“‘As an amateur fantasy writer, I would like to tell you, a professional fantasy writer…’ Maybe listen to yourself and stop right there, my dude.” – Jessica Price
Hey Jessica, my dude, you can skip this one. I’m an amateur writer, and therefore have nothing of substance to say.
Earlier this month, a developer for Guild Wars 2 took to Twitter to express her opinions on the difficulty of writing an interesting character for an MMORPG and ended up fired. Before you let the outrage flow, let me dive deeper into what actually happened. Ms. Jessica Price went to a public platform to talk about her personal opinions regarding the development of characters and the intricacies of the process. When she’d said her piece, a member of the GW2 community, (Deroir, a noted enthusiast of the game), came forward to engage her in conversation. His reply was incredibly respectful, acknowledging her point of view while providing his own, and wraps up with a nice “Nonetheless, I appreciate the insightful thread.” Nothing too malicious here; just two people expressing their creative opinions on a topic presumably dear to both of them. Well, apparently Ms. Price did somehow manage to read malintent in this cordial reply, as her response was, “Thanks for trying to tell me what we do internally, my dude..” The Twitter user responded with shock, saying he never meant to offend and is upset at the inability to have a simple polite conversation. Ms. Price then quote’s his initial, civil Tweet in one of her own, with the caption: “Today in being a female game dev: ‘Allow me–a person who does not work with you–explain to you how you do your job.’” From here the situation devolves into unhappy community members hurt and upset that a developer from a game they love would treat a fan this way, and Price continuing to attack these community members. The next day she again lashes out at the fans of GW2: “like, the next rando asshat who attempts to explain the concept of branching dialogue to me–as if, you know, having worked in game narrative for a fucking DECADE, I have never heard of it–is getting instablocked. PSA.” Eventually Peter Fries, another GW2 developer, steps in to defend her. Since he couldn’t manage to conduct himself as a civilized human being either, he also lost his job.
At the heart of this issue is perceived sexism. I say perceived, because it is blatantly apparent to anyone with basic reading comprehension that there was no belittling or gender-driven attack here; merely one person trying to start a dialogue. As a female gamer, and writer, this type of self-victimization really grinds my gears. Thanks to people like Price, women who face genuine harassment simply due to their gender are often dismissed, all because someone wanted to be a princess and cry wolf. Women like this, who assume insult at the drop of a pin as soon as someone disagrees with their opinion — no matter how respectfully — are setting the rest of the female population back decades. (I mean, there is no possible way another human being might have a differing opinion from yours, right? They must disagree with you because they devalue your gender as a whole; that’s the only possible explanation.) Women in the workplace are suffering difficulty advancing due to the false claims that male co-workers have become afraid of being landed with. Would you want anything to do with a person who could effectively ruin your life because they ASSUMED you meant one thing even when you said another?
Let me be clear: there IS sexism in the gaming community. To deny that is just ignorance. But it’s not hiding around every corner waiting to get you! I’ve been a gamer since around 1996. Kirby’s Dreamland was my very first game, and I still remember the feeling I got when I first had Gameboy in hand. From that day until this, I have faced sexism in the gaming community. The second I open my mouth and say anything about systems or what I’ve been playing lately, I am at risk of being bombarded with questions about the most minute detail of each level/story element/pixel found in whatever title I happen to be talking about. Does this happen to male gamers with the same regularity? Not in my experience, though there are certainly gaming discussions I am not present for. If I am not able to answer every single question lobbed at me in quick succession to the satisfaction of the interrogator, I am labeled a “fake gamer” and only looking for attention. HOWEVER, I’ve received this treatment from other women as well; girls eager to prove their “worth” by showing me up so they can prove they’re more of a gamer than I am. It seems nowhere is safe for a girl in this community… but that isn’t the case.
While I did say I am still the recipient of this behavior, I’d like to comment on the dwindling regularity. Boys know that girls play games now; this isn’t something we need to pound into everyone’s heads anymore. These days, if I encounter one of these questioning trolls, I can just ignore them, because… I’m an adult. An adult is what Ms. Price could have been in this situation, but chose not to be. Even if she did think this person was trying to “mansplain” her job to her, she’s a developer for ArenaNet; she could have walked away. But the fact of the matter remains that is clearly not what was happening here. Someone was politely disagreeing with her opinion, and instead of having a civilized conversation, she threw her gender card along with a big tantrum and played the victim. If anyone at all is surprised by the fact that she was let go for her blatantly unprofessional behavior, I would like to invite you to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.
What Jessica Price has managed to do is take credibility away from every person who is legitimately facing prejudice because of their gender. She isn’t “speaking out against sexism;” she’s inventing it where it doesn’t exist because it’s easier to defend her abhorrent behavior that way. That’s not to say she has never faced sexism in her career; I am, sadly, confident she has. But that does not give her the right to abuse an innocent person. I applaud ArenaNet’s decision to let her and Mr. Fries go. They acted like overgrown children who weren’t getting their way in the face of simple human interaction, and this is behavior that far too many adults are getting away with. If you are a figurehead in a passionate community and you say something on a public forum, you HAVE to be ready for dialogue. People are going to want to talk to you; people are going to want to talk at you! Not everyone will agree with you, and in fact, most won’t, but that’s the way it is. If you are unable to act like an adult in adult situations, you need to stay off the internet. If everyone followed this straightforward premise, things like this wouldn’t be an issue. Developers wouldn’t lose their jobs because of their inability to converse on something higher than a second-grade level.
At the end of the day, two people lost their jobs. Am I happy about that? Honestly, no. I never wish ill on others if they haven’t done something viciously harmful. These two were mean online, something we are all guilty of at one point or another. Perhaps, if everyone were held accountable for their actions, as these two were, people would think twice before acting like “asshats” on the internet. Ladies, from one girl to another: be smart out there. Do not invent a false narrative because your feelings got hurt. Don’t think it is your right to take someone else’s life into your hands because, if you make the right accusation, they’ll go away. If someone is GENUINELY harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable, please speak up in a dignified manner and attempt to de-escalate the situation. Don’t get caught up in the victim mentality. And lastly, remember folks; sticks and stones.