By now, everyone has had more than enough time to process the matter of ArenaNet’s actions against two of the writers of Guild Wars 2, including the resultant blowback that still seems to be washing onward at the point of my writing this blog. As someone who likes to follow and write about MMOs and multiplayer games, there’s something of a compulsion to provide my own opinion on the whole sorry affair, but there’s also quite a lot of thoughts I would like to get off of my chest.
Before I begin, though, I do want to mention that links that I provide in this post are very likely going to direct to some unpleasant content, so if that’s a sensitive spot for you, then I implore you to not click any links in this post if that will cause you to be upset.
So, synopsis for anyone reading this who hasn’t been following along. Deroir, an apparently well-known and, by all accounts, reasonable and stand-up partnered streamer of Guild Wars 2, provided some of his own critique and impressions about the narrative of the game’s Living Story from the player character’s side of things. This was directed to one Jessica Price, a member of the ArenaNet Narrative Team, who had previously taken part in a Reddit AMA.
Price’s response was, to say the very least, rather aggressive as she vented a series of different tweets about her expertise in her field being called into question by a male and how it was just another day in the life of a female game dev. Deroir, for his part, appears to have made a good-faith attempt to disengage and even expressed regret.
Almost immediately, Price was beset by aggressive responses both in defense of Deroir’s line of questioning and the obtuse nature of her response, with most of these respondents presumably from various subreddits and not exclusively from the one dedicated to Guild Wars 2. Over the course of the affair, another writer by the name of Peter Fries came to the defense of Price in a sign of solidarity.
Shortly after the whole sordid affair went down, ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien had sacked the two writers in question, saying that they had “failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players” in the official statement on the GW2 forums.
Now we’re left with a number of people who are troubled and angry at ArenaNet’s response, two writers who are out of a job for some pretty flimsy reasons as recounted by Price herself in an interview, and a member of the MMO’s community that appears to have internalized a lot of what happened as a result of what must have seemed to him like an innocent piece of social media use.
Note that I’ve called them “leeches” instead of “sharks”, because comparing them to sharks assumes a level of predatory brilliance that these wastes of oxygen barely can comprehend, let alone possess.
If my recounting of events didn’t make my impressions plain, then allow me to lay them out. First off, I definitely feel that Price went flying off the handle, baring claws rather needlessly. That said, when I first witnessed the responses she had, I didn’t immediately bray for her blood so much as wonder if there wasn’t some conditioning to her response; some level of instinct that caused her to see a male’s impression and immediately go on the offensive.
Turns out, my instincts were right: Rock, Paper, Shotgun dredged up some history that showed Price had experienced levels of sexism and harassment in the tabletop gaming world during her time with Paizo Inc. working with the Pathfinder RPG. Further, her announcement of arriving to the GW2 team was almost immediately met with the usual, exhausting and wildly unoriginal “OMG NOT ANOTHER SJW” remarks.
With that said, I still stand behind the idea that Price should have kept a bit of a cooler head. Still, I feel that O’Brien made the wrong call in firing her and Fries, particularly since she warned ANet of the way she engages aggressors on Twitter and her previous job history. Ignoring Price’s prior problems with the obviously very real problem of sexism in gaming while bowing to the scary Reddit shitebeast wasn’t wise.
My good friend Roger of Contains Moderate Peril penned a good impressions blog about the matter and he suggested that Price create her own “off the clock” Twitter for moments where she has to vent. Which isn’t fair by any stretch, but seems to be the best idea considering the times game devs – especially women game devs – live in.
Still, that doesn’t make it right. The matter has absolutely got to be changed and the culture of both game companies and especially game fans needs to shape up. If O’Brien had hoped his moves would signal that Guild Wars 2 is a place of open discussion, he’s sorely wrong. If anything, he has signaled that enough loud, miserable and entitled shitfish can school together and swarm the company for any pathetic reason without management taking into consideration the whole picture.
This also must put a lot of pressure on O’Brien as well, who probably now is painted into a corner. If he sticks by his decision, he’ll be called out as a president of a game company who doesn’t stand behind its employees. If he reverses his decision, it will likely strike hollow to supporters of Price and anger the previously alluded-to shitfish.
That said, if the choice were between pissing off Redditors or proving goodwill and support of my employees, I know which one I’d choose.
Ultimately, all I’m left with is feeling sad. Sad for Price and Fries who dug in their heels and got burned for standing by their convictions. Sad for Deroir for lighting a tinderbox he doesn’t seem to have wanted to set aflame. And sad for the greater Guild Wars 2 community that will now likely bear the cross of this entire miserable episode. A cross that, apparently, wasn’t entirely built by their own hands.
That’s the biggest tragedy here. Even if I’m not a fan of Guild Wars 2, I’m a fan of a community that sticks together and forms bonds over a game. Clearly, this bunch of good apples needs to be pulled away from the bad, and the rotten apples tossed into the fucking sea.
If that opinion sounds miserably centrist to you, then I don’t know what to tell you. There are bare few winners here and I can’t help but feel sad for so many who got involved. All I can do is hope that this will really be a catalyst for change and not just wash away like so many other “Twitter outrages”. But I’m not holding my breath, sadly. Which is the worst part of it all.