The Alison Rapp Situation

Yesterday, Alison Rapp of Nintendo Treehouse, was fired from her job following a hateful harassment campaign seemingly spearheaded by Gamer Gate supporters.

It’s the current headlining event of the ongoing Video Game Culture War, as it’s being called; although labelling this event as an act of warfare might lend undue legitimacy to what’s essentially thousands of children throwing a misinformed, illogical, and uneducated tantrum.

There were several alterations made localise the English version of Fire Emblem Fates for the West. “Skinship” was removed, which is a mini-game that occurs when you invite a character back to your room to spend time with them and gain support bonuses from them. In the Japanese version you pet them on the face using the touch screen, but this was removed in the English version of the game. Other decisions include leaving out the Japanese audio track, and altering other sections of the game perceived as problematic to Western audiences. A lot of people were displeased about the localisation of this game. So displeased, in fact, that they decided to grab their pitchforks, light their torches and attempt, in earnest, to ruin a woman.

The harassment of Rapp came about several months ago, when alterations in Fire Emblem Fates’ Western release became apparent. Criticism of the changes decried the changes as an act of “censorship”, with people wanting a more “authentic” version of the game in English. Rapp, as an employee of the Treehouse -Nintendo of America’s product development division that were responsible for the localisation of the English version of Fates- came under fire from people that blamed her for the modified or missing sections of the game. This is despite the fact that she worked not in the localisation department, but in marketing as a spokesperson for the game; the decisions for what parts of the game should remain intact were never made by her. She was simply the most visible employee related to the game’s Western release.

The constant witch-hunt that characterises reactionary Gamer Gate culture had found a new target, and so began the cycle of harassment that’s sadly too often seen nowadays. Research on Rapp turned up evidence of her personal views on Feminism as well as details of her personal life, as well as her open criticism of the harassment of women that was perpetrated by Gamer Gaters in the fever-pitch stages of the movement. People used these findings to justify calling her names like “Feminazi” and “SJW”, which are insults that always make you seem very rational and clever.

Amongst the discoveries about Rapp’s personal life was an academic essay she wrote in 2012 in defence of the Japanese culture around sexualising girls that much of the West would label underage. The work focuses on the nuanced societal contexts around pornography laws in Japan, and the legitimacy of International pressure on Japan for it. This led to her critics including white supremacist site the Daily Stormer, to label Rapp as a paedophile, or a paedophile supporter. This is in spite of the nature of localisation that the Treehouse had performed on Fire Emblem Fates; it seems to me that people had become so focused on demonising and discrediting Rapp that they forgot she was arguing about the cultural legitimacy of content pertaining to elements they wanted in the game for authenticity’s sake.

Throughout this whole debacle, Nintendo remained quiet. The company offered no comment or support as one of their employees endured what must have been an extremely scary ordeal. Instead, they quietly moved Rapp away from the spotlight, and ultimately decided to terminate her job yesterday. Rapp tweeted in announcement of the occasion: “Today, the decision is made: I am no longer a good, safe representative of Nintendo, and my employment has been terminated.”

Nintendo denied that the harassment campaign was related to Alison Rapp’s termination in a statement provided to IGN. They stated that Rapp was fired not as a result of her “being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media”, rather for “violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture”. They go on to say that they “firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race, or personal beliefs”, which I’m sure Alison found very reassuring and helpful.

Rapp admitted on Twitter that she had carried out some moonlighting under a pseudonym (Nintendo has a strict policy on their representatives in non-sanctioned appearances; localiser Chris Pranger was terminated following an appearance on Part-Time Gamers Podcast and talking candidly about work), claiming that she was working anonymously to avoid people connecting the dots between her side-work and Nintendo, while she earned some extra cash to help with student loans. She also tweeted that “Moonlighting is actually accepted at Nintendo. It’s policy”. That’s a claim that has the potential to throw a spanner in Nintendo’s carefully-worded rationale.

The concluding section of this post features a lot of conjecture on my part, although it’s the story that makes the most sense to me given the information I’ve found. Feel free to form your own opinions based around what information you’d care to gather if you feel like I haven’t presented enough to support my closing statements.

Nintendo is a company whose mascot features so few discernible character traits that he could barely be considered offensive to anyone (aside from the Italian stereotype thing). It seems most likely to me that Nintendo fired Alison Rapp because she is a person that’s outspoken about her views, Nintendo’s suits wanted to distance the company from someone with views that some people on the internet take umbrage with. Someone dug through Rapp’s past with such an obsession that they could concretely link her to anonymous work not even related to games. Nintendo used that information to axe her in stead of their real grievance: she’s a high-profile figure in social media that doesn’t fit into their modus operandi: risk-less, inoffensive and above all tightly controlled messaging. So afraid they were of alienating any small portion of their audience, no matter how vile their actions and tactics are, that they grabbed whatever reason they could find to get rid of her.

Image credits- mynintendonews.com

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