The gaming industry constantly takes heat for how it treats and interacts with women. From online harassment to Twitter threats to shaming and catcalls on other social media, the issue has only caught fire and doesn’t seem anywhere close to burning out.
The antagonists in this case are often Nameless Faceless Masses, but sometimes a big name brand gets tossed into the mix. This time, the brand under fire is Nintendo.
The company fired a woman named Alison Rapp last week, a move that immediately sent some people’s neck hair up. Rapp has always been a loud and proud advocate for women in gaming. Any time she popped up online Rapp became a target for abuse and all manner of nastiness simply for daring to be a woman in the gaming industry. Nintendo argued that Rapp got canned for working a second job, something the company specifically does not allow. In a statement released to the media, Nintendo said Rapp’s online tiffs with Gamergate members had nothing to do with her termination.
Of course, Rapp’s legion of fans has a different perspective of events. Their version is cultivated by Rapp’s incessant commentary on social media since the termination. She says Nintendo is okay with side work, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the day job, and she says the company only found out about the side work, which she did under an assumed name, because of online trolls. She may be right, but Rapp is sending a mixed message with this argument. Either having side work is okay or it isn’t. Saying the company allows it but found out about it because of malicious trolls infers that the company does in fact frown on side work…and that people “told on you” in order to cause harm.
Accusations of doxing aside, Rapp needs to get her message on point, or Nintendo’s PR team will eat her alive. It won’t matter a bit if already sympathetic fans stay loyal if the general public is turned against her because they’re confused by a mixed message.
Nintendo must also toe a very careful line. Fair firing might not be popular, but it’s understandable. But if they pile on too hard, they risk alienating their consumer market. Nothing looks good about a big corporation pummeling a girl.