Two developers for the game studio ArenaNet have been fired following a spat with fans online. The company produces Guild Wars 2, a multiplayer online role-playing game.
Kotaku reports that the two fired employees are Jessica Price and Peter Fries. The incident began when Price responded derisively on Twitter to a fan suggesting that characters in Guild Wars 2 should have more dialogue options.
“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 wrote.
Price told Kotaku in an interview that she was expressing frustration at constant demands made by players, and the frequent implicit sexism of their criticism of female designers.
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The response—in particular, its implication that gender was at issue—sparked backlash, including demands that Price be punished or fired. According to Kotaku, some of the backlash took place in online venues associated with Gamergate, a loose movement that has repeatedly coordinated harassment campaigns against women in the gaming industry. Fries was also targeted, reportedly because he defended Price on Twitter.
On Thursday, ArenaNet appeared to take the side of Price’s critics. In a post to the official Guild Wars 2 forum, ArenaNet CEO Mike O’Brien wrote that “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.” The post did not name Price and Fries, but Kotaku confirmed their firing.
Observers within the gaming industry say the move sets a number of troubling precedents, including blurring the line between game developers’ private social media accounts and their role as employees. Price told Kotaku she also believes it puts ArenaNet at a disadvantage in dealing with its demanding playerbase.
“The message is very clear,” Price said, “Especially to women at the company: If Reddit wants you fired, we’ll fire you.”