Fired over a tweet? OMG R U Kidding?steemCreated with Sketch.

in life •  4 months ago

Today The Verge is running article claiming that Jessica Price a Narrative designer and Peter Fries, a writer who’d been with ArenaNet for more than 12 years, were dismissed for what ArenaNet is calling “a [failure] to uphold our standards of communicating” with the game’s players.

Let's dissect this for just a moment shall we?

First off let me say that I have the greatest respect for anyone that can hold down a job at the same place for 12 years. It speaks volumes about that person's general temperament and management's view on them. Over the course of a decade anyone who was good at a job like that at a software company must have had innumerable poaching attempts, and yet she stayed there, so kudos to her. In order to stay in the same place for 10 years, you have to get along with and be liked by your coworkers. This is probably the reason Peter Fries jumped in as well.

Therefore, for ArenaNet to have fired them both, it must have been something awful.

Jessica Price went to great lengths to explain the challenges she faces when developing MMO stories vs the simpler narratives of most games. I completely agree with her, as an avid player since childhood a good RPG game is definitely 100% about the stories being told. Her stories have made millions of dollars for this company. My opinion is that if someone is making millions for my company (not that I have one, but anyways).. If they've been responsible for millions of dollars coming in, you give them a wide berth. My point is that she's a superstar asset and should not be let go easily. The company will be literally poorer for having done so.

So why did they let her go?
As I mentioned before, she went to great lengths to explain some of the challenges she faces in her job. At no point did she play the victim and chalk those challenges up to gender politics. So again, points for her.

But then someone replies with a relatively short amount of criticism. Since I'm not her, I can't really tell you if the criticism was really the constructive kind or if it seemed demeaning, but it's her response to this that becomes the point where she needs to check herself.

Her level of offense at this point is probably 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. I can kinda see why she's offended, but there isn't enough context to say if she's justified or not. Basically he seems to be telling her that she might be wrong about this being an issue particular to MMORPGs, but instead it's do with all "living storylines".

My points here are Deroir assuming there isn't something being obscured in the way things are presented in the Verge. He's agreeing there's an issue and simply saying it's not a challenge unique to the genre as she asserts. He doesn't counter with anything in particular, at least not in the part highlighted so I can't speak to the strength of his argument. However I do agree.

MMORPG is the largest genre by far of "living stories", that is stories that must evolve overtime. They are not the only example though and while MMORPG is a gaming genre, living stories encompass any sort of context where there is a back story that must be maintained in the long run and new articles are published regularly that make reference to past events. The largest living stories I can think of are Comic Books which must maintain a narrative spanning years, decades even and occasionally require reboots and "alternate universe" explanations when cannonical backstory is contradicted by future events.

George RR Martin and a few other authors have managed to side step this with the idea of "an unreliable narrator", which of course brings it's own twists. But pretty much everyone can agree, when something which is supposed to be objectively the ultimate evil in the universe, and entity so powerful that they are beholden to no one and nothing is suddenly defeated, it is incorrect to say, "yeah well he was actually a minor player compared to this bad guy over here".

Conversely, the "good guy" in a story generally follows a pattern of ...

  1. Nobody with nothing to finally discovering they have some power or skill
  2. Coping with finding out they are different
  3. Fighting a lesser evil and being defeated by it
  4. Finding out they are not the first and usually being mentored by the previous person
  5. Practicing, preparing for battle against the ultimate bad guy
  6. Quest to find and stop the ultimate bad guy
  7. Defeating the ultimate bad guy and then coming back... "leveled up", by finding yet another skill they had no idea they possessed, but only during the last moments of battle when all hope is lost.

These narratives are so common, we get offended when authors deviate from them too much. So you see almost all of these in every hero's journey.

Now imagine that you're telling this in a shared world. That player after player has to go on this same journey and defeat the ultimate evil.

I used to play EverQuest and I still remember the first time I saw the message about the dragon my group was hunting, supposedly the indefeatable, ultimate evil, being defeated. I was crushed, until a fellow group member told me "don't worry, she respawns every 45 minutes". I felt a little better, but the experience kind of ruined MMORPGs for me for a few year.

Ok, so long story short. I can understand there are challenges here and I can see how she might take offense at Deroir crossing the venn diagram and saying the challenges she's talking about are not unique.

However, it's her open to his response that shows where her mindset really is...

"Today in being a female game dev:"

In my opinion the "female" part has nothing to do with it. I'm sorry but every time we bring gender in where it doesn't belong, we weaken the cause.

That statement gained nothing by the addition of gender. As a matter of fact, in my eyes it lost credibility.
Think about it...

"Today in being a female game dev:"

Isn't any different than

"Today in being a male game dev:"

Nor is it different than

"Today in being a black game dev:"

Nor...

"Today in being an asian game dev:"

The correct thing to say here would be...

"Today in being a game dev:"

I've never managed a multi-million dollar game company (at least not without eventually waking up).
But I've managed a restaurant.

If a customer had said to the cook...
"Your menu is really interesting to read! But perhaps you shouldn't limit the special menu to only Kosher food, there are other diets"

And the cook took to twitter over it and said...

"Today in being a female cook:"
Someone who doesn't even work here said to me...

"Your menu is really interesting to read! But perhaps you shouldn't limit the special menu to only Kosher food, there are other diets"

I'd give them a warning. I wouldn't fire them, I would simply take them aside and tell them not to piss off our customers.
She could have taken it in stride. Yeah she doesn't work with the guy, but he makes games and he's making some sort of observation that doesn't appear to mention anything about her bra size. In fact he's opening it by complementing her on her ability to be articulate, there's no mention of her dress or her makeup. So why bring gender, race or anything else into it?

The truth is she's offended. Perhaps she just means "I'm a female and I had to put up with this today", but her wording seems to indicate this is something that happened because of her gender, when clearly it's not.

Ok so a warning would have been sufficient for this but she was fired over it right?

WRONG!

Contrary to what the verge is trying to assert, this was only the tip of the iceberg. She got some flak about it on reddit and instead of responding with an "oops, my bad! Sorry guys, I'm just having a bad day". She goes hulk smash! (or is it She Hulk smash!)

“Like, the next rando asshat who attempts to explain the concept of branching dialogue to me — as if, you know, having worked in game narrative for a fucking DECADE, I have never heard of it — is getting instablocked,”

Ok... That's getting to the point of inexcusable. Yet she goes even further...

She subsequently responded to those criticizing her on Twitter that “I’m not on the clock here. I’m not your emotional courtesan just because I’m a dev. Don’t expect me to pretend to like you here.”

Ok yes, she's not on the clock. But you can't literally alienate the user base and expect them to continue to pay your salary. When anyone at a company begins to forget that paying customers are both hard to come by and also the ones responsible for paying their salary, well I'm sorry to say this, but they need to get let go. The customer isn't always right, but the customer is the boss.

Some more gems from her...

it’s impossible to talk about this incident without larger context about systematic online harassment, particularly the sometimes abusive relationship between fans and game developers and the failure of game companies to address it. “Game companies are generally unwilling to be honest with themselves about how they’re complicit in creating and sustaining that environment

“since creatives are perceived as being responsible for the way the game is more than customer support, companies are basically tying up their employees and setting them on the railroad tracks for angry people to run over,” says Price. This toxic relationship is one of the biggest factors in burnout among developers —

The last one there...

and particularly for female developers, who experience more abuse and are “expected to perform more of this emotional labor and to do it with a smile on our faces (the sort of stuff that, from a male dev, gets dismissed as him being a bit prickly, or even lauded as him not suffering fools gladly, is a mortal sin coming from a female dev).”

Again she's bringing gender politics into this. Do females developers get harassed by the community more than males?
I'm not sure to be honest. I've followed Reddit and some of the gaming forums for years. Yes I think when there actually is harassment, the types of harassment are more offensive and tend to be more gender oriented for girls than guys.

The point of trolling is to shock.
There isn't a whole lot you can say to a man about his bra size or his fiddly bits that is going to bother him.
But being told repeatedly that we are only valued for our looks, does hit home a lot more.

Sadly, when women are undergoing harassment it's usually the creepy stalker type...

"The fantasy game I'd like to play is the one where I climb in your window and rape you while you sleep, then slit your throat!"

This type of behavior belongs nowhere, and honestly needs to result in an arrest and an immediate referral for prosecution.

Nevertheless, taking gaming out of the equation and looking at creativity in general. I believe we tend to garner more support than men do for our overall creative efforts.

Men who paint, or who engage in other creative pursuits tend to be portrayed as effeminate and somehow less manly. For men in game development it is somewhat similar. The primary attacks being epithets like "faggot" or "homo" or the N word. But trolls also seem more likely to be vicious about the game itself when speaking to men.

"What kind of fag places the swing camera button right next to the move forward button! You F***n morons!"

I don't really see that kind of commentary directed towards women, and it would be better if the trolls were equal opportunity haters.

Nevertheless I can imagine this hurts just as bad if not worse, but since the attacks are less generally on the person and more on their quality, I don't really know if any comparison that can be made is valid. Now if the comments were along the lines of "You should go back to writing sports games, everyone knows that men are terrible with telling compelling stories that don't involve sex or tits", I guess the comparison would be valid.

But the real story here is buried...

Two people were fired over this. Jessica Price and Peter Fries.

Unfortunately, The Verge makes no attempt to tell us what Peter said and makes it sound like he was fired for what amounts to this...

If that's the case, then it was more than a little harsh. Defending a friend and co-worker online is maybe not the best use of company goodwill, but there's something to be said for solidarity.

I wish the verge had done a better job of telling the story how it really is. So the article is just biased and that bothers me. Sure they come to Jessica's defense and my opinion is that she shouldn't have been fired, she should have received a formal reprimand. Yet that's not really what the story is about. It's about someone bringing gender politics in as a defense to asshattery. If I acted like that, I'd be fired too. The only reason I recommend NOT firing her is that this appears to be a first offense and her job is crucial to a game I care a lot about. The verge has this wrong though...

Guild Wars studio fires two employees after clash with streamer
‘If Reddit wants you fired, [they’ll] fire you’

There doesn't appear to be truth in that. Because backlash aside, they should have been reprimanded up to and including firing, simply for their comments. They represent a company and they are burning through the good will of the company. They didn't have to burn that good will. She could have said "Thank you for your feedback, but frankly your idea is moronic", it would have been viewed as a humorous retort. Peter could have jumped in and said "It's more complex than you imagine, and you sound like a drooling idiot". Again, perhaps a bit sharp, but no one would be fired for this.

My opinion is that the headline should read...

"Two game developers terminated for acting like asshats on the internet"

What do you think? Is this gender politics where it doesn't belong or do you think Jessica and Peter had the right to lash out like that?

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