Fired ArenaNet dev calls dismissal 'an active solicitation of harassment'

Former Guild Wars 2 narrative designer Jessica Price, who was unceremoniously fired from ArenaNet last week in the wake of a social media exchange with a content creator partner, has spoken out about her dismissal in a lengthy Twitter thread. Price criticized the way her firing was announced, a process she described as "an escalation" of the situation and an "active solicitation of harassment." 

Here's Price's unedited statement, collected from Twitter for easier reading: 

"Hi, everyone. I've got a thing to say and then I'm going back off Twitter for a bit because I've had a vacation planned for a while and I intend to take it to the fullest. You can respond if you want, but I've got any notifications from people I don't follow muted, and I'm not going to check responses. If you're a legit industry/press person and want to get in contact, we have mutual networks through which you can do that.

Here's the thing you should be noting if you're a game dev: 

Much of the narrative around this has been around 1) that I was fired; and 2) whether there was warning/discussion. That's missing a big portion of this. So let's talk about not how I was fired, but how it was announced. The announcement was an escalation. The company could have chosen to say 'their remarks don't represent the company, we don't agree with what they said, and they're no longer with the company.'

That's not what they did. They framed an interaction on my personal social media in which I told a few individuals who (I thought) were being assholes that I wasn't on the clock and wasn't going to feign affection for people who are being assholes as 'attacks on the community.'   

They knew—or at least had a responsibility to know, in 2018—what would happen to a female game dev who was fired in response to an exchange about sexism. It would have been bad enough if they had just fired me and announced I was fired. But they *escalated.* They pointed to Peter and me as Enemies Of The Community. That wasn't just firing us and, oh well, if they get harassed, them's the breaks. That was active solicitation of harassment. And their silence in condemning the harassment is profoundly telling.

ArenaNet president Mike O'Brien's statement on the Guild Wars 2 forums.

There was a fair amount of criticism directed at major game companies in 2014-2015 for not standing up for their female/marginalized employees, but their failure their was passive. None of them *escalated* the harassment of developers in this way. They were aware that I was going to get deluged with threats, harassment, etc. The firing wasn't the punishment—the use of the mob was. And I'm not sure what they can possibly do to reassure their employees—let alone every other dev in the industry, whose backs they've painted targets on--that they won't use the mob to punish any employee who they feel has gotten too uppity.   

Oh, one more thing. Mike O'Brien's most recent statement reduces my contribution to GW2 to one scene from one episode. Given how often women's work is erased or minimized, that's especially egregious. So, for the record: Everything in GW2 is made by a team. There's no content that's made by one person. But in terms of *influence*: the entire season is mine. I led the season story breaking meetings, I led the episode outlining meetings, and every line of dialogue went through me. Everything you've seen of the story so far this season is my work, and you're going to be seeing my work in it for a long time. 

A bunch of the content you'll be seeing is also work led by women: female team and game design leads, female writing leads, female cinematics leads. It's the best content GW2 has produced. Women in this industry lead, and aren't going anywhere. (I'm not going to name them because I don't want to direct the mob at them.) 

Anyway, if you're a dev in this industry, take a very careful look at what ArenaNet has done, and get a guarantee from your management that they're not going to do it to you." 

The controversy surrounding the dismissal of Price and her coworker Peter Fries also prompted a response from the International Game Developers Association, which earlier this week called on its members "to clarify the guidelines and expectations around social media use, both in professional and personal accounts."

"Game developers are also frequently targeted for harassment, particularly if they are members of under-represented communities," it said in a blog post. "Companies must plan for how they will support their staff members in the event of online harassment, and should clearly communicate the resources they will make available to their team to have safe, productive, and positive interactions online, especially if they are expected to do so in their roles." 

The IGDA laid out a list of questions for developers to ask, and companies to answer, regarding social media policy in work-related and personal environments, how companies will protect their employees from online harassment mobs, and what "calibration/discipline/monitoring procedures" are in place to ensure proper understanding, compliance with, and enforcement of policies. 

In an email to PC Gamer, ArenaNet said it had no comment on Price's statement.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.