A number of websites have been covering ArenaNet firing two of its developers from the Guild Wars 2 staff. The firings came after heated exchanges were made (from the developers) toward fans and Twitch partners who help promote Guild Wars 2 content. Some of these websites have been misreporting the event, attempting to convey it as an issue of sexism and harassment, while culling key evidence and framing a narrative to paint the developers as victims.
Here’s a quick recap: Guild Wars 2 developers Jessica Price and Peter Fries were engaged in Twitter spats with fans after Price made a public tweet thread about the troubles of narrative design in MMOs. Some Twitch streamers and gamers engaged in the conversation to discuss the topic, but Price shouted them down as “mansplaining” and proceeded to use pernicious language toward those attempting to engage her in conversation. After various Reddit threads with thousands of upvotes popped up notifying ArenaNet that their employees were being unnecessarily disrespectful to the community, ArenaNet CEO Mike O’Brien stepped in and announced that two of its developers were fired for breaking its community rules. Here is O’Brien’s exact statement…
“Recently two of our employees failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players. Their attacks on the community were unacceptable. As a result, they’re no longer with the company.
“I want to be clear that the statements they made do not reflect the views of ArenaNet at all. As a company we always strive to have a collaborative relationship with the Guild Wars community. We value your input. We make this game for you.”
O’Brien didn’t say who was fired, but most assumed it was Jessica Price and Peter Fries. Some outlets, however, attempted to redirect the blame toward ArenaNet by leaving out key tweets Price had made, while also framing the Guild Wars 2 community as “harassers”.
“In response, a fan and YouTuber going by Deroir spoke up, saying that while he appreciated the “insightful thread,” he disagreed with her assessment of the situation. He said he felt like the problem could be addressed with more dialogue options that let players choose how to express themselves.
“Price felt like Deroir overstepped his bounds. “Today in being a female game dev: ‘Allow me—a person who does not work with you—explain to you how you do your job,’” she tweeted, adding that she’d been working in narrative for a decade and didn’t need the concept of branching dialogue explained to her.
“It was, Price told Kotaku in an email, a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back moment. “By the time that guy came along, I was so tired of having random people explain my job to me in company spaces where I had to just smile and nod that it was like, ‘No. Not here. Not in my space,’” she said.”
Kotaku purposefully leaves out Price’s charged tweets, like the ones below.
like, the next rando asshat who attempts to explain the concept of branching dialogue to me–as if, you know, having worked in game narrative for a fucking DECADE, I have never heard of it–is getting instablocked. PSA.
— Jessica Price (@Delafina777) July 4, 2018
Sure, dude. Now get out of my fucking feed with your assumptions and your entitlement to my time.
— Jessica Price (@Delafina777) July 4, 2018
Buzzfeed approached the situation in a similar manner, painting Price as a victim, and neglected to include the insults she hurled at the Guild Wars 2 community. Instead Buzzfeed writer Rachael Krishna quotes others who defended Price, writing…
“Much of the criticism of Price has been compared to that received by women involved in Gamergate.
“Many of those who sided with Price called for a boycott of the game series.
[…] “ Like many supporters of Price and Fries, [Tanya] DePass [from I Need Diverse Games] said she felt the behaviour of ArenaNet was symptomatic of some bigger issues in the gaming industry.
“The games industry has learned nothing from letting the ‘fans’ drive interactions and letting them do and say as they want because they paid $60 and up for a game. This “consumer is always right” mentality isn’t OK, and it will hurt the industry.”
Actually, there has never been any cited evidence that #GamerGate ever targeted developers or women in particular, and both Women Action Media!, and the FBI report were unable to find any actionable evidence to conclude that #GamerGate was ever a harassment campaign.
The Buzzfeed headline also states that “People are Uninstalling This Game After It Fired A Woman Developer” but doesn’t provide any figures since none are available for Guild Wars 2’s player base. The article does, however, ignore the data from Steam Charts that shows that over the last 30 days there’s been an uptick in players for the original Guild Wars.
Buzzfeed also opted not to include Price’s tweet where she made it known that anyone who disagreed with her was getting blocked, and that she didn’t care about the feelings of people she was interacting with negatively.
The attempts of fans to exert ownership over our personal lives and times are something I am hardcore about stopping. You don’t own me, and I don’t owe you.
— Jessica Price (@Delafina777) July 4, 2018
Even the top comments on the Buzzfeed article call them out for misrepresenting the story and providing misleading details to frame the narrative in support of Price.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Graham Smith makes his biases known in the very first paragraph, writing…
“ArenaNet have fired two Guild Wars 2 writers for tweets they made this past week. In doing so, they’ve thrown their lot in with players and harassers who make unreasonable demands of game developers. Good work, ArenaNet”
Unlike Kotaku and Buzzfeed, at least Rock, Paper, Shotgun does include all of Price’s tweets, and includes the context for the tweets.
However, Smith goes on to defend Price and Fries at every turn, blaming the community and the fans for Price’s behavior…
“ArenaNet’s decision to fire both Price and Fries re-inforces that standard: if you are a game developer and you are regularly patronised and harassed, then you should stay silent. If you speak out against that treatment – or even simply defend a colleague who is speaking out and asking that they be treated with respect – then that constitutes “attacks on the community” and you will be fired, because ArenaNet value the community more than their developers no matter how that community acts.”
GeekWire’s Thomas Wilde also misreports on the matter, citing data from Brianna Wu that ignores the thousands of Guild Wars 2 community members on Reddit, in order to create a conspiracy that Twitter sockpuppet accounts were responsible for convincing ArenaNet to fire the developers…
“Follow any number of developers on Twitter, past or present, independent or mainstream, and you can often see Monforton’s point in action. There’s a big gulf between developers and players, which has often led to players assuming they know more about how games are made than they do.
“Further, the response to Price’s initial tweet and the number of respondents to it appear to have been vastly inflated by an Internet sockpuppet brigade, made and motivated by a relatively small group of players on the subreddit. Congressional candidate and games developer Brianna Wu claims that most of the correspondents to Price’s Twitter were throwaway accounts, typically used for organized harassment campaigns such as this.”
In actuality, a majority of the pushback came from the Guild Wars 2 sub-reddit, where thousands of gamers made it known that they did not appreciate Price’s behavior online.
Two of the top Reddit threads on the subject had thousands of upvotes and comments, so unless there’s some data proving they’re all sockpuppets, there is no factual data or evidence to back up GeekWire’s claims.
And that’s not including all of the other posts across Reddit on a number of other sub-Reddits and forum boards.
Paste Magazine’s Garrett Martin – a former member of the GameJournoPros, the infamous group that heralded the narrative that #GamerGate was a harassment campaign – also jumped to Price’s defense, leaving out some key material and painting ArenaNet in a negative light, writing…
“So Price was outspoken in defending herself from a Twitter user’s sexism (no matter how unintentional it might’ve been), and Fries vocally supported her, and as a result both lost their job. Sure, that’s ArenaNet’s decision to make, but it’s a really bad one, for a number of reasons. Not only does it punish Price for standing up for herself, and Fries for defending a coworker, effectively telling women that they have to worry about speaking out against sexism when they encounter it. It also emboldens ArenaNet’s most vocal critics, the players who threatened to stop supporting the game if the company didn’t give in to their demands and fire two employees over something that shouldn’t even be seen as an offense, much less a fireable one.”
Multiple outlets have also referenced a deleted comment from Reddit about how the community can get people fired on a whim. The comment was downvoted and deleted, but the press have been using it as a way to paint the Guild Wars 2 community in a negative light. This is despite the fact that the original poster has clarified that he made the comment to troll the Guild Wars 2 community, as chronicled in a post on Kotaku in Action.
The Verge also sided with Price, giving her a platform to snidely take shots at ArenaNet’s CEO Mike O’brien, where she told the outlet…
“He fired me personally, and the meeting was mostly him venting his feelings at me. I understand being afraid when you see the Reddit mob coming for you, but if people with less power can weather it — and we do, regularly — so can he.”
The Verge’s Megan Farokhmanesh also further condemned the gaming audience, claiming that this enforces “toxic” fans, writing…
“ArenaNet’s swift action to fire both Price and Fries sends a disturbing message to its fans, and especially its most toxic ones: that their power is directly correlated to how loud they yell. It’s a worrying precedent for anyone interested in working for ArenaNet, but especially those in marginalized communities that are more likely to face blowback and harassment from the worst parts of its fanbase.”
What’s worse is that — with the exception of a few sites like Niche Gamer — Google seems to be putting many of the websites with the most blatant factual misinformation front and center on the carousel and the GNews coverage page, blatantly pushing fake news into the news stream.
What’s more is that none of the websites defending Price have even mentioned her history of engaging with the community in an almost constant tone of aggression and negativity, as evidenced with her Twitter diatribe on Infinity War and the backlash directed to anyone who disagreed with her assessment. And that’s also not to mention the insensitive postmortem comments she directed at the late YouTuber, TotalBiscuit.
The kindest thing I can say is “I’m glad he’s no longer around to keep doing harm.” https://t.co/W5klAk4avX
— Jessica Price (@Delafina777) May 25, 2018
All of this played a role in Guild Wars 2 fans becoming soured on the developer’s behavior and constant negativity aimed at fans while hiding behind the shield of “sexism” and “misogyny”. Price has a history for this kind of behavior, which the pro-Price media pieces all purposefully leave out of the reporting, even going so far as to devise conspiracies about Twitter sockpuppets being used to orchestrate harassment against her.
We’ve also been seeing this same sort of behavior from many creators in the Battlefield V camp, in the Naughty Dog camp, in the Star Wars camp, and even the Sony camp. In fact, this exact kind of situation is what helped spawn #ComicsGate, where fans have been repeatedly castigated by creators and media outlets when pushing back against the sociopolitical propaganda peddled by the creators.
This sort of blatant disregard for the fandom and constant attacks and belittling of consumers has certainly reached a boiling point. This was the one rare case where a company fired employees for bringing a lot of negative attention to their product. However, due to the media’s alliances with identitarianism on the Left, they have opted to misreport the facts and misrepresent the situation in order to uphold the SocJus narrative.
Now to their credit, Polygon and Eurogamer — while still slanted — at least provided some of the least biased coverage of the event and avoided misrepresenting the data to any large extent in order to push a narrative.