Nintendo has denied that an internet harassment campaign targeting one of its staff was related to its decision to fire her.
Alison Rapp, a marketing officer at Nintendo of America’s product development division, Treehouse, wrote a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, informing followers that she was no longer deemed “a good, safe representative of Nintendo”.
She claimed that the console manufacturer had fired her due to her outspoken views on feminism, which led to her being targeted by members of 4Chan, Reddit and other video game forums last year.
Rapp had also been linked, by some video game groups, with decisions made at Nintendo of America to remove provocative content from localised versions of some Japanese games. It was a move criticised by some gamer groups – particularly the loosely affiliated online hashtag collective Gamergate – as censorship.
Although Rapp’s role in the localisation process was, according to her, negligible, she became the target of forum users, who scoured her Twitter history and social media posts for incriminating information. It was discovered that in 2012, she wrote a controversial academic essay entitled Speech We Hate: An Argument for the Cessation of International Pressure on Japan to Strengthen Its Anti-Child Pornography Laws, which led online critics, including white supremacist site the Daily Stormer, to label her a paedophile.
Later, Jamie Walton of the Wayne Foundation, an anti-sex trafficking campaigner, tweeted that Rapp should be fired as a result of the views expressed in her essay.
In a series of messages, Rapp said: “About a month after starting, I was asked to not tweet about rape culture because ‘it could become a big story’.’ I was consistently made to worry that getting another tattoo or piercing would mean they’d pull me from public appearances. When I got back from [vacation], Nintendo stripped me of my spokesperson status and did a ‘lateral move’ so I wouldn’t lead games as a [product manager] anymore.”
“This was because the [GamerGate] mess meant they ‘looked at my tweets’ and decided I wasn’t a good representative of the company.”
In an official statement provided to gaming website IGN, a Nintendo spokesperson claimed that the termination of Rapp’s employment was in fact due to her breaking company rules by taking a second job.
“Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related.
“Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavors.”
However, Rapp later responded on twitter, arguing that “moonlighting” was accepted at Nintendo of America, and that the company was using the issue to deflect from its actual grievance: Rapp’s outspoken and problematic social media presence.
Since the announcement, high-profile developers and industry watchers have expressed their support for Rapp, and their frustration at Nintendo of America for failing to support its employee through months of widely documented internet harassment.
Bafta-award winning game developer William Pugh tweeted, “Incredibly disappointed w/a company I’ve admired since I was very young. @NintendoAmerica shame on you for not standing behind @alisonrapp.” Ex-NFL football player and gaming advocate Chris Kluwe posted an open letter to Nintendo on the site stating “[Rapp] was consistently harassed , over a period of months, and Nintendo not only remained silent, but decided today to fire her.”
Last August, Nintendo of America employee Chris Pranger was allegedly fired after appearing on a video game podcast without permission and discussing elements of his work at the Treehouse department. Nintendo has not replied to a further request for comment.
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Thursday 31st March 2016 11.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010