International Game Developers Association (IGDA) executive director Kate Edwards has criticised Nintendo's recent termination of Alison Rapp, a Treehouse marketing staffer. Rapp had been the target of a vicious online harassment campaign on social media over the last several months.
The developer's "timing in dealing with the issue is dubious at best" Edwards said in a statement. She added that it sends a negative message to the rest of the gaming industry that game developers and publishers won't protect their employees against internet trolling and harassment.
"While Nintendo's official statement on the matter of Alison Rapp's firing strives to distance the company from anything related to the orchestrated online campaign of harassment and defamation that was raging against her, their timing in dealing with the issue is dubious at best," VentureBeat quoted Edwards's statement as saying.
"Unfortunately, the company seems oblivious to the consequences of their actions, not realizing the perceived victory it handed to the online hate groups who are now pursuing the dismissal of other women game developers by derision and defamation to their companies. By now, we would expect that all game development and publishing companies would be fully aware of negative social media dynamics and be more discerning of online feedback, as well as more protective of their employees — especially their employees of diverse backgrounds. Many have become proactive and aware but this industry obviously needs to make more progress."
Nintendo, however, has denied that the harassment campaign played any part in its decision to terminate Rapp.
"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," the company said in a statement to IGN. Nintendo is 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 endeavors."
According to Marcia McCormick, director of the William C Wefel Center for Employment Law at Saint Louis University, the console manufacturer did have a legal right to fire Alison Rapp, if it did so because of the controversial things she said in the past. "In the private sector, especially, there's no real autonomy protection or speech protection for employees," McCormick told Bloomberg.
The specifics of Rapp's firing still remain unclear. However, the controversial decision has triggered harsh criticism from several developers, advocates and fans.
Brandon Sheffield, director of Necrosoft Games took to Twitter to announce that his company is cancelling a game it was developing for Nintendo's Wii U console in protest against Rapp's termination. Game developer MidBoss also announced plans to stop production of its currently planned titles for Nintendo consoles, but later backtracked. Today, it tweeted its support for IGDA holding Nintendo accountable for its actions and said Nintendo should be setting an example.