The Price is Wrong

It’s been a few days since the drama, but I wanted to reserve a piece of internet real estate to talk about the Jessica Price fiasco. It’s fine if you don’t know who that is, or what the drama is about. All you really need to know is the following sequence of events:

  1. Jessica Price talks about the challenges with narrative storytelling in MMOs.
  2. Popular streamer and GW2 content creator, Deroir, suggests that solutions can be found doing things a different way.
  3. Jessica Price responds with the following:

Today in being a female game dev:

“Allow me–a person who does not work with you–explain to you how you do your job.”

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.

Since we’ve got a lot of hurt manfeels today, lemme make something clear: this is my feed. I’m not on the clock here. I’m not your emotional courtesan just because I’m a dev. Don’t expect me to pretend to like you here.

The attempts of fans to exert ownership over our personal lives and times are something I am hardcore about stopping. You don’t own me, and I don’t owe you.

Within the day, she was fired.

The reason I wanted to lay this all out is because the reality-distortion fields are being engaged and the entire debacle is being framed as a new Feminism vs GamerGate front. And that’s incredibly dumb, and sad, and arguably dangerous. Jessica Price was fired because she was behaving as a noxious asshole in an official capacity. Full stop. We don’t even have to examine whether it was “mansplaining” to interact with Jessica’s social media post, because there isn’t a scenario in which her response is ever appropriate.

And instead of talking about that, we’re talking about this:

Price is worried about the precedent the firings set. “The message is very clear, especially to women at the company: if Reddit wants you fired, we’ll fire you,” she said. “Get out there and make sure the players have a good time. And make sure you smile while they hit you.”

That’s a Kotaku link, but the framing of the debate is also being set by Polygon (emphasis mine):

Jessica Price, who was fired by ArenaNet last week for arguing with fans of the company’s Guild Wars 2 MMO, said she feels betrayed by how the company “folded like a cheap card table” when confronted by toxic fandom. In an interview with Polygon, she talked about the meeting in which she was fired, and castigated ArenaNet managers for their “highly unprofessional” reaction to a social media controversy.

That kinda makes it sound like Price was heroically standing up to the school bully, and unfortunately got caught in the Zero Tolerance policy for fighting back.

Instead of, you know, reading literally this:

Really interesting thread to read! 👌 However, allow me to disagree *slightly*. I dont believe the issue lies in the MMORPG genre itself (as your wording seemingly suggest). I believe the issue lies in the contraints of the Living Story’s narrative design; (1 of 3)

When you want the outcome to be the same across the board for all players’ experiences, then yes, by design you are extremely limited in how you can contruct the personality of the PC. (2 of 3)

But, if instead players were given the option to meaningfully express *their* character through branching dialogue options (which also aren’t just on the checklist for an achievement that forces you through all dialogue options), (3 of 4 cause I count seemingly…)

then perhaps players would be more invested in the roleplaying aspect of that particular MMORPG. Nonetheless, I appreciate the insightful thread! (End)

And responding with:

Jessica Price:

thanks for trying to tell me what we do internally, my dude 9_9


You getting mad at my obvious attempt at creating dialogue and discussion with you, instead of just replying that I am wrong or otherwise correct me in my false assumptions, is really just disheartening for me. You do you though. I’m sorry if it offended. I’ll leave you to it.

Jessica Price:

Today in being a female game dev:

“Allow me–a person who does not work with you–explain to you how you do your job.”

And yet this is somehow Reddit’s fault, as if the notoriety of the thread detailing Price’s behavior was spontaneously generated (or artificially manufactured), and not the natural result of her shockingly aggressive behavior. Suppose there were bots involved, perhaps unleashed by GamerGaters who are somehow huge GW2 fans and capable of mobilizing within hours. The most they could do is increase the thread’s visibility, after which it seems easy to imagine becoming self-perpetuating.

I don’t like anything about this entire scenario – it feels like a permanent loss to chaos and entropy. This unforced error gives those in GamerGate a free win, when their general philosophy is abhorrent nonsense. And here I am, also defending corporations and their ownership over the social media profiles of their employees, even when “off the clock.” Like when Price writes “make sure you smile while they hit you,” I want to ask if she has ever worked a goddamn day in customer service or retail in her entire life. Yeah, that’s the job. I’ve worked at places for years in which hanging up on a customer was a fireable offense the first time you did so.

I don’t know what the takeaway on all this is. I am not a culture warrior, but I do believe in social justice. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but I can’t muster any sympathy for Price. Maybe I’m not as good as I imagine myself to be. But if that person has to read what was actually said and come to the “Reddit got me fired” conclusion? Then I don’t want to be that guy. Price deserved the boot.

Posted on July 10, 2018, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Guessing here, but I imagine this isn’t the first time she did something like this. Perhaps the first time in public view, but working with her was likely a real treat… Plus while this is something Anet absolutely can fire her over, if she was a highly-valued employee and this was her one slip-up, she doesn’t get canned. If she is a pain and an average worker, this isn’t a big loss for them and they ‘do the right thing’.

    Finally I’d like to imagine the ‘Reddit got me fired’ crowd is the tiny minority here, and the sites writing about it like that are doing it more for click-bait than because they believe it.


  2. Just read the Polygon article. Add ‘clearly lying’ to her list of wrongs here. Zero chance this part is actually true: “He caved to a handful of people and an army of bots and sock puppets,” she added. “Now he’s got almost every female developer I know — as well as some men — furious with him. I’ve got recruiters pinging me promising they’ll steer candidates away from ArenaNet, and game design professors saying they’re going to warn their students away. I’ve also had a lot of ArenaNet co-workers and other industry colleagues contacting me to express how afraid this has made them.”

    No recruiter is going to do that. That’s just not how that business works, which is why that’s such a dumb lie to make up.

    What is true is that the way she has handled this whole thing means recruiters likely won’t be trying to place her, and if you are a game studio, why in the world would you sign up to deal with someone like this, regardless of whether she can write decent dialog or not. Especially not when there is now a track-record of this: “She said she was previously fired from a role-playing game company for complaining about its lack of response to a male business associate who sexually harassed women at the company.”


  3. I’d forgotten it until the furore kicked off but there was actaully some considerable concern expressed on the GW2 forums back when she joined the company because of what was apparently known about her previous history. There was reference to that in the aftermath threads.

    As I posted, the issue is 100% about what an employee can do and say that will lead to disciplanary action. Gender is not pertinent. I appreciate that all of our responses are affected by our life-experience and our life experience is, or can be, gendered, but in terms of what is permissable for an employee, gender does not figure. Indeed, under gender legislation in many countries, my own included, it cannot figure.

    I think another underlying problem here is that some employees of gaming companies, because their work has an artistic component, believe themselves to be artists. Artists in many cultures are afforded more leeway in their behavior than non-artists would be. This perception is often encouraged by both fans and employers. It is not, however, written into employment contracts. A games writer or artist is an employee with terms and conditions of employment in the way that a self-employed writer or artist is not. It is, to put it bluntly, a job.

    The comics industry, of course, went through a huge cultural upheaval around exactly this disconnect in the 1980s/90s and the writers and artists won. Work-made-for-hire, as it was known, which had been the industry standard for decades, ceased in favor of royalties and copyright agreements. Many comics artists (and a handful of comics writers) became millionaires on the back of it. They also were able to express themselves freely without fear of being sacked.

    Perhaps something like that will happen in gaming but until it does, devs are employees just like the people in customer service or accounting. If people in the industry really are “afraid” as a result of this affair it will most liklely be because they have been uncomfortably reminded of the actual status of their employee-employer relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I probably should have pulled this quote out of the Polygon article specifically, but it speaks to what you’re saying too:

      “I was given no opportunity to argue my case,” she said. “My manager was on vacation. [O’Brien] spent some time insisting that developers must be friends with the company’s customers, and that it was unacceptable to say that we aren’t, even when we’re not on the clock. He told me I’d look back and regret this, because we were doing great work and I’d ruined it.

      “The whole thing was highly unprofessional,” she continued. “There was zero reason for him to be there. He wanted to vent his anger, and he had the power to command a woman to stand there while he took his feelings out on her, so he did. Then he walked out, [the manager] got my stuff from my desk and the HR person asked for my key card.”

      Her reaction in that second paragraph should tell you everything you could possibly need to know about Price, and how she is to work with. What an ass.


  4. I’ve not really read all of it so I won’t comment on the matter per se.

    But what I don’t get is this widespread use of personal accounts for speaking for the company.
    Maybe I’ve just never had a high-profile enough job, but if my twitter handle would be on business cards or I’d be posing as “official XYZ employee” I wouldn’t speak to anyone remotely like that as a company representative. No, strike that – I’ve never put my employer anywhere near a private account and don’t plan to. If I needed an official one I’d create one for that purpose. But maybe I’m not vain enough to not stay incognito.


    • There are two elements to it. The first is that many people leverage their jobs to position themselves as authorities on some matter. “I’m a game designer, so clearly I know what I’m talking about.” Which is bizarre to me in the case of gaming, because “years of service” doesn’t particularly mean anything at all. That could be ten years of you doing something badly – nobody cares how long you have been writing novels, if none of them are any good. Even if they are making objectively successful games, that doesn’t stop anyone from complaining about their work (see: WoW devs).

      The second element is that there is no such thing as a private account in today’s business world. You are either anonymous, or you are reflecting on your employer. That sounds terrible and totalitarian… but I would be pretty mad if my child’s teacher showed up at a White Nationalist Rally and they still had a job the next week. Some jobs with more authority make us especially sensitive to personal biases coming through, but in today’s 24/7 social media world, things have a tendency to spiral out of control rather quickly. If you’re employed and didn’t have to sign something acknowledging that everything you post reflects on the company, then I am surprised – that seems pretty standard boilerplate these days.


      • I guess that’s where the US and Europe diverge. I’m pretty sure I’ve never signed something like this and our courts would probably favor the employee if it’d come that far.

        Also Twitter isn’t so popular (at least in Germany) and I can’t think of many other platforms that mix public visibility with this form of commenting as much (Facebook is less public, Instagram is not so much discussion, and Snapchat is probably a bit of both). Also I guess my filter bubble excludes just many developers and open source people who do argue, but hardly with “customers” on a scale as game devs.


      • Over here in the UK my facebook account is dead for this exact reason: my employer told me I’ll be sacked if anything I ever put on FB blows back on them. Its now part of my contract and their social media policy. I used to like to troll people, and also post pics of food. ( can no longer do either. The secondly interestingly enough because it falls foul of UK advertising laws. In the same way I can no longer post on social media that I like a movie or a song. All because I work for a supermarket that sells all those things.

        As for Price: I would be sacked on the spot if I told a customer I didn’t care about their opinion. Wether it was face to face or over twitter. I’d be done. I have absolutely no sympathy for her. Don’t engage in customer service (which she did by talking to the customers as an employee of the company who she worked for “Im a game dev”) If you don’t know how to respect the customers and nod politely along as they behave like rando asshats. I’ve been sworn at, assaulted and threatened IRL along the cause of my career and NEVER have I insulted a customer. I apologise on behalf of the company that I am unable to assist them. Have a nice day.

        I think the majority of the people defending her have never worked a day of their lives in retail.


  5. One more thing: she wasn’t working with customers, she was working with story items. Back-office workers has no experience with “smile while they call you nigger faggot” customer policies. I’m not expected to interact with customers in my job and if any of them would come to me complaining, I’d be completely right to give them the phone number of the company reps and hang up.


  6. It’s almost scary the spin sites like Polygon are trying to put on this. Their latest opinion piece is just completely blind to the actual content of Price’s tweets, or the fact that she brought gender politics into her attacks. Does Ben Kucherra and company who wrote the latest opinion piece actually believe the agenda they are pushing or is this just some intentional outrage to drive website visits?


  7. Out of curiosity, did you intentionally invoke Happy Gilmore with your post’s title? The unsaid word could be seen as apt in this situation.

    However, it seems unlikely that someone who states, “I do believe in social justice. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal,” would intentionally make that connotation. I’ll chalk it up as a Freudian slip. ;)

    As for your conclusion, there is no objective reality for the conflict theorists. There are only power relationships. This was a man in conflict with a woman. Neither can be objectively right, so the “correct’ thing to do is side with the weaker party. That’s what the media in this case did. That’s what the the conflict theorists *always* do.

    That’s the difference between progressives and classical liberals.


    • I thought the title was a pun on the old game show “The Price Is Right”.

      And in a conflict between a dev and a fan, wouldn’t the fan be the weaker party by default?


      • “And in a conflict between a dev and a fan, wouldn’t the fan be the weaker party by default?”

        If they were both men, or both women, sure. However, a power imbalance due to an innate characteristic is more important/defining than a power imbalance due to a role you choose. Being a game dev or game fan is not part of one’s identity in the same way as being male or female.


    • As Shintar mentions, it was a pun on the game show, not Happy Gilmore.

      I’m not one to complain about “the media” very often, but this is truly a circular firing squad situation we have found ourselves in again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. And now ANet devs think a second time before posting ANYTHING on reddit or twitter.


    • Well, isn’t this lovely. Someone is feeling their oats.

      And with the firing of Fisher we pretty much know everyone will keep their head down at ANet. No point in being the mole to get whacked.


    • My thoughts as well.

      Price acted unwisely, but there’s something seriously amiss with ANet here, too. I get the impression that policy on private social media was not clarified, for one thing – and that statement about how ‘devs have to be customers’ friends’ is complete nonsense.

      I would not hire Price, but I sure as hell would not take a job offer from ANet, either.


      • If you were a game dev and working at a lower paid position (not a major studio, or an owner of a decent indie), you’d take a raise to work at ANet, not only for the money, but for the career jump. If you don’t, you’re a moron or more interested in some misguided SJW ideal than bettering yourself and your family, plain and simple.

        Plus lets not be dumb and lump someone writing a marginal article (the 50 CEO thing is clickbait, but not a DIRECT attack at a fan who was politely interacting with a dev) with what Price did, which at just about any company, gaming or otherwise, is a fireable offense (and her reaction to it after makes the firing all the easier to understand).


      • I’m not saying it for social justice reasons, although it’s also true that getting richer more quickly isn’t the sum total of ‘bettering’ yourself, unless you’re some petit-bourgeois philistine.

        I’m saying it because taken together with Fries’s firing in particular, it’s clear to me that it’s a management/policy problem. Which is a bad sign in a potential employer, to anyone not approaching their career from a position of desperation.


      • To echo Az, in this situation management did the right thing, which is why the whole “I won’t work at Anet now because of this!” is so ridiculous, as is her claims that recruiters are telling her they won’t refer people for Anet jobs.


    • As they… should?

      I guess I’m confused about how any of this is or should be different than what happens in the real world, every day. If I made a post on Facebook disparaging the customers/clients my employer services and anyone connected the dots, I would be called down to HR within hours. I was almost fired from a job back in 2007 because the company managed to webcrawl their way to my anonymous LiveJournal account and figure out I was posting about hating my boss. Went from perfect performance reviews to Final Warning instantly.

      I hate corporations and am forever boggled by those who trust them more than they trust the government. But in this particular instance? Yeah, you should fire any employee who actively derides customers, especially when said customer was doing nothing wrong. Why wouldn’t you?


      • RE: Price

        1) I don’t think personal behavior should be a firing offense. I think there should be greater employee protections across the board. I don’t think social media posts about how you hate your boss should get you fired. If anything I think a business might be more interested in mediation there. Of course, that bites into profits, and without some organization that negotiates contracts and disputes with management on behalf of employees this isn’t how things will be. Do I think we will ever live in that society? No. People think they have greater protections than they do (polls support this and I think there’s some support for it), but we have deeper Second Guilded Age problems that we will need to take care of first.

        2) In her comments she’s claimed that she’s never been talked to about her behavior in the past. She was also a known entity when they hired her. If what she says is true, firing for first offense tells the rest of the devs at ANet that the company really does not have your back.

        3) Reactive firing shows that they have a very bad relationship with their fans, and possibly no HR system. This isn’t just about fan interaction, it might very well mean that under even slightly adverse conditions ANet is willing to turn over on it’s back and pee on it’s belly. I can imagine many other situations where it’s “easier” to burn an employee than stand up to a bit of pressure. Not a good place to work, one where it can be hard to feel safe.

        RE: Fries

        1) Unless they decided to fire him because he was responsible for hiring Price and/or he made it part of his job to guarantee her “good behavior”, I really can’t see why they fired him. It’s literally the only reason I can see this resulting.

        2) Really. Can anyone explain to be how they think the firing of Fries can be excused or explained? No wonder the “fans” on reddit think they have all the power now.

        RE: ArenaNet

        1) There’s hardly any reason to let ANY number of players think you make hiring and firing decisions based on their input. Making them feel that their input matters when it comes to design decisions can help, but not universally. Making them feel as though their opinions are heard, even if they don’t change your design decisions, is important if you can relate your design decisions and why they are important, or why they can’t incorporate player inputs.

        2) People like to personify things they have a conflict with, especially systemic things. It is very satisfying to think that removing one individual will solve everything instead of dealing with entrenched systemic issues (I think conspiracy theories and anthromporphization are on this continuum).

        3) If they want to have the same level of freedom they have had in the past, the next time anything like this happens, they had better react in the opposite direction or they may very well have to go silent for a long time.


      • 1) For the record, the absolute power that corporations wield over employees is a nightmare reality that we have just somehow come to accept. Any kind of Union would have mediated the situation, Price would have gotten 3 months to correct her social media behavior, and life would have went on. Unfortunately, the US hates Unions, including most tech employees, and so I have very little sympathy for them.

        2) Her behavior likely did not include antagonizing customers days after an important product launch.

        3) On the contrary, I think ArenaNet actually has a really good relationship with their fans, which is why this was so important to not screw up. Perhaps “tenuous” would be better. In any case, if Price had not chosen Deroir to lambaste, or if Deroir had actually been sexist in any way, I think there may have been a different result.

        Re: Fries

        I’m assuming you didn’t catch any of his now-deleted tweets. “Also see: lopsided defense of mansplaining in your mentions versus outpouring of sympathy for misunderstood dude in his.” “Here’s a bit of insight that I legitimately hope he reflects on: she never asked for his feedback.” “These are our *private* social media accounts—imagine you’re an astronomer and you start sharing some things you’ve learned in the last few months since you began a research project observing Saturn, only to have observation techniques explained to you by a layman.”

        He tied himself real tight to that wagon.

        Re: ArenaNet

        This is an area where I simply disagree. That this entire episode resulted in a “win” for GamerGate or the mob or Reddit or whatever is purely coincidental. This is hardly the first time that ArenaNet has done something controversial, and nobody else was fired. As long as no one runs around calling customers “asshats,” I think everyone will be fine.


      • First, I think we’ll see, probably sooner than later, just how emboldened the ostensible community is by the firings. Or maybe just how tenuous ANet’s relationship is with their customer base.

        Second, I think too many people are letting Deroir off too easy. I see very little discussion and a lot of “no, do this”. I think Price is right, and Fries as well (yes I did read those, I think they were right).


  9. “This unforced error gives those in GamerGate a free win, when their general philosophy is abhorrent nonsense.”

    And yet a few paragraphs previous to this you criticize the media for dishonestly framing the incident in order to present a skewed narrative–exactly the sort of thing self-described Gamergaters oppose. These same outlets are also largely responsible for the framing of Gamergate itself. Interesting.


    • Way back in 2014, I was sorta onboard with the whole “ethics in gaming journalism” thing, specifically in the realm of reporters needing to cozy up to developers for review copies and subsequently never going below a 7/10 review score. It’s been a long, long time since that is what GamerGate has been about though – a casual stroll through /r/kotakuinaction is more than enough to disabuse one of that notion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sure, Gamergate isn’t exclusively about the ethics thing. It’s since sorta been folded into a broader anti-authoritarian, anti-social-justice-culture (ie anti outrage culture, anti identity politics, etc), anti-feminism (due to what’s perceived a pro-censorship, anti-individualist political bent in modern feminism), pro-free-speech, left-libertarian movement, which sees the media’s embrace of such illiberal politics as an ethical concern in and of itself, and I can certainly understand disagreement on those points, but the notion that it encourages, let alone is *about* harassing women or minorities is highly suspect given the evidence.

        Anyway, other than that I totally agreed with your post.


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