The social ethics of ArenaNet- The Jessica Price story
Jessica Price's firing by ArenaNet continues to have major ethical implications for businesses that cater to online gaming. This article will be focusing not only on the details of the stories but also the ethics surrounding it, and the rise of the ‘us or them' culture in today's internet culture.
The entire debacle began when online streamer, Deroir, reached out to Price on Twitter after she posted a series of tweets online. In these tweets- she detailed the process she (and her work partners)- goes through when developing story and game plotlines. Deroir politely responded to Price's twitter thread and agreed with the majority of it. However, he also opined that a different dialogue format could help players connect more with the characters. Price, who became triggered after taking a creative criticism too personally, brashly responded with, ‘thanks for trying to tell me what we do internally, my dude; and retweeted his response with the caption: ‘today in being a female game dev.'
Price was subsequently fired from her job a mere day after the online exchange. Many online women's rights activists decried that the Deroir response was an example of an overt form of sexism against women in the workplace, commonly referred to as ‘mansplaining'. If you don’t know- Mansplaining involves a man explaining something to a qualified woman in a condescending manner and is a huge problem as it discredits the ability of women, leading them to feeling uncomfortable and unhappy in the workplace. Now there’s Price, herself, is well known online for her social justice tendencies, had even appeared on a Pax Prime 2003 Panel called “Everything We Know Is Sexist Now What?” Price also played a key part in the publication of a 2016 Washington Post article about gender inequality at gaming conventions. While none of this in itself is bad, Price in an open book about conveying her thoughts in a very poor manner, which is evident in her Twitter posts.
However, many regarded her response as explosive considering that Deroir apologized several times as much of the language Price uses in her reply is unreasonably hostile for a simple comment on her tweet. Price's story is also very reflective of what has been an increasing trend of catastrophizing everything and blowing them out to epic proportions. Now every event we see online must become polarized and taken to the extreme. For any company, even more so for those operating in the entertainment sector, preserving the fan base is a priority because the demand is how these companies keep themselves in operation. To protect its fan base, a company must also protect its face, which often means disassociating itself with any sources of negative press. However, in the end, Price's dismissal still served to create a deep chasm in the community and one really wonders whether dismissing Price was the right thing to do. Then again- ArenaNet needed to control their reputation by cutting a potential loss from angry fans who subscribe too the Guild Wars 2 products.
To conclude, I really do believe the entire situation could have been dealt with in a better manner on both ends. Price's should rightly be condemned as her reaction was completely out of proportion and damaged the face of her company. On the other end, ArenaNet firing Price without addressing the root problems of the situation only served to deepen the chasm created in the community.