You know what sucks? When someone blames you for something you didn't do. You know what double sucks? When multiple people blame you for something you couldn't possibly have done. But you know what is probably one of the suckiest things? When a mob of people gleefully convince your employer that you should be fired for something that you absolutely did not do.
Such is the case with Alison Rapp. Ali, who worked with Extra Life a couple of years ago to help grow this community, who supported Extra Life even before then, and continued to support Extra Life during her time at Nintendo. Today, Nintendo terminated Ali Rapp's employment at the company where she worked in marketing. All because Nintendo gave in to cowardice and bowed to harassment of one of its own.
Noting that Ali worked in marketing is important because for months she has been under fire from a harassment campaign composed of people who claimed to be upset over the localization of various Nintendo titles, most recently Fire Emblem: Fates (though in reality as a woman in the industry, she has had to deal with harassment for an awful lot longer than that). The popular Fire Emblem title had certain sexual elements removed or edited to make it more palatable to Western audiences, a very routine practice when games are released in foreign markets. You will also notice that the marketing department is decidedly not the localization department. However, these online harassers do not care about the distinction between marketing and localization, primarily because it didn't really matter to them if Ali was responsible for the changes in Fates. No, what made Ali a target was the fact that she had the audacity to both be a woman and be outspoken about her feminist views, which she stuck by while facing down the smear campaign undertaken to ruin her. You can read a more detailed account of the smear from Kotaku's Patrick Klepek.
By all accounts, Ali was a responsible employee and did great work during her time at the Treehouse. She even raised over $1,000 for the Gillette Children's Hospital in Minnesota during her livestream last year. That Nintendo would give in to the people who have hounded her for months - to the people who made her take safety measures with police for herself and family members - to the people who were actively trying to ruin her life - to the people who harassed her on her honeymoon - it is deplorable.
Honestly, I am furious. I've known Ali for years. She's the kind of person who will still love video games, still have hope for the industry, still do her best to make things better for everyone even after all of this. She even tweeted out support for the people she's leaving behind at Nintendo, stating "I do want to also say that I had some truly incredible coworkers at Nintendo, and I'd love it if you continued to support them. <3" I could rant and rave about the absurd injustice of the situation, but Ali, on the day she was terminated from one of her dream jobs, told everyone that, "many of you are talking about GG and Nintendo, but I'd actually prefer that this become a convo about the industry in general. In reality, this is about the industry and primary consumers needing to continue to mature re: privacy, women's issues, sex, and much more."
So, let's do that.
Let's have a conversation about the industry in general.
That being vocal about feminism is a particularly dangerous thing to do in the gaming industry should speak volumes (and here I mean actually vocal, not just making token show of it every so often with diversity panels on women in gaming before turning around to hire exotic dancers for a professional event). We've seen some of the brightest minds in the industry leave or find themselves at the center of a digital mob because they happened to write about feminism in gaming.
Why? Why this virulent outpouring of rage against artists who make games or editors that respond to those artistic creations? Part of the problem is that there are a cacophony of different answers to this. The industry is maturing and certain people don't like the changes they see. Some see the call for more diversity or shifting artistic vision as censorship. Others believe very strongly that feminism is some kind of evil that needs to be stamped out. Still others see gaming as a binary space where if you have one kind of game, you can't have another. I could keep going, but at the end of the day, there's a mass of roiling ideologies and many hold one or more of these views at the same time. A not insignificant number of those people then decide they are going to take steps to actively try to ruin someone with whom they disagree. To do this, they will violate every decent notion of privacy. They will call the homes of their targets or their family. They will spread private information to people who thrive on the thrill of trolling for its own sake. They will do whatever they can from the comfort of their own computer screen to make their target feel unsafe and vulnerable.
It cannot be emphasized enough that this harassment goes beyond nasty comments on Twitter or threatening private messages. Imagine a mob stalking its prey instead of bringing out torches and pitchforks. People spent months sifting through years of Ali's articles, school essays, pictures, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and far, far more with the goal of trying to get her fired from Nintendo. That isn't uncommon treatment for a woman who has attracted the negative attention of a sizable group of people in the games industry. Where is the outrage over that when we can muster plenty for a swapped out Overwatch victory animation or the loss of a cigar?
Ali specifically mentions GamerGate as being one source of her harassment, but honestly, the name of the group of people behind this persistent cyber attack doesn't matter. What matters is that we seem to have grown accustomed to the hate-mongering, complacent with the unending conspiracy theories, and accepting of the very real toll that those two combined can exact from the people in this industry. It doesn't matter what group spawned this hatred and discrimination; it matters that it is currently hurting people - that it will likely hurt other people in the future. We have to face the fact the industry has created an atmosphere in which all of this is tolerated in many gaming spaces. Gaming is in a place right now where multimillion dollar corporations would rather kowtow to hateful demands than take a stand, giving tacit affirmation to these harassment tactics. Perhaps the game industry has been silent for far too long on the subject of representation in games as other forms of media have matured. In fact, there is no perhaps about it: You can see that uncomfortable silence in the complete absence of any response from Nintendo to this prolonged campaign to tear Ali Rapp apart (not that they could ever succeed at that, by the way. Ali gives the unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a run for her money).
We all need to take a hard look at ourselves, our roles in our online communities, and our position in the industry to see how we can do better. We can't just say that the people behind this harassment are just trolls out for a laugh when they are hurting real people. We can't sit idle while people are made to fear for their safety for saying representation of gender and sexuality in gaming could be better - for saying things that are true. Women in many major games are often treated like rewards, objectives, or afterthoughts instead of well-rounded characters. LGBT characters are so rare that it is often shocking to see a non-straight character, and despite their rarity, there are a whole slew of negative tropes that come along with their inclusion. It shouldn't be shocking or inciting to suggest that both gamers and developers should more intentionally consider gender and sexuality in games than they have in the past. It isn't right that good people like Ali Rapp get fired for no other reason than a group of people decided they didn't like hearing about feminism and representation from a woman in the video game industry.
Extra Life has always been an inclusive, welcoming place that brings people together for an amazing cause. I'd just ask everyone who reads this to take that same spirit of love, respect, and compassion with them out into the larger gaming community. From where it stands right now, we need an awful lot more of that in every aspect of the video game industry.