Warning, opinions ahead.

I believe everyone at this point has become familiar with the recent Guild Wars 2 drama surrounding Arena Net. If you are unaware, I suggest that you read from a few different sources and form your own opinion as everyone has had their own opinions on the chain of events that took place (to this day me and Mitch go back and forth with this), who was wrong, what action could have been taken, and what should be done in the future.

To give a quick summary, Jessica Price, formerly a part of the narrative team of ArenaNet,  had published a thread on her personal twitter discussion designing narrative in an MMO (as though there is anything private anymore on the net) and received a fair amount of comments. One of those comments was done by a user, Deroir, a very well known name in the Guild Wars community.

Unfortunately, we simply do not know the situation Price was in a while responding to his comments, all we can do is discuss what was done and that something made her respond the way she did.

Deroir immediately replied that he never meant to offend or belittle her, and only wished to engage in a dialogue over the threads she posted

This would have been completely alright, even if I personally thought of it as being somewhat rude of her to say that to a fan, but thats people on the internet for you.

What followed next is what I believe the straw that broke the camel’s back, Price retweeted his comment, alluding to him being a “know it all” who is trying to tell her how to do her job while mansplaining as well.

To which he replied the following:

I know females in the industry have it rough, I don’t live in a bubble. I can even tell you right now, that this behavior probably followed a chain of events which most likely started in which she had to defend herself and her opinions, from people who belittle her for being a woman; but this was the worst time for her to snap at someone. Everyone who read the original posts could see how she was in the wrong and tried to tell her so. But often when a horse is on the run, it’s extremely hard to stop it, even when it’s clear it is heading for a cliff.

Shortly after the situation escalated, as the people gathered together to form two groups of mobs, calling each other names and showing a very ugly display of an internet quarrel. Going so far as involving another company worker Peter Fries, who stepped in to defend Price, but by this point, he only added logs to the fire.

At the culmination of this whole escapade, the president of ArenaNet, Mike O’Brien stepped forward to announce that both Price and Fries were fired for their behavior, also adding that they do not represent the company’s way of engaging customers.

Was the Firing Extreme?

Mitch and I went back and forth regarding the firing, we both agreed that there should have been some steps prior to the firing but largely disagreed past that, eventually agreeing to disagree. After all, having different views and social upbringing (as we both live on different sides of the globe) will make anyone have very different opinions.

But this didn’t feel settled and I was still interested in learning more regarding why the series of events played out the way they did and if this is such a problem. So I spent a lot of time watching videos and reading articles (amazing how the viewpoints change between different people) all on this particular topics, but I was still not satisfied even though I formed my opinion on the matter and was rather set with it.

So I asked a friend of mine, who is a manager of a game company in Israel, “What would you have done in said situation?”

He seemed rather relaxed, perhaps he didn’t grasp the situation right away, or his mind was busy, “I don’t wish to fire employees”, he said, “First of all I would have made them both meet each other and talk”

“Wait”, I said, “what if that guy lives far away?”

“He should pack his things and come to the company, or have them meet on Skype, whatever it is, they need to meet and discuss what to do together. In addition, we will run a discussion to consider how to better behave on said issue. If my employee who was In the wrong will refuse to apologize, refuse to meet, refuse to come out and admit he was wrong, only then I will fire him”.

So all in all, even though the power of the masses increased lately in their abilities to change situation (we’ve seen it happen many times in game industry where game design was changed, altered, or all together got thrown away because of loud voices), companies should still keep their cool when addressing employees, because no matter how the wrong one has been, it will certainly still affect the others, as they are working in the same environment and company, and it will certainly affect their morale in general, and the aftermath behaviour to follow.

Even though Price and Fries were fired and the situation appeared to be “fixed”, this was not the case. Mike O’Brien’s answer in the forum was good for the fans temporarily, but we are still not sure if any steps were taken to improve the standing and approach in the company itself; there should have been a discussion, not just the hammer. Many industry veterans responded to the situation, posting how they fear for their job; if the media asked for them to be fired, will it be the same case for them too? The answer should hopefully be no.

There is still a big void of questions, and many still wonder, “What’s next?”. Some fans became worried that such a situation may cause others in the industry to be less open to the public, other company members are calling out this behavior as unfitting and wondering how close the hand on the trigger is when it comes to the demanding masses and public behavior on online media. It was done so swiftly, with so little input and dialogue, that it’s no wonder people are left in the dark and asking if the situation could have been handled differently.

Personal Conclusions

First and foremost I believe there should have been some effort to calm the masses. Even if Jessica was in the wrong, the fiasco that followed on her was uncalled for. Someone should have stepped in and told both parties (those that defended her, and those that attacked her) to stop, as the situation was going to be handled.

Second, there should have been an attempt at a discussion between the two parties with the company managers to negotiate in between. I believe it could have improved the situation and would have given a proper and (much needed) better explanation on what was to be done next. It also would have shown an effort of good faith to all parties in regards to the public, reassuring the other employees so they will know they shouldn’t fear for their jobs if they follow the guidelines set forth.

Finally, companies need to start having a better understanding of social media while setting few, easy to understand ground rules of what to expect when a public figure runs their own personal account while representing the company (as expected from other public figures in the media, which are unrelated to games).

In the end, what I am trying to say is exactly what Deroir tried to say before- we need to engage in meaningful conversation and dialogue to work out such a situation in the future. We would all be better if we know how to handle crisis and how to better respond and prepare when setting out into the online waters of social media.

I would love to hear your opinion on the matter, so feel free to leave comments below.