Late last week the Guild Wars 2 community caught on fire over some comments posted by writer Jessica Price directed at a Youtuber Deroir, who had some comments on a blog post she had written on the challenges of narrative in MMORPGs. Price posted the following as a reply:
"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."
In the discussion that followed on Twitter and Reddit, fellow writer Peter Fries stepped in to defend Price without using the same sort of inflammatory language. Now both writers have left ArenaNet.
"Recently two of our employees failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players," Arenanet co-founder Mike O'Brien said via GamesIndustry. "Their attacks on the community were unacceptable. As a result, they're no longer with the company. I want to be clear that the statements they made do not reflect the views of ArenaNet at all. As a company we always strive to have a collaborative relationship with the Guild Wars community. We value your input. We make this game for you."
The controversy gives way for an interesting dilemma many game developers are faced with today with social media. Ten years ago this sort of advice would have been laughed off as the writers read an email and nothing more would come of it, but as it happens in a public space, the company feels forced to act to protect their business. It's also not difficult to imagine that the outspoken views of Price as a feminist contributed to the backlash as unfortunately, that makes her a welcome target for certain groups. Not that calling a dedicated streamer of your game a "rando asshat" is excused...
Anyway, Arenanet has a publicity issue on their hands, and the question is what message they are sending to their employees?