|tanithryudo (tanithryudo) wrote,|
@ 2018-07-12 09:11:00
|Entry tags:||articles, games, guild wars, work|
My thoughts on the ANet firing JP drama
DISCLAIMER: In case it needs to be said, this post is 100% my own opinions, and does not represent any other person, organization, or cause.
So, for those who haven't been paying attention to Anet, here's an extremely short summary of what happened. Jessica Price was a narrative designer for GW2, who most recently participated in an AMA on the GW2 reddit on Monday Jul 2. Over the days of Jul 3-4 she had some rude words with two youtube streamers (who are also ANet partners) and vented some rage on her twitter. At some point, her colleague Peter Fries chimed in on twitter in her defense. This immediately blew up on reddit throughout Jul 4, reaching a peak of outrage by the 5th, before ANet president Mike O'brien announced that both employees were fired.
Since then, I've seen reddit mostly take this self-congratulatory / self-satisfied tone, with an occasional meme thrown around still even after the topic threads has died down. There were also a lot of people digging up various social media posts from Price's past as evidence of how she's a generally toxic person and thus good riddance to her. Meanwhile, various general game media outlets have been turning up articles taking up Price's side of things, denouncing ANet for caving in to an sexist internet lynch mob. As a response to that, I've seen another slew of various youtube videos from various game streamers defending ANet's decision and calling the media fake news.
I'll leave it here with an article from Polygon which is representative of what's been seen in the general press, and which also contains another further official response from ANet's Mike O'Brien near the bottom of the article. As well, here's Price's most recent words on the whole issue, as well as a post from someone who I think does a better job of explaining where she's coming from.
So, as I had some taken days off last week to chill around the holidays, I was kinda online when this whole storm brewed up, and I have since then been reserving judgment on the whole issue, mostly because - honestly - I can get where both sides were coming from. Maybe it's because I work with a lot with customers of all kinds in the services industry, and also interface on behalf of customers with devs. I have spent a lot of time picking and choosing my words when dealing with - often unhappy - customers, and being able to read between the lines of emails to prevent things from escalating.
Looking at just the original thread with Deroir that started the PR disaster, I can see how it can be taken as condescending to someone who has been getting the same kind of thing all the time. The way Deroir's initial response is worded contains no questions, and doesn't couch things as a suggestion even. It starts with a command ("allow me to..."), then follows with an opinion (which is fine), then offers his solution. Yes, the words are polite. Yes, if someone was not looking for fault in it, it's fine. But if someone has been hearing similar words before out of many different mouths in a condescending tone, then it's easy to take offense at it.
The continuation of that thread was just both sides escalating. Price shoots back a sarcastic one liner indicating her offense. Deroir appears to back off, but does it with a passive aggressive parting shot. Yeah, a lot of people claim how he's still being so polite. But no, I've seen enough of that kind of wording - heck, occasionally used it myself - not to grok the difference.
Yet... yet, I really don't think this whole thing up to then was a case of sexism, even subconscious sexism, as Price had taken it to be, and I think that part is her predisposition bias warping her perspective on the whole thing, and escalating things out of hand. Honestly, Deroir's attempt to condescend to her is no different from any of the sheer amount of condescending "suggestions" that can be found throughout GW2 reddit, on every aspect of the game, and directed to any and all devs that dare peek into the forum. Price got the response because she was a dev who posted online, period, not because she was a female dev. I'm 100% sure if it had been a male dev who posted some random article explaining some part of game dev on their twitter, it would have also similarly had various responses demanding or "suggesting" that such and such a change should be made. Now, it may well be that all of the previous instances where Price had someone similarly condescend to her was sexism, I don't know the context there, but that doesn't mean that all subsequent instances are automatically the same either.
Anyway, that particular thread by itself, while it probably would have riled up some of the GW2 fandom, probably wouldn't have caused any lasting consequences on its own. But the other threads I originally referenced steadily and tragically escalated things.
So, the conversation with MMOInks... First of all, I noted that most youtube/reddit articles which referenced it tends to place it occurring after the original thread with Deroir, implying that Price's initial post on that thread was meant to be a backhanded criticism of Deroir. But, if that's the case, then I would also heavily suspect Inks' response to the initial post as a passive-aggressive defense of Deroir, and naturally things went downhill from there.
However, the actual timestamps on the thread seem to indicate that this conversation took place before the original thread with Deroir. If that's the case, then wow, it's a horrifying trainwreck of two people just talking completely past each other. Price very clearly tried to start a conversation about her frustration over sexism, if perhaps with a less than stellar metaphor (but then most people don't do a deep philosophical dive before making casual metaphors, really).
Inks...comes across to me as trying to get more gossip on whatever incident triggered Price's outburst, but in a back-handed way which can also come across as being an apologetic for the hypothetical sexist incident. His later comment "I'd rather not assume someone is sexist, rather that it was criticism valid or not" -- made me quite uncomfortable, because it makes the assumption that someone can't be sexist if they have a valid point, and/or it's more important for one to be "right" than whether or not one is sexist (or, bluntly, being "right" absolves/excuses one of sexist behavior). Further, he seems to be completely unaware of that implication which can be drawn from his comments.
Price, not wanting to explain it, tells him to leave her feed. He...doesn't (which I suppose is his...not right, but capability, certainly). And the conversation just keeps going where I'm at the point where I'm facepalming at people who can't let go of things without "getting in the last word". His words are polite, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come across as offensive to someone who was (1) not trying to have the conversation he was and (2) didn't want to further engage with him.
Unfortunately, to end the conversation, Price went the route of blunt profanity to cut things off. Now, if Inks had even been a random GW2 fan, I don't think this by itself would've been an issue either. But just like Deroir, Inks is an official ANet partner. Which means, regardless of who was in the right or who had a point, just the language that Price used would have guaranteed her getting in trouble with Anet at that point.
Anyway, from that point onward, it seemed like the dam had broken, and the two subsequent threads Price raised both contained derogatory name-calling (seemingly directed at the entire GW2 online fanbase since there are a lot of people who have and will try to tell devs how to do their job online and believe it's their right to do so besides...and honestly, in this age of social media, they're right) and bold claims that her twitter is personal not a space for fan-engagement. That latter thread I'm as baffled by as many others reviewing the whole debacle, because that's just not how public social media forums like twitter work. That former thread... yes, the wording constitutes an "attack on the community", even if Price apparently sees it as being directed to a "few individuals" that she was having problems with at the time.
With regards the actual firing by ANet on Jul 5, I'm not surprised by that outcome, even though it may be harsher than I would prefer, if Price's claims on various interviews are true about not having been warned previously about her social media behavior before. It has nothing to do with sexism, and may or may not have to do with the reddit explosion, but everything to do with professionalism.
If Price wanted to keep her twitter separate from work, she needed to keep it separate from work - no announcing "ArenaNet Narrative team" on her profile, no discussing GW2 work on her posts (especially directly referencing an AMA where she had engaged fans previously), not engaging GW2 partners on it (just walk away or block them), and preferably even an announcement somewhere on the front page/profile announcing that all comments are her own views and that it has nothing to with her work.
(This is why whenever I post something about work, whether it's just blowing off steam or even describing a random anecdote, I lock the post.) In this day and age, it should be taken as a matter of fact that anything you say on the public internet can affect your employment. It has nothing to do with sexism or any kind of -ism. It doesn't even necessarily have to do with caving to the internet mob (though, of course, it certainly could be a factor). It's just "Business As Usual" and legal "Cover Your A$$". I don't believe Mike O'Brien's official words on the matter are anything more than the straightforward, face-value, corporate-speak that's shown.
Also, wrt to Price's claims about how ANet had hired her with false promises of protecting employees right to speak out... I think that is another place where Price is just talking (or listening, rather) past the other person. I am 100% sure that when ANet HR talked about protecting employees from harassment and encouraging employees to boldly speak their minds, they're talking about unprovoked harassment, and civil discourse on controversial topics. It is absolutely ridiculous to expect them to defend employees that attack. That's just not how the world works.
I mean, Price didn't even given them any outs to defend her with! The more she talked and kept going on twitter, the more posts she made on the topic, just makes it harder for PR to spin and recover for her. They could have fixed it after just the initial thread Deroir, before she made the subsequent posts calling people "rando asshats". They could have fixed it after the initial posts with Inks, before she started using profanity. But, Price didn't stop there. She essentially gave ANet to have no choice to either resort to drastic measures (as they did), or be seen as tacitly endorsing her attacks on the community and business partners.
And as to the accusation of ANet "caving" to the mob...uh, yes, and so? I mean, any business that's largely dependent on a customer base has to be sensitive to the mood of said customers, especially to moods that open up possibilities of litigation or brand damage (which is how this differs from all the times reddit raged about gameplay or balance changes). Like, restaurants and retail stores and any services industry will likely fire an employee if there are several customers complaining about them, never mind having verbally abused even one customer. (I have known people punished or fired because they forgot to put their phone on mute when they decided to express their frustration or joke around with a colleague while their customer is still in a bad mood.) It's nothing personal; it's how businesses work.
Now, all that said... even if I don't think ANet's response had anything to do with sexism, and I don't think Deroir's original conversation was sexist... that doesn't mean there's a problem with sexism in this issue, and no, not because Price was the one who brought it up, as some people claim. When I was originally made aware of this whole issue by the outbursts filling the front page of reddit, when I was reading through the posts there, all of them contained a lot of people making sexist comments, using sexist terminology, and generally being the internet. The same can be found in the comments under various youtube videos covering the issue (not sure how much it says that pretty much all of these videos feature male hosts jumping on Price for bashing Derior/Inks, or if that's just the demographic that puts out gamer videos...).
Even after Price got fired, the threads celebrating the "community victory" and the various further comments in it...just, leaves a bad taste. Understandable, even expected, because Internet. But still. Drawn by the seemingly "righteous" issue and assured of a moral high ground to stand on, the sentiment bubbles there, in the words used and attitudes expressed. Sure, we'd probably see a great deal of vultures flocking around as well if a male dev was fired (and there was a male dev fired here as well), but not to the same degree, not to the same vitriol, and not using the same kind of unfortunate terminology.
One last thing... I've seen a lot of threads/reviews/comments that have dug up a comment from Price from a few months ago, where she was completely unsympathetic on her twitter regarding the death of some prominent general game youtuber, and using that as evidence of how Price is a toxic person and thus that is reason enough of why she should have been fired. But... I don't think that really should have been a valid consideration. People are awful on the internet all the time; they tell celebrities and political figures they don't like to die in a fire or whatever (sometimes meaning it, sometimes just as a saying) all the time.
For that incident though, I don't think Price should be treated by ANet as anything different fromn what any other random private citizen says, because (1) TotalBiscuits was not a GW2 partner or even GW2 specific youtuber and (2) nowhere in her statement did she even imply she was speaking as a representative of ANet. From a corporate POV, it just doesn't impact an employee if doesn't impact the business. Using this example as part of an argument supporting Price being fired just changes makes it about her being fired because she was a "bad person", when it's clear that ANet's actual reasons for firing her is because of "detrimental actions". It's as much heading into the territory of dishonest reporting as some of the purely pro-Price/anti-ANet articles these people are protesting.
This entry was originally posted at https://tanithryudo.dreamwidth.org/47579