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Statement on the ArenaNet Firings

Last week, ArenaNet management fired two workers: one for responding defensively on Twitter to a non-industry community member who she perceived as explaining her job to her, and the other for defending her response.

It is important to understand the context in which women, people of color, and queer folks regularly exist while online, which is often a seemingly endless deluge of people commenting on, critiquing, and offering unsolicited advice on their craft. The game industry also has a well-documented history of predominantly women and marginalized workers being tormented into abandoning social media, driven out of their workplaces, and sometimes even forced to leave the industry altogether. Within this context it is grossly unfair to expect a veteran narrative designer like Jessica to be anything but defensive about these kinds of player and developer interactions.

Regardless of how one feels about Price's actions and regardless of where one draws the line between rudeness and exasperation in Price's tweets, the fact of the matter is that there is an entire spectrum of responses ArenaNet could have taken, but chose not to. The company could have done anything from pulling their employee aside and discussing their behavior, to giving them an internal reprimand and offered them additional training. Instead, ArenaNet, under the clearly inadequate leadership of Mike O'Brien, made the knee-jerk reaction to fire a member of their team. No dialogue, no nuance, no empathy.

Even more startling was the firing of Peter Fries, who simply offered a polite, measured, and well-reasoned defense of his coworker. ArenaNet management's firing of Fries was not for the benefit of company culture or Guild Wars 2, their goal was to send a message to a vocal minority of players and to make a public example out of an employee.

ArenaNet’s actions contribute to normalizing a work environment in which employees’ personal social media accounts are monitored, where they are expected to perform PR for their company outside of working hours (with no compensation whatsoever, regardless of whether or not it is part of their job description) and where they can be arbitrarily fired with no warning.

Game Workers Unite stands with Jessica Price and Peter Fries, and emphatically denounces the actions of ArenaNet management.

The unethical firings of Price and Fries, together with the reactions of toxic individuals inside and outside of the Guild Wars player community, have had a chilling effect across the industry. Countless workers have been harassed over social media and many are concerned about the implications of this event, some going so far as to delete their personal social media accounts in fear of similar retaliation from hostile players and bosses. ArenaNet has signaled to the entire industry that our job security can be, and almost certainly will be, imperiled by the most vitriolic and volatile players. This event carries echoes of Gamergate, and will only embolden harassers further.

If you are considering your online security in the aftermath of these events, we recommend consulting Crash Override’s resource center for information on how to protect your social media activity.

We suggest everyone read this excellent Polygon interview with Jessica Price that goes into a great deal of depth on the situation from Jessica’s perspective.

Game Workers Unite was founded out of a need to address the widespread unethical and unlawful workplace conditions in our industry. We are dedicated to building a better, safer industry for all of us. If you share our vision as well, consider joining Game Workers Unite.

In solidarity,

Game Workers Unite International

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