Former Guild Wars 2 writer Jessica Price has called out ArenaNet’s poor handling of last week’s social media scuffle.
Price was laid off alongside fellow writer Peter Fries last week, after becoming involved in a Twitter spat with streamer Deroir on July 4th. After calling out the partnered streamer for suggesting how she do her job on her personal Twitter account, the exchange escalated. Wider audiences started to latch on and began harassing Price and Fries, who had stepped in to defend a colleague.
Rather than let the uncomfortable moment pass or defend its own employees, however, ArenaNet chose to side with the gamers. Price and Fries were relieved of their jobs on returning to work the next day. In conversation with Polygon, Price condemned ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien’s handling of the situation.
“I was given no opportunity to argue my case,” she said.
“My manager was on vacation. [O’Brien] spent some time insisting that developers must be friends with the company’s customers, and that it was unacceptable to say that we aren’t, even when we’re not on the clock. He told me I’d look back and regret this, because we were doing great work and I’d ruined it.
“The whole thing was highly unprofessional. There was zero reason for him to be there. He wanted to vent his anger, and he had the power to command a woman to stand there while he took his feelings out on her, so he did.”
The sudden firing came as a shock for Price - not only for its immediacy in the wake of gamer backlash but for betraying what she believed to be the core values upheld by ArenaNet.
“I was told during my interview and subsequent hiring communications that ArenaNet respected my willingness to speak up on issues in the industry,” said Price. “I had, in my time there, zero warnings about my social media use. Everything I said on Twitter was consistent with what I’ve been saying for years and how I’ve been saying it.”
“The fact that it was a company that touts itself as welcoming to marginalised talent that may have reignited a hate campaign designed to drive marginalized talent out of games is a very painful irony.”
Price now says she regrets promoting ArenaNet’s company atmosphere, and for telling new female narrative writers: “This place will value you, and will let you be who you are.”
After interviewing Price, Polygon reached out to ArenaNet for further comment. O’Brien issued a lengthy statement to the outlet. In summary, he expresses disappointment in the writers’ choice to engage with the community.
“She was representing the company,” said O’Brien.
“The expectation was to behave professionally and respectfully, or at least walk away. Instead, she attacked.”
“We won’t tolerate harassment. When an employee feels harassed, we want them to bring the issue to us.”
Unfortunately, O’Brien seems all-too-willing to tolerate harassment if his developers attempt to answer for themselves. The choice to immediately dispose of employees for actions on personal Twitter accounts sets a dangerous precedent,
The statement may embolden disgruntled fans to try and bait responses from developers, if there’s a chance they could have a disagreeable individual fired.