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ArenaNet "promised me that I wouldn't have to check my identity at the door"

Fired writer says Guild Wars studio has damaged its reputation, but ArenaNet maintains that Jessica Price "attacked" community over a "perceived slight"

ArenaNet has damaged its standing as an inclusive place to work, according to fired writer Jessica Price, who has accused the Guild Wars studio of misrepresenting itself to new employees.

Price and her colleague Peter Fries were let go following an exchange with a YouTuber on Twitter. You can read about the inciting incident here, but Price has now given an interview to Polygon in which she criticises ArenaNet for giving the wrong impression of its values.

"I was told during my interview and subsequent hiring communications that ArenaNet respected my willingness to speak up on issues in the industry and had no desire to muzzle me," she said. "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."

"Doing the right thing is hard, sure, but doing it regularly makes it easier to keep doing it"

Jessica Price

Price continued: "They promised me that I wouldn't have to check my identity at the door. They said that they admired my willingness to speak up about issues in the industry."

Price said that ArenaNet's executives talked often about the importance of diversity and fostering an inclusive workplace, through the actions of leadership and not just their words.

"And so it's devastating that a company talking all that talk folded like a cheap card table the first time their values were actually tested. Doing the right thing is hard, sure, but doing it regularly makes it easier to keep doing it. And the corollary to that is that capitulating makes it harder to stop capitulating."

According to Price, ArenaNet president Mike O'Brien has "painted a target on everyone's back" in choosing to fire her and Fries for what happened. Recruiters have contacted her to say they will steer candidates away from ArenaNet, and "game design professors" have said similar things about their students.

"This was objectively a customer engaging us respectfully and professionally"

Mike O'Brien

O'Brien issued a statement in response to Price's interview, reiterating that Price was "representing the company" in the discussions on Reddit and Twitter, having identified herself as an employee in order to talk about a Guild Wars episode.

"The expectation was to behave professionally and respectfully, or at least walk away. Instead, she attacked," he told Polygon. "Concerns have been publicly raised that she was responding to harassment. It's not my place to tell employees when they should or shouldn't feel harassed. In this case, however, our employees could have chosen not to engage, and they could have brought the issue to the company, whereby we would have done everything we could to protect them.

"We won't tolerate harassment. When an employee feels harassed, we want them to bring the issue to us, so that we can protect the employee, deal with the issue, and use it to speak to the larger issue of harassment.

"Whatever Jessica and Peter felt internally about the situation, this was objectively a customer engaging us respectfully and professionally, presenting a suggestion for our game. Any response from our company needed to be respectful and professional. A perceived slight doesn't give us license to attack."

There is much more from both Price and O'Brien over on Polygon, and it's well worth your time to read it.

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Latest comments (9)

Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, Ludia3 years ago
Let me guess: Mike O'Brien is a man, right?
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David Canela Game & Audio Designer 3 years ago
I realize in the current social climate, this communication strategy might actually work in her favor, at least in the short term. Creating elaborate alternative narratives and throwing dirt in all directions seems to be working splendidly for the current US government, so why wouldn't it work for her. But in a sane world, it seems like someone should try to tell her she's really not doing herself any favors with the whole follow-up on this and give her a chance to stop digging in a spiral, take a breath, think it over and move forward.

I don't know Price, I'm sure she can be a nice person offline and wish her all the best getting a fresh start, but everything she's said on twitter and in the following interviews gives off the impression of someone who is completely incapable of engaging in some self-reflection, realizing when she screwed up, taking responsibility for it and have the decency to apologize. It's ok, we all screw up sometimes (the way american corporate culture is so quick to fire people when mistakes happen is quite ugly). But when you then go on to explain how you were only doing The Right Thing, try to portray being mean and sexist as heroics and suggest every man's interaction with her is secretly motivated by sexism, it just becomes sad and hurts the feminism that she's abusing as a tool to cover for her apparently deficient social skills.

I'm pessimistic anything good will come of the way this is being handled. There were some opinions about how ArenaNet was sending a fatal signal to the troll brigades and emboldening them. I would agree that those guys are going to come out of this all emboldened, but it will have been the subpar reporting on the issue that actually will have sent the most fatal signal to those people and, more importantly, to decent people.

That signal is: "We're all in tribes now, and protecting our tribe matters more than having a good hard look at facts, employing some critical thinking and accepting the possibility one of our own may have screwed up."
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Taylan Kay Game Designer / Programmer / Marketer 3 years ago
@David Canela: I'd give you a million stars if I could for the last paragraph alone. Unfortunately that particular signal is quite pervasive in all aspects of modern political discourse.
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Show all comments (9)
Christian Burberry Studying Gamer Camp: Pro (Code), Birmingham City University3 years ago
"ArenaNet respected my willingness to speak up on issues in the industry and had no desire to muzzle me"

Is not the same as:

"ArenaNet will respect all your intentions and actions even if they bring harm to the company"

Of course your employer won't stand by your values and position if you are affecting them detrimentally and casting their brand in a bad light to their customers / employees /investors / etc.
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"ArenaNet has damaged its standing as an inclusive place to work, according to fired writer Jessica Price" - so not accepting appalling behaviour is uninclusive these days? The suggestion from the customer was written extremely politely and with respect, and was met with incredible rudeness. If I were to speak to any customer like that in any job I'd be out the door in a second.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by bernhard van der horst on 11th July 2018 8:43am

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The comments sections on articles about this situation are universally disappointing. Thanks for having our backs, guys :/
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch3 years ago
@Jessica Hyland: What is 'universally' disappointing about them? The majority of comments I have read criticise Price for her frankly rude behaviour towards a fan making an innocuous comment in an open debate but they tend to all agree that firing her was going too far.

Whose back is it that we're meant to have? Who is us? You seem to be looking to make this tribal where one either supports that a developer can act in a nasty way towards their employer's customers with impunity or one is against game developers. I'm sorry, but this is facile and ridiculous. I can support that other developers shouldn't be fired for one time lash-outs without having to think that the behaviour is acceptable, please stop making this a false dichotomy.
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Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, Ludia3 years ago
@Jessica Hyland: The discussion has been reduced to "she was rude, she got fired". Unfortunately nobody sees the youtuber's behaviour as something wrong or even to be discussed about. So I wouldn't expect much on these.
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Chris Pallante Video Game Purchaser, D&H Distributing Company3 years ago
@Daniel Trezub: What exactly was wrong with the YouTuber's behavior in this case? They presented a thoughtful and polite commentary on a topic that Price had publicly spoke about. I would welcome discussion as to what they did to justify the response they got from Price.
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