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Jack Gardner

Gaming News:Nintendo Caves to Targeted Harassment Campaign Against Employee

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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.

 

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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. 


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:o How awful! I find it heartbreaking that Nintendo would allow such horrible people to dictate their actions. It's shameful that such immaturity has truly become a major threat to anyone in the industry - it has been for a while. Worse yet, it makes a lot of gamers and industry leaders (men and women alike) remain silent for fear of coming under fire themselves. This hate needs to stop, and we apparently need to make this clear to the industry at large because they haven't understood yet that this is completely unacceptable. The question is, what will we have to do to finally get through to them?

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Would you consider Nintendo's actions to be unjust?
Basic human rights may or may not have a say in this situation, I'm not sure. I feel like what happened broke some kind of law and it definitely feels like a violation of her basic human rights from what was said in this article.

Article 23.
 

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

If Nintendo's actions didn't break a law than I feel someone needs to look over our laws because something is definitely broken.

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I can't pretend to know all the nuanced details of the situation, but I'm in HR, and unfortunately they may be perfectly justified in the reason they released her. Depending on what sort of employment agreements she might have signed, it's possible she has no recourse. Even if she does, taking legal action is an ordeal of its own and often an expensive gamble. Not to mention the fact that fighting the decision would likely draw even more hatred from her detractors than she's already borne. 

 

It it goes back to the fear many of us have of speaking out. I can imagine no one wants to be the next target. And thats at the worst part about all this. I don't know her, but if I were in the same situation, I might consider it a relief to leave Nintendo behind. 

 

The fact that women -and men- who want to change things to the more inclusive side of the scale are still facing such a violent and frightening reaction from anonymous cowards... It's just unacceptable. :(

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18 minutes ago, K8Morosky said:

I don't know her, but if I were in the same situation, I might consider it a relief to leave Nintendo behind. 

 

I've always seen Nintendo as one of those "top of the world" type companies, almost immune to this type of media. They always had the reputation in my mind as pro-fun/pro-family/pro-entertainment kind of deal. It certainly makes me sad to see them fall to this kind of pressure, certainly plummets their image.

 

I think you're right though. It would be much better to leave a company if they are this vulnerable. I just hope she keeps a positive attitude and recovers quickly :o

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Without knowing the details of her contract, I know that Washington state has "at-will" employment laws, which means that both employer and employee can terminate the arrangement at any time for any or no reason at all. 

 

For clarification, Nintendo did release a statement a few hours after this article went up stating that Ali was fired for holding a second job that was at odds with Nintendo's corporate culture. Holding a second job does not violate Nintendo's company policy, so it came down to the powers that be disliking whatever that second job was.

 

From what Ali said, Nintendo was much more sensitive toward her actions as a result of the harassment and put her under a microscope. That Ali had taken a second job was brought to the attention of Nintendo by an anonymous source that was very likely one of her harassers. 

It is a sucky situation all around. However, I really do think we can take a page out of Ali's book and turn something divisive and full of indignation into a constructive conversation to build something new. :)  

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I agree completely. It's a conversation that we desperately need in a world where those anonymous cowards can create such a mess of someone's life. It's up to inclusive communities like ours to stand up and make a stand against senseless bullying over perceived 'threats to gaming culture." Those jerks that are supposedly "on the fringe" need to wake up and realize there's no excuse to do this sort of thing to ANYONE, regardless of how much you might disagree with them!

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1 hour ago, K8Morosky said:

I agree completely. It's a conversation that we desperately need in a world where those anonymous cowards can create such a mess of someone's life. It's up to inclusive communities like ours to stand up and make a stand against senseless bullying over perceived 'threats to gaming culture." Those jerks that are supposedly "on the fringe" need to wake up and realize there's no excuse to do this sort of thing to ANYONE, regardless of how much you might disagree with them!

 

This is why I tend to not stray too far from my Extra Life fam. I know I am relatively safe here, mostly because I have met many of you and we are here for the best of ulterior reasons, to help kids through gaming. 

 

I think communities like ours are capable of changing perception and offer safe harbor for those who need it. 

 

Be kind, use empathy. 

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Sadly, I see this as yet another example of the direction culture has taken as a whole, and is not limited to gaming by any means.  Since the late 60's, there has been a movement away from the discourse based on ideas to what is popularly termed the "politics of personal destruction."  At one time, this argument would have simply been on the how/why Nintendo found it necessary to change their games to better fit a local market to picking a target, personalizing it, freezing it, and polarizing it, and always a target that appears vulnerable to such a tactic.  The current discussion in the gaming community is becoming polarized, like most divides these days, due to this type of tactic - holding a middle ground simply makes you a target for both sides.  And make no mistake, both sides are at fault.  Certain voices are demanding a new paradigm, and insisting that it is the *only* acceptable one, and the predicable backlash responded with the same attitude they had been confronted with; something I'd expect from a 2 year old.  I don't know that we're going to change this in the gaming community until the culture at large has had enough - something, sadly, I don't see happening for quite some time.

 

Now, looking at the particulars here.  Did Nintendo have the right to modify their game as they saw fit to sell to their targeted audience in a particular country? Yep.  Did the gaming community have a right to express displeasure with that choice? Also yes - but in a general sense at the company as it was their decision, not the PR rep's.  Does the general decline of politeness in society expunge the blame from those who chose to attack the personal and professional life of Ms. Rapp? (Deleted) no.  The proper response may have been to publically state their position, and vote with their wallets.  No one has yet legislated that they were required to buy a game that had been altered to the point where they no longer desired it.  Now, Nintendo's hands aren't clean here either.  If they were going to stand behind their decision to keep the games changed, then they were honor bound to make a public statement to that effect and stand behind their PR rep, and they failed the test miserably.  I believe (my opinion only) that some "well-meaning" lawyer advised that it would be better to rid the company of a dedicated employee than suffer the small percentage risk of a major backlash.  It is also my opinion that said lawyer gave poor advice (note how I didn't call them an idiot?)

 

Until people on both sides of the discussion stop asserting that they are the only special snowflake in the room, and therefore have the only paradigm worth adhering to, it's unlikely that the situation will improve soon.  *Sigh*.

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I'm of the opinion that articles like this don't belong on the front page of this community.  It seems like this contains a lot of opinion, hearsay and clearly, not all the facts are in.  As a guild president, who has been involved in this program for many years now, I don't think the tone or content of this piece is appropriate.  Just my opinion, but things like this belong on a personal blog, not a children's charity forum.  I'm open to having in depth discussions about issues like this, I just don't think it should be taking place here. 

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Very well stated. I've read a handful of articles about this so far and I think yours strikes closest to how I feel. Especially that the industry as a whole is maturing and we need more of us to find a way to be comfortable with that. Nintendo never stood to me as a pristine, faultless, entity but this is a painful story to read and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I wish this was the only time a company did something wrong for the wrong reasons, as you pointed out above. 

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1 hour ago, AndrewRDU said:

I'm of the opinion that articles like this don't belong on the front page of this community.  

 

The events covered in this article have stirred up a lot of opinions and emotions, and affect the entire gaming community. I was about to argue with you but, yeah, you're right. This is not an ideal place to have this discussion because it can and will distract from the mission of Extra Life. As you can see, I let myself get a bit carried away, so I appreciate the reminder that stirring up controversy is not something that will help the kids.

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41 minutes ago, K8Morosky said:

 

The events covered in this article have stirred up a lot of opinions and emotions, and affect the entire gaming community. I was about to argue with you but, yeah, you're right. This is not an ideal place to have this discussion because it can and will distract from the mission of Extra Life. As you can see, I let myself get a bit carried away, so I appreciate the reminder that stirring up controversy is not something that will help the kids.

 

I dunno. I understand the desire to not turn this community into any other back and forth flame war, but I think the point of the article is that this discussion needs to happen everywhere in the industry and community of gaming. The article is stating that Nintendo terminated an employee at least in part because they did not want the controversy. 

Maturing as an industry also means being able to have these types of conversations both civilly and openly, which is hard anywhere on the internet. At least here we have a collection of people who are committed to a good cause, which sets us all off on the right foot. 

 

Regarding it's relevancy to the mission of Extra-Life. I agree that it's not relevant and even distracting, but I think the same can be said for any of the gaming news or story articles that are posted on the front page that don't deal with the charity. Their goal is to foster a community, increase use of the website, and draw in new members. I'm a big fan of the news articles Jack posts (fair disclaimer: and have contributed in the past) and think they increase the amount of time I spend thinking about Extra-Life. 

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Q, your points are definitely reasonable, and not without merit. Gaming news that gets posted here is interesting and engaging. On any other forum I agree with you that this conversation needs to happen right now but Andrew also makes a valid point.

 

Now that I've had more time to catch up on both sides of the story, I'm incredibly concerned about the fact that that right now, on the Extra Life Facebook page, people are already bringing up her thesis from years ago in broad and vague terms. The accusations they're making, true or not, are something that could really damage Extra Life's image. These are things of a nature that should be never evoked anywhere near a children's charity. While Extra Life can't be held responsible for comments that appear on their page, even the wicked little seeds a few people are planting can do real damage.

 

So while I do not wish to shy away from this controversy, and this larger conversation should not be silenced, we really do need to have it somewhere else. Because if it stays here, the few less scrupulous members of the gaming community at large might try to use it to negatively impact this charity community that we've grown to love. A small fraction of people who hold very strong opinions about this subject have proven their willingness to lash out at whosoever doesn't agree with them, and I'd rather swallow my pride and backtrack than risk that they'd lash out at Extra Life too.

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