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ArenaNet president: Fired devs 'could have chosen not to engage' on social media

"Executives promised us that they wanted us to speak up about the ugly things, the harmful things, and that we wouldn’t be punished for doing so," fired ArenaNet staffer Jessica Price tells Polygon.
"We want to hear from our players. It’s not acceptable that an attempted interaction with our company — in this case a polite game suggestion — would be met with open hostility and derision from us. That sets a chilling precedent."

- ArenaNet cofounder and president Mike O'Brien, in a statement to Polygon.

Polygon published an interesting interview with ex-ArenaNet staffer Jessica Price in which the veteran dev speaks at length about how she and colleague Peter Fries were fired from the company last week after getting into a Twitter argument with a fan.

A public post from ArenaNet cofounder and president Mike O'Brien (in which he called Price and Fries' sarcastic comments "attacks on the community") announced the firings to Guild Wars 2 fans, and in response some gathered in hubs like Reddit to celebrate their perceived power to get devs fired.

Price told The Verge she felt her firing set a chilling precedent for devs, stating that "the message is very clear, especially to women at the company: if Reddit wants you fired, we’ll fire you." That makes it all the more interesting, then, to see that when Polygon requested comment from O'Brien, he claims Price's frustrated Twitter response would itself have a chilling effect -- on fan engagement.

"[Price] was representing the company. The expectation was to behave professionally and respectfully, or at least walk away. Instead, she attacked," O'Brien stated. "We want to hear from our players. It’s not acceptable that an attempted interaction with our company — in this case a polite game suggestion — would be met with open hostility and derision from us. That sets a chilling precedent."

It's part of the longest explanation O'Brien has given publicly to date, and it comes amidst an interview in which Price expresses regret for ever recommending ArenaNet to fellow devs (especially women) and claims that she joined the company in part because of its upfront promises to respect and value employees' voices.

"There were meetings in which executives promised us that they wanted us to speak up about the ugly things, the harmful things, and that we wouldn’t be punished for doing so,” said Price. “And so it’s devastating that a company talking all that talk folded like a cheap card table the first time their values were actually tested. Doing the right thing is hard, sure, but doing it regularly makes it easier to keep doing it. And the corollary to that is that capitulating makes it harder to stop capitulating."

The rest of the interview is well worth reading in full over on Polygon, as Price speaks very frankly about the experience and how it's led to her withdrawing from the digital world in order to avoid being harassed and/or doxxed.

"I’m very tired,” she told Polygon. “I’m not reading the reactions. What would be the point? I have a security team handling my social media, since I’m under full bot assault. There’s nothing worth reading from bots and strangers on Twitter. If fellow devs want to reach out to me — and they have been, in droves — we have a network of mutual connections through which they can do that."

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