Content Warning: This article features discussion of, and references/links to, harassment and sexual violence. You have been warned.
In yet another unsurprising turn of events, a female game developer was mobbed by reactionaries online, for being rude to someone pulling the “actually. . .” card; something that any woman has dealt with, and are probably really freaking tired of hearing. I’m a man and I’m constantly annoyed by how often it happens. So you can imagine how the people subjected to it must feel.
So you may be wondering what I’m going on about, well, the whole fracas started when Jessica Price, a writer for ArenaNet working on Guild Wars 2, posted a Twitter thread about the difficulties of writing compelling player characters in MMOs and other RPGs. A lot of her points were quite insightful and useful. The ideas and expectations that gamers have do certainly play a role in how a character is received, and thus impacts how engaging the game is as a whole.
People booting up Bioshock know they’re playing Jack. People starting Dishonored know they’re playing Corvo. People beginning Tomb Raider know they’re playing Lara Croft. So in those games, you have more wiggle room to make the protagonist an actual character.
Whereas in an RPG, where the player chooses all kinds of character options and names their character and designs their face and so on, they feel more ownership over that character. They’re not playing a character YOU designed–they’re playing a character THEY designed.
But as always happens, people with different opinions will always chime in, and that’s fine, but the problem of gendered responses reared its ugly head once the internet got involved. Reactionaries on Reddit proceeded to pretend like saying this was the worst thing she could have possibly done:
It’s clear that Price is fed up with certain responses that question her as a person, especially in regards to professional integrity, something that was immediately justified perusing the reactions to these tweets. You can find some examples below, and this is just a few of the obvious responses that demonstrate yet another targeted attack on a woman in gaming by the alt-right:
Just reverse the roles on these and her many other tweets, and see how fucked up and sexist SHE is.
She probably feels secure that she won’t be fired on the spot for this retarded stunt.
just read her twitter account you’ll get a headache of her retarded femme-nazi campaigns and hatespeeches
You’re assuming that SJWs have normal mental capabilities.
Price herself makes the obvious point that should always be at the forefront of these issues when she said: “ask yourselves why he felt the need to do that though.” But of course, that insight was lost on the people attacking Price. The same people who are still harassing her on Twitter, check the replies on her other tweets for copious examples of openly alt-right and “gamer” accounts pestering Price, some using explicit slurs.
Price getting dogpiled and ultimately fired for reacting to being disagreed with and questioned, which is again something women experience constantly within and without the gaming industry, and is some seriously questionable action. And in case you doubt this idea, studies on the way gender impacts public perception and power have shown this trend of women being taken less seriously and women facing bias regardless of position or knowledge, is accurate. Women have also been seen to talk less often compared to men according to one study.
So what this means is that it’s perfectly justified to be tired of a constant toxic influence against women and to fight back against that, which Price did. And no, it’s not sexist to criticize the aspects of society that favor men, it’s called equality for a reason. Calling attention to the judgemental and dismissive torrent women are subjected to is important, and attempting to suppress that is a really irritating sentiment that permeates these discussions all the time that only serves to silence dissent, making it harder to actually address the issues.
For his part, Deroir said that he “meant no disrespect” and simply wanted to create “dialogue and discussion” with Price. He also apologized for any offense his argument may have caused. Sadly it was a little too late to stop the tide of garbage that is the internet when people are angry.
ArenaNet responded by firing two people, namely Price and possibly Peter Fries, who defended Price on Twitter. Here’s their statement:
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.
So yeah, it’s pretty sad that simple rudeness can get people fired. And as one would expect when dealing with gamers online, a vocal element of the mob defended their actions as justified because they got annoyed by the statements and opinions of a woman online. Even her antagonistic statements in the past don’t warrant the harassment she’s being subjected to.
As if we needed more evidence as to what the real game is when it comes to far-right and reactionary infiltration of the gaming industry, we get to see in real-time as the internet works to silence another woman and destroy her life.
And because I know it will get brought up, there’s a pragmatic justification for spotlighting the harassment of women ahead, but not at the expense, of harassment which men face. The primary aspect is that harassment and abuse is much more likely to be targeted at, and dangerous to, women more so than men. This isn’t to say that men don’t face harassment online, as Pew explains:
Certain groups are more likely than others to experience this sort of trait-based harassment. For instance, one-in-four blacks say they have been targeted with harassment online because of their race or ethnicity, as have one-in-ten Hispanics. The share among whites is lower (3%). Similarly, women are about twice as likely as men to say they have been targeted as a result of their gender (11% vs. 5%). Men, however, are around twice as likely as women to say they have experienced harassment online as a result of their political views (19% vs. 10%).
But more importantly the behavior of harassment occurs within a world where gendered violence targets women far more often than men. This isn’t to say that men aren’t victims, but the types of crime aimed at women are different. And this influence is undeniably toxic to women. As Margaret Atwood made clear:
Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”
Gender differences in police-reported victimization are seen in the types of violent offenses experienced by male and female victims. Males, for example, are more likely to be the victims of physical assault and homicide, while sexual assault victims are overwhelmingly female. 90% of all adult victims of sexual violence are female.
So before you think Price is acting strangely or with undue hostility, consider the environment women have to deal with constantly.
Worth pointing out is that there are plenty of people on ArenaNet’s forums who disagree with the decision to fire anyone over this. So it stands to reason that differing opinions about the issue at hand exist. Whatever you believe, there’s no doubt going to be some discussion happening about these kinds of issues all over the internet for a good while.