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Nintendo Denies Harassment Factored Into Termination of Employee

Alison Rapp was harassed over localization changes made to a few games—changes that she had no part in instituting.

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Yesterday afternoon, Alison Rapp, who had been the target for a sustained harassment campaign for several months, tweeted that her employment at Nintendo of America had been terminated. In response, many people began to send Nintendo letters expressing their concern over whether this termination had anything to do with the harassment, which the video game company later denied had any involvement in their decision. Nintendo stated that Rapp engaged in moonlighting, holding on to a second job under an alias, which they say is against their company policy.

Rapp didn’t deny that she held a second job or that she used an alias, but she also said that moonlighting wasn’t forbidden at Nintendo. According to Kotaku, she tweeted, “Moonlighting is actually accepted at Nintendo. It’s policy.” She had taken another job (the details of which are as yet unknown) under an alias to help her pay off her student loans.

It is her belief that if she wasn’t targeted for harassment at the beginning of all of this, it’s not likely that Nintendo would have spent the time and energy digging into her private life to find said second job and use it as grounds for termination. “An anon found out, told them, and here we are,” she tweeted. “It was moonlighting Nintendo didn’t like, despite the fact that it was anonymous.” She went on to explain how harassment played a role in what happened, tweeting, “Here’s the thing: Do u honestly think that without GG’s attacks, the ‘lateral move’ and the obsessive privacy digging would have happened?” The “lateral move” Rapp mentions refers to when Nintendo stripped her of her spokesperson status, blocking her from leading games as a product manager.

The harassment campaign Rapp sustained came as a result of anger over changes that occurred during the localization process for Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fire Emblem Fates. In short, people believed that some of the more controversial features of each of these games (Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s “boob slider” and Fire Emblem Fates‘ gay conversion therapy scene) were removed because of censorship and “social justice warrior” action. Since Rapp worked in Nintendo’s “Treehouse” division, which is responsible for translation and localization, she became a target even though she did not work on the team that oversaw the actual changes. She worked on the marketing team, but that did not stop her from earning the ire of the group responsible for the harassment.

Much of the controversy came to a head when one member of the group dug up an old college paper written by Rapp which dove into Japan’s take on child porn laws. This essay argued that Japan should be allowed to maintain its cultural values with regards to said laws, which is (in the most ironic of ironies) exactly what the harassing group wanted out of Nintendo’s localization. The problem came when it was weaponized by her harassers, spun into a paper supporting pedophilia, and used to essentially destroy Rapp’s character.

Kotaku provided an excellent analysis of the events, diving into whys and wherefores of what happened, and why the use of this essay in particular is a scary new tactic being used in the “new front of the neverending video game war.” The problem at the heart of what happened here is larger than Rapp or these games. Nintendo, one of the biggest, most widely-known names in the entire video game industry, turned its back on a female employee who found herself to be the target of a harassment campaign that didn’t even really know what she did at the company. She was a woman in a prominent position, and that was enough to make her a target. Rather than supporting an embattled employee, Nintendo dove into her private life in what feels like a search for any reason to let her go. Rather than help her, she was shown the door and left out in the cold.

For an industry that apparently tries so hard to “make things better” for women, this is one hell of a way of show it. Provided with an opportunity to make an impact for women working in games, Nintendo instead chose to distance itself from someone undeserving of the harassment she soaked up on behalf of the company. Most of all, it comes down to this: For many, it is completely unsurprising that Nintendo did what it did. This is the sad, depressing expectation of all women working in games. When—and believe me, it is a when and not an if—they become the target of harassment, it’s more likely than not that they can expect to be “laterally moved” out of what they love to do and iced out, or perhaps even outright fired for completely unrelated reasons. These things can and will and have happened through no fault of their own; they will have their entire lives dramatically altered simply because a faceless group of people have decided to harass and dig up skeletons in order to assassinate a person’s character.

Nobody deserves the harassment that Rapp faced at the hands of a faceless mob. There is such a long, long way to go before we can even begin to think that things are better for women in games by any stretch of the imagination. What happened here with Nintendo and Rapp stands as an example of how bad things really are. At the very least, this shows us exactly how far we need to go. It is a (grim, chilling) reminder that shit still sucks, and that for those who wish to stay in gaming have to keep moving forward and keep going to fight for a better future.

Despite everything that’s happened, Rapp believes that games as an industry can be better. She tweeted, “We can all be better than this. We can make games a better, more inclusive, less frightened industry. I believe that the games industry can be better. I want it to be. I ~LOVE~ games, and I want the industry to lead others in progressiveness.”

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.