Harassment and sexism can never be condoned in any form. However, in an industry where GamerGate was a worldwide controversy, you’d think that video game developers would be more sensitive to these matters.
That being said, though, the recent ArenaNet controversy shows that not every developer has taken away lessons from the controversy.
GamerGate itself was, ostensibly, about ethics in video game journalism. However, while that went on, a barrage of harassment and death threats permeated the industry. Most of this was focused on women in gaming. In short, while one of the most monumental moments in the industry was occurring, a vocal minority of trolls tried to tear the industry apart.
From that, many publications and developers were able to learn some hard lessons. Because of that, the industry came out stronger. Trolls were no longer given any slack, and women were given the respect they deserved in their positions.
That being said, though, it seems that trolls still have some form of foothold in the industry, as ArenaNet shows.
As we’ve already covered, Jessica Price was a narrative designer with the company, working on the Guild Wars franchise. On July 4, she explained the differences between writing for an MMO and writing for a more linear game. For the record, she has extensive experience in both.
That’s when things got ugly.
While there were plenty of people who found the information useful, the vocal minority – trolls – struck. They attempted to explain how she was wrong. They tried telling her how to do her job. She took the bait and called them out on it. One of her now-former colleagues stuck up for her, saying that as a male developer, similar things had never happened to him. It was down to Ms. Price’s gender.
The trolls got more vocal. ArenaNet fired both employees, but not before berating Ms. Price, according to her account. The company had billed itself as anti-sexist and anti-harassment. They promised that they’d protect employees from both.
They caved under a modicum of pressure.
Continuing The Cycle
This isn’t unique to ArenaNet. Sexism and harassment is still rife across the industry. However, major companies have managed to address things with their communities. It’s the smaller studios that are suffering. Trolls will always be vocal. The focus should be on our reactions to it.
Many would say to ignore the trolls. But it isn’t as simple as that. Developers need feedback to improve their games. Trouble is, trolls know this and attempt to hijack it regularly.
As ArenaNet shows, when mistakes are made, too many people can suffer. The community has come strides since the days of GamerGate. But we still have a ways to go.