ArenaNet: We want developers to be passionate - until we don’t

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ArenaNet: We want developers to be passionate - until we don’t

When gamers are told that they come before game developers, the industry becomes intolerable.

ArenaNet fired two of its employees on July 5, just two days after Jessica Price told a man not to be condescending on Twitter. Apparently telling someone not to be a stereotypically  patronising  piece of shit goes against the ‘standards of communication with … players and fans’ that ArenaNet cares about more than the health and  wellbeing  of their employees. Great priorities.

Where do we start on this... Let's try some empathy.

Imagine you’re in a public forum giving people free lessons that you’ve learned as part of your work. Maybe you volunteered at a function or conference, or you’re chatting to an interested group in a café or bar. Maybe you wrote a Twitter thread.

Then, after you’re done, imagine somebody who doesn’t work in your field comes up to you and tells you that you’re wrong. Maybe first they tell you that what you said was interesting, but then they demand that you are wrong. They don’t ask, ‘Based on your expertise, what do you think about…’ No, they just disagree with you. They give you their opinion like it matters more than yours—a person working in the field.

Imagine that this has happened to you every day for weeks. Months. Practically since the day you started at the company you’re working at. And wherever you worked before. You want to give people insight and advice, and you want to do it for free, but you’re constantly treated condescendingly by people who don’t respect your skills. Imagine that - after putting up with this for ages - you told this stranger that it’s condescending for them to tell you how to do your job.

Imagine being abused for that. So much so that one of your colleagues jumps in to back you up.

Now, imagine that you - the person who was just trying to spread some knowledge - and your colleague get fired as a direct result of this situation.

Welcome to the game industry, a place where women can be treated like crap and then fired for the trouble they’ve supposedly caused. A place where workers with limited power still use that power to stand up for themselves, and meanwhile their spineless bosses fold to the hordes of Reddit bullshit that gets thrown their way.

If you’ve read anything recently about crunch culture, you’ll know that game developers work a lot. The industry tells us that this work is a gift, that we should be grateful, and we should donate our time for the cause. We work during work hours and beyond, and sometimes even volunteer our time outside of that. Much of our time is committed to creating games or press releases or university classes or written content for you - our audience - to consume.

Now, apparently, our free time - the time we use to hang out on social media just like any other adult who is trying to distract themselves from housework and bills - is also owned by our bosses.

This isn’t just about Jessica Price and her colleague, Peter Fries. This is about a wider problem.

Gamers are not entitled to anything. They aren’t entitled to specific in-game features, a certain release date, an answer to their question, or a ‘dialogue and discussion’ (which YouTuber Deroir was apparently seeking when he told Jessica how to do her job). Sure, they are entitled to have their opinions, but gamers are not entitled to have those opinions heard, listened to, responded to, or acted upon. They are not even entitled to accessing the games they so desperately want to play. And they are certainly not entitled to spend time abusing and harassing the people who work on those games.

But ArenaNet has just told gamers that they are, in fact, entitled to all of these things. They’ve essentially just told hordes of dickheads on Reddit to figure out who they want fired and just say the word - this is a company who will follow through because they’re too cowardly to stand up to anyone for the sake of their employees. ArenaNet has essentially told their staff - and anyone working in the industry - that they need to be kind to the people who abuse them, or risk being unable to pay their rent.

Smile as they hurt you: those are our community standards.

So now people are scared. There are individuals who are usually vocal about the state of the industry now worried about standing up for themselves. Do they call out condescending behaviour? Should they shout back at their harassers? Or should they just smile, and smile, and let the world trample them, or risk being fired by their employers for being too much trouble. This isn’t the first time a woman’s lost a job because the mob came after her.

The industry puts out ads seeking ‘passionate’ people to work in fields like narrative design, but when those passionate people speak out or defend themselves, they’re told to cut it out. Does the industry really want passion, or should those job ads instead say they’re seeking passivity?

Well, considering the dearth of game development CEOs and other higher ups who have come forward to criticise ArenaNet’s behaviour, I think we can guess the answer to that question.

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