How Nintendo Firing Alison Rapp Reopens the Issues of GamerGate

On March 30th, Nintendo fired Alison Rapp, a spokeswoman and product manager for Nintendo America, after weeks of online harassment from a large gamer community. Rapp was a known feminism advocate, who spoke out against the harassment of women within the gaming community. Nintendo claims its decision to fire Rapp wasn’t related to the harassment she received from the gaming community, but rather because she was ‘moonlighting’, or had another job in addition to her position with Nintendo. The company claimed it was against its policy for an employee to have another job, but Rapp insisted there were no policies against it.

Rapp’s situation is not only upsetting, but it also speaks volumes about women working within the gaming industry. Rapp mentions in one of her tweets that she believes if [GamerGate] hadn’t dug up all of her previous tweets and other information, Nintendo wouldn’t have fired her. GamerGate has a long history of hurting the lives of women within this industry, and it’s only getting worse.

The origins of GamerGate

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Anita Sarkeesian, one of many female gamers targeted during “GamerGate”, PC: Associations Now

GamerGate is said to have originated in 2014 when game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend wrote a long letter on online, claiming Quinn was sleeping with journalists for better coverage of her new game. Since then, GamerGate has morphed into a group of gamers that harass women, usually working with the gaming industry, who speak out against the unfair treatment of women. This has led to many women being afraid to speak out for themselves in fear of being hacked and having their information spread online. Those who have spoken out receive a backlash of death threats, crude comments, and other online harassment.

Originally, GamerGate started as a term referencing ethical journalism within the gaming industry. It was intended to start conversations about representation and misogyny in videogames, but it quickly became a term associated with those who harass and belittle those who speak out for women.

A Continuing Problem

GamerGate is not the first time female harassment within video games has come to light. The harassment of females in video games has been an ongoing issue for years, and GamerGate has only managed to put it in the spotlight more and reveal what a problem it is for women who simply want to enjoy video games.

Filmmaker Shannon Sun-Higginson made a documentary film about this specific topic. Her film GTFO follows the story of several female gamers and their encounters with sexual harassment online. Her film was actually started completed shortly before the big GamerGate scandal started, but the timing couldn’t have been better.

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Still from “GTFO”, PC: Girl Talk HQ

Overall, the issues arose when the gaming community— consisting primarily of men— felt their games were being attacked by the ‘feminist agenda’. They believed feminist wanted to change all video games, not just have better representation. A whole war has erupted over this  issue, and taking sides may lead to even more harassment.

So what does this mean for the future?

Obviously, there are still plenty of issues that need worked out within the video game industry. Women need to be treated better in the gaming community, and the harassment needs to end. The means support for women needs to come from all sides. Maybe Nintendo did have reasonable cause to fire Rapp, but right now it looks awfully suspicious with her ties to GamerGate. Women should be protected, not punished, for fighting back against the harassment. The video game industry will continue to suffer with sides divided in this way.

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