Major gaming media outlets have been fabricating, misreporting and misconstruing the events surrounding the firings of Guild Wars 2 developers Jessica Price and Peter Fries. Many of these sites have purposefully misreported that a Reddit mob had harassed ArenaNet into firing Price and Fries, but ArenaNet CEO Mike O’Brien clarified that the two were fired for their open hostility toward the community and not simply because of the community consternation.
ArenaNet sent a statement with O’Brien’s comments to Polygon in an article they published on July 9th, 2018, explaining that the reason Price and Fries were fired was because of how they tied the reputation and representation of ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 to their Twitter conversation, but then began to berate customers and the community with open hostility…
“Jessica had identified herself as an ArenaNet employee on Reddit and Twitter, had been discussing Episode 3 storytelling with fans on Reddit, then had written a 25-part tweet about how we tell stories in MMOs, relating it back to Episode 3. She was representing the company. The expectation was to behave professionally and respectfully, or at least walk away. Instead, she attacked.
“[…] Whatever Jessica and Peter felt internally about the situation, this was objectively a customer engaging us respectfully and professionally, presenting a suggestion for our game. Any response from our company needed to be respectful and professional. A perceived slight doesn’t give us license to attack.”
Various websites – including the article that the quote was printed in – have sided with Price and Fries about their conduct, stating that they have carte blanche to respond anyway they please on their personal social media accounts. Many sites have also attempted to turn it into an issue about identitarianism and sexism.
In the article, Polygon’s Colin Campbell maintains the narrative about gendered bias in social media conversations, framing the narrative that because women are marginalized, it was wrong for ArenaNet to side with the customers.
The Polygon article also goes on to state that Price was a victim of harassment and internet social abuse and that “O’Brien’s statement contributed to the abuse”.
However, O’Brien explained that the social media chatter and Reddit blow-ups weren’t what caused Price and Fries to get fired, but it was how they handled the situation given the delicate balance required to maintain fans and buying customers to keep a product like Guild Wars 2 afloat. Without customers you don’t have a product. O’Brien stated…
“We’ve all dedicated our careers to entertaining people, to making games for the purpose of delighting those who play them. We generally have a wonderful relationship with our community, and that’s a point of pride for us. We want to hear from our players. It’s not acceptable that an attempted interaction with our company — in this case a polite game suggestion — would be met with open hostility and derision from us. That sets a chilling precedent.
“The tweets were made on July 4, when the studio was closed for the holiday. We were aware of them that day, and decided we’d need to take action in the morning. The fact that the community’s anger was escalating on July 5 could make it look like our action was a response to the community’s anger. But that wasn’t the case. We took action as soon as we practicably could.
“I hate to let an employee go, and I wish the best for Jessica and Peter, as for any former employee, in whatever they choose to do next.”
So far the media have been running with the narrative that the community can demand for developers to be fired and that studios will respond in kind, many of them continue to quote from a now-deleted Reddit post from a troll who claimed that any community who wants someone fired can just rally up a mob. The troll later came out and confessed that he made the post just to make the Guild Wars 2 community look bad because he hated the game and the community. The media unironically have been quoting from the post, even though it’s been deleted and even though it was designed to subvert the events that transpired.
Google, meanwhile, continues to promote websites pushing the false narrative, highlighting various articles that have woven a tale of harassment and victimization for Jessica Price. This is despite the fact that Google has supposedly vowed to fight “fake news” with their new GNews initiative, as reported by Digital Trends.
In the article “ArenaNet’s Firings Reinforced Gaming Culture’s Worst Impulses” by Julia Alexander and Ben Kuchera from July 10th, 2018 – which was published a day after ArenaNet’s Mike O’Brien issued the statement clarifying that the mob did not get Price and Fries fired – Kuchera and Alexander base the piece around the now-deleted Reddit troll post from user 5NightsAtUndert413 in order to spin a narrative that communities can get developers fired by being trollish.
As pointed out by Kotaku in Actin user AntonioofVenice, the Polygon article mistakenly links to another Reddit post from the same user 5NightsAtUndert413, where he admits that the entire post was a troll. If you click on the archive of the article right here, and then scroll down to the highlighted hyperlink in the image below…
…it will take you to the Reddit post where the user 5NightsAtUndert413 admits he made the post to troll the community.
This is in reference to the now-deleted post that 5NightsAtUndert413 made where he trolled that the community could now get anyone fired using mob tactics.
TL;DR: Guild Wars 2 developers Jessica Price and Peter Fries were fired for being openly hostile to the community. The media spun a narrative that Price was fired due to rampant sexism and harassment (according to the evidence this is not true). Polygon and other media outlets engaged in calumny by stating that the gaming community will “keep trying” to get developers fired, but in the case of Polygon they mistakenly linked to evidence proving that the person who made the comment was actually trolling.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)