArenaNet firings lead to harassers and bigots becoming empowered and more overt.

There are an unnerving number of people justifying the firing of Price, and they have come after other developers. Narrative designer Hazel Monforton, who worked on critically acclaimed games such as the Dishonored series and Prey, was targeted for the crime of Being A Woman With Opinions Online.

Arkane Studios narrative designer Hazel Monforton targeted by harassers in the wake of the ArenaNet controversy.

Hopefully, other companies don’t take the stance of Mike O’Brien and ArenaNet. According to Monforton, Arkane are a better employer who wouldn’t make such a ridiculous decision at the whims of angry gamers. It’s vital that other studios take the same stance, and that we in the community support the decisions and work of those who aren’t capitulating to this alarming trend.

Oh and one last thing: this is why Monforton’s Twitter display name is ‘%FEMALENAME’.

ArenaNet aftermath: games studios receive requests for the sackings of female developers, but instead end up with the placeholder %FEMALENAME. Classic.

Because of course.

Fight back against these people. They’re dangerous. Don’t let them get leverage over you like they got leverage over ArenaNet.