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Studio cancels Wii U game in protest of Nintendo firing employee

Necrosoft Games' Brandon Sheffield calls on Mario maker to be an industry leader in fight against online harassment

Earlier this week, Nintendo of America fired one of its product marketing specialists after a group of people upset with the company's localization decisions waged a months-long harassment campaign against her. Nintendo released a statement saying the termination was for an unrelated violation of company policy--working a second job "in conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture"--but not everyone accepted that explanation.

Necrosoft Games founder Brandon Sheffield took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Nintendo, saying, "We had a game planned for Wii U. Not now we don't." He followed that up last night with a blog post on Gamasutra detailing the cancelled game (a port of the studio's puzzle game Gunhouse) and explaining his stance further.

While Sheffield said he doesn't know the fired employee and disagreed with some of her positions that were a major point of criticism from her harassers, he took particular issue with Nintendo's statement about the firing, in which it claimed to "firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race, or personal beliefs."

As Sheffield explained, "If you stand against harassment, you have to actually stand against it. You have to stand against it while it's happening, not after you've let someone go, when it's convenient and easy. You have to stand against harassment when it's difficult and painful and awkward and inconvenient, because that is when it matters. Otherwise it's just words.

"I stand by my decision because I want to see this industry change its attitude toward the women it employs. Our small games aren't going to make a difference to Nintendo's bottom line, but the discussion that surrounds it might make a difference to our collective conscience."

From Sheffield's point of view, the first step in having that discussion is for smaller developers like Necrosoft to speak up. His hope is that Nintendo can learn from the example of Intel, which once pulled ads from Gamasutra after pressure from GamerGate supporters upset with one of the site's editorials. After looking at the situation more closely, Intel reinstated its advertising, and soon thereafter pledged $300 million to promote diversity within the tech sector, collaborating with a range of organizations including frequent GamerGate target Feminist Frequency.

"This is what it means to be a tech industry leader," Sheffield said. "Don't just say you don't support harassment. Do something about harassment. Do something to help. Be a positive voice for change, and use your vast resources to take care of the people under your employ - and beyond. By setting a standard here, Nintendo could pull the rest of the industry along with it, and actually do something about cyberbullying, online harassment, and workplace inequality.

"Until that changes, my position stands."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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