Today, Nintendo fired Alison Rapp, a former product marketing specialist for the video game company. Rapp in recent months found herself the target of GamerGate, a hate group that’s been harassing and threatening women and other targets online since 2014.
GamerGate’s harassment of Rapp was triggered by the hate group’s objections over changes made in certain Japanese-developed Nintendo games, including the recent Fire Emblem: Fates, as the games underwent a process called “localization.” Localization is a process by which cultural differences between Japan and the (in some ways) more conservative West are taken into consideration, often resulting in minor changes to the Western releases of Japanese games; things like characters’ ages being changed to address cultural differences regarding age of consent and sexualization of minors. For the most part it’s trivial, but also important, stuff.
Rapp never worked on Nintendo’s localization team, but her harassment intensified over changes made to Fire Emblem—specifically a mini-game in which players could use the Nintendo 3DS system’s stylus and touch screen to literally pet the faces of in-game characters. It was weird, but some people—members of GamerGate specifically—objected to its removal in the game’s Western release, crying “censorship” and latching onto Rapp, an outspoken feminist active on social media.
I’m going to link to Kotaku a bit, because they’ve done a great job covering this over the months. (Full disclosure: I have written for Kotaku in the past.) The site’s Patrick Klepek did a great thing on the anti-“censorship” movement late last year, and, earlier this month, he wrote about the ongoing harassment of Rapp.
One prominent tactic for online harassers is to dig up something questionable from a target’s past and proliferate it in an attempt to discredit them. In this case, Rapp’s harassers unearthed a paper Rapp wrote in college concerning sexualization of minors in Japanese culture. Here’s how Klepek, a reporter who’s done far more research on this than I have, described it:
Rapp’s essay isn’t perfect and her tweets suggest she was, at least years ago, someone more comfortable with the ideas of teens being seen as sex objects than the average American might be. But, no shit: it’s an essay written by a young college student who was very into Japanese culture, where societal standards are different. The basic premise of her essay says Japan should be allowed to define its own cultural boundaries and not bow to the pressures of outside forces. Ironically, while Rapp has become a symbol of the supposedly nefarious social justice warriors censoring Japanese games, she’s being attacked with an essay in which she argued that Japanese culture should stay Japanese.
Rapp’s harassers openly employed tactics like calling Nintendo executives, whose contact information was disseminated on at least one neo-nazi website—The Daily Stormer, to which I decline to provide a link—and “act[ing] as a concerned parent,” to ensure Nintendo would take them seriously. And after months of this, it worked: Nintendo caved, and Rapp announced today on her Twitter account that her employment with Nintendo has been “terminated”:
Today, the decision was made: I am no longer a good, safe representative of Nintendo, and my employment has been terminated.— smol pterodactyl (@alisonrapp) March 30, 2016
Twitter—at least my Twitter feed, filled as it is with sane people—exploded in outrage to a degree I haven’t seen in a while. Rapp has urged friends and supporters to continue supporting her “incredible coworkers at Nintendo,” but based on the tweets I’ve seen today it seems many are preparing to take a stand.
At least one game developer—albeit a small one, though this is only one I happened to notice in my feed today—claims to have canceled plans to release a game on Nintendo’s Wii U system:
And the sentiments elsewhere on Twitter were clear:
video games: where people are more likely to stand up for a fake woman’s butt than a real woman’s job— Nathan Grayson (@Vahn16) March 30, 2016
When people ask “what can we do to get more women into games?”, how about not throwing the existing ones under a bus for a fucking start— Innes MᶜKendrick (@innesmck) March 30, 2016
When companies cave in to vile harassment tactics aimed at women, they send a message that those tactics of gendered abuse are acceptable.— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) March 30, 2016
Doubtless there is some dark, malodorous corner of Twitter and the internet as a whole that’s rejoicing at this “victory"—getting a woman fired, through abusive and duplicitous tactics, allegedly over a perceived slight that she factually had nothing to do with in the first place, for the actual reason that she is an outspoken feminist and some members of the gaming community are shambling, half-witted trash people with nothing better to do than make life more difficult for the actual, thinking, human adults in the world who simply enjoy playing video games. But today, it’s Nintendo that committed the real offense, by giving in to the some of the scummiest people on the internet.
I reached out to Nintendo for comment about this, and a company spokesperson sent the following statement:
Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavors.
This article and its headline were edited once following publication in light of the statement received from Nintendo.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. You can direct the harassment to his Twitter @RogueCheddar.
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