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ArenaNet have fired two Guild Wars 2 writers in response to their actions on Twitter.
Both writers had been arguing with fan(s) on Twitter regarding their own beliefs with writing. On July 3rd Guild Wars 2 writer Jessica Price posted a Twitter thread about writing for MMOs. She discussed the balance between giving player characters a personality but leaving enough for players to feel it’s still “their” character.
Here’s the post, compiled for easy reading:
“People booting up Bioshock know they’re playing Jack. People starting Dishonored know they’re playing Corvo. People beginning Tomb Raider know they’re playing Lara Croft. So in those games, you have more wiggle room to make the protagonist an actual character.
Whereas in an RPG, where the player chooses all kinds of character options and names their character and designs their face and so on, they feel more ownership over that character. They’re not playing a character YOU designed–they’re playing a character THEY designed.
So if Jack or Lara or Corvo says or does something the player doesn’t feel that THEY would say or do, the player’s more forgiving, because they have the expectation that they’re piloting a character someone else created.
[Not the overall plot objectives/quests] But the *interpersonal* stuff, the PC’s REACTIONS, players respond strongly to. Some people don’t like it if they think their character’s responding in ways that make them too much of an asshole. Some don’t like it if their character’s responses seem weak.
So, basically, most things that you’d do writing-wise to give a character, well, CHARACTER, are going to upset a large contingent, maybe even a majority, of your players.”
She then explains how writing an MMO player character it is akin to Bella Swan from the Twilight novels. In Price’s opinion the character is almost a blank slate for the audience to project onto, noting they should have “JUST enough personality to function. All of her personality traits are chosen to avoid preventing the reader from inserting themselves into the space she holds in the story.”
Derior, a partnered Guild Wars 2 streamer through ArenaNet’s content creator program, replied to Price’s thread:
“Really interesting thread to read! [OK Hand Emoji] However, allow me to disagree *slightly*. I dont believe the issue lies in the MMORPG genre itself (as your wording seemingly suggest). I believe the issue lies in the contraints of the Living Story’s narrative design; (1 of 3)
When you want the outcome to be the same across the board for all players’ experiences, then yes, by design you are extremely limited in how you can contruct the personality of the PC. (2 of 3)
But, if instead players were given the option to meaningfully express *their* character through branching dialogue options (which also aren’t just on the checklist for an achievement that forces you through all dialogue options), (3 of 4 cause I count seemingly…)
Then perhaps players would be more invested in the roleplaying aspect of that particular MMORPG. Nonetheless, I appreciate the insightful thread! (End)”
Price felt that Derior was being condescending, and replied to his thread with “thanks for trying to tell me what we do internally, my dude 9_9”. (9_9 indicating eyes rolling). Derior responded:
“You getting mad at my obvious attempt at creating dialogue and discussion with you, instead of just replying that I am wrong or otherwise correct me in my false assumptions, is really just disheartening for me. You do you though. I’m sorry if it offended. I’ll leave you to it.”
Price then posted several tweets between the July 3rd and 4th, stating how she felt she was being spoken down to, and the annoyance of those who she felt had no experience offering advice or guidance.
On July 3rd she argued with another streamer MMO Inks after his discussion with another Twitter user in reply to her tweets:
Price: “”As an amateur fantasy writer, I would like to tell you, a professional fantasy writer…” Maybe listen to yourself and stop right there, my dude.”
MMO Inks: “While it’s odd they would classify themselves and you as such it’s possible they still have / had valuable criticism?”
Ken Marable: “Orrr… maybe it wasn’t valid criticism and was instead the same sexist stuff she has to put up with every single day? Either way, I’d trust her to be able to tell the difference.”
MMO Inks: “Perhaps, we clearly don’t know the whole story. But I didn’t see a sexist comment from what was provided. I’d rather not assume someone is sexist, rather that it was criticism valid or not.”
Price: “*weary stare* Please go away.”
MMO Inks: “Don’t know what I said to upset you but fair enough.”
Price: “The comment I was talking about wasn’t necessarily sexist. Your response implying my reaction was overblown or my experience of it didn’t happen, however, is the shit women in games deal w every time we say anything about our experiences, & you just used your one pre-block strike.”
MMO Inks: “I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that it didn’t happen. Your reaction in that first tweet (without further context) came across that their criticism, because they are an amature, (their words) meant less. I would have respond the same regardless of sex or gender.”
Price: “Sure, dude. Now get out of my fucking feed with your assumptions and your entitlement to my time.”
“Today in being a female game dev: “Allow me–a person who does not work with you–explain to you how you do your job.” [Links to Derior’s tweet chain]”
“like, the next rando asshat who attempts to explain the concept of branching dialogue to me–as if, you know, having worked in game narrative for a fucking DECADE, I have never heard of it–is getting instablocked. PSA.”
Derior responded. “So much for an open discussion I guess. I meant no disrespect AT ALL. Never did. Never will. Neither did I imply I knew better. Nor has this ANYTHING to do with gender. Never did. Never will. I will retract my comment, cause obviously I’m in the wrong forum for this kind of talk,” he said.
Fellow Guild Wars 2 writer Peter Fries also weighed in on the debate. After Price tweeted: “Ask yourself why he felt the need to do that, though.”, Fries responded “Also see: lopsided defense of mansplaining in your mentions versus outpouring of sympathy for misunderstood dude in his”
Fries also defended Price’s belief that Derior was unjustified to other Twitter users.
James: “of course people are going to be sympathetic to the dude who got reduced to nothing but a ”mansplaining rando asshat” just for trying to have a meaningful discussion i understand the desire to defend a colleague but playing the whole gender card is just sad”
Fries: “Here’s a bit of insight that I legitimately hope he reflects on: she never asked for his feedback”
Nej Tak: “What the fuck? What kind of way of looking at the world is that? “We didn’t ask for our fans input when we put our thoughts on social media” Customer relations??”
Fries: “These are our *private* social media accounts—imagine you’re an astronomer and you start sharing some things you’ve learned in the last few months since you began a research project observing Saturn, only to have observation techniques explained to you by a layman”
Over on the official Guild Wars 2 forum and Guild Wars 2 SubReddit, users have been responding and discussing the drama. Eventually, ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien responded to the official forum, confirming both employees had been terminated:
“Recently two of our employees failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players. Their attacks on the community were unacceptable. As a result, they’re no longer with the company.
I want to be clear that the statements they made do not reflect the views of ArenaNet at all. As a company we always strive to have a collaborative relationship with the Guild Wars community. We value your input. We make this game for you.”
Guild Wars 2 is out now on Windows PC and Mac OS X. How do you feel about the entire debacle? Should the employees have been fired? Sound off in the comments below!