Social Media Warfare Takes Down Two Writers at ArenaNet
We all know Social media is a quagmire of scum and villainy. The temptation to go full keyboard warrior, the white knights, and flaming. For all the good it can do, it can destroy just as easily. So, when the Guild Wars 2 subreddit started blowing up over some combative social media comments things weren't bound to end well for two of ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 writing team.
For those of you that have managed to avoid the incident that occurred just a recently. Things kicked off after community influencer responded to a comment by AnreaNet employee Jessica Price. This thread of consciousness on narrative design didn’t really go down so well and fairly visceral response by Price resulted in a standard sized internet mob.
As things progressed over the last couple of days, an outraged series of Redditors seem to have to flocked to Jessica’s twitter, scouring it for similar altercations. The resulting furore on Reddit escalated with tens of thousands of upvotes for commentary that called for everything from an apology to her P45. The open outrage, harassment over social media continued throughout the day, with the type of inflammatory language that we’ve come to expect from this type of incident, culminating in the following statement from ArenaNet regarding the issue.
We are committed to fostering open, constructive dialogue with our community around our games. Earlier this week, two of our employees failed to uphold our standards of communication, and they are no longer with the company.
This followed a post by Game Director Mike O Brien on the official forums.
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.
I want to be clear that the statements they made do not reflect the views of ArenaNet at all. As a company we always strive to have a collaborative relationship with the Guild Wars community. We value your input. We make this game for you.
It is widely accepted that the two Members of the team let go are Jessica herself and Peter Fries, who chipped in on the discussion quite early in the day with a comment that noted as a male developer he had never experienced the sort of feedback that was ongoing.
While a vocal section of the Guild Wars 2 community seems to be placated by the response above, plenty of people have come down on the opposite side of this argument and it opens up a whole powder keg of implications.
It has to be made clear that none of the offending social media moments occurred on official Guild Wars 2 Channels and as far as I’ve been able to read, none of the developer comments make specific reference to Guild Wars 2, rather they make more general reference to general job roles, skills and experience. The fact that all of this came from a discussion on personal channels, initiated by an influencer is concerning.
In the above statement to MMORPG.com Arenanet mentioned that they are “Committed to Fostering open, constructive dialogue”. Based on this story, it also appears to include interactions via personal channels. So where do we draw the line?
It is not unreasonable for companies to remove staff for bringing them into disrepute. In fact, most employment contracts with large organisations have this built into their employment contracts already. This can include anything from expressing views that are incompatible with an employer’s image, through to making derogatory statements about an employer on open channels. This can be somewhat hard to define but a concrete example from outside gaming might be the Preece vs JD Witherspoon case that saw a manager at a UK Pub post derogatory comments about a customer that were visible to that customer’s family.
So, was this a reasonable response from ArenaNet or did the company cave to pressure from a vocal section of the community? We probably will not really know and that isn’t the most important part. With two employees leaving ArenaNet over a social media incident on their own account, this is likely to have a very negative impact on developers in the studio communicating with the player base. Anecdotally, I’ve already seen instances of individuals removing or curtailing their online footprint and you can expect that to continue.
Expect to find it harder to elicit a response, less interaction to occur, and a much more scripted response from the studio from now on. Let’s be real here. If your jo was demonstrably on the line, would you stick your neck out to say hello? Would you risk your family member’s job by keeping your own social media account active? I would not.
Whatever your opinion on the initial altercation, it’s a shame that the company is down two very talented individuals and the fallout is likely to continue