IGDA Says Studios Need 'Clear Guidelines' For Social Media, Jessica Price Talks ArenaNet Firing

In lieu of two developers being fired by ArenaNet due to interactions with the community on social media, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) says studios need to set expectations around social media. No matter whose side you take, there's a lot of grey area when it comes to the personal accounts of developers and IGDA executive director Jen MacLean says clear guidelines need to be laid out.

"Often, game developers love engaging with their player base, and the interactions can be very helpful for both the developers and players,"  says MacLean in a quote in GameIndustry.biz's report. "However, without clear information from an employer on social media use, interacting with people as a game developer can jeopardize someone's job and career, and even their personal safety.

In case you missed it, two Guild Wars 2 developers, Jessica Price and Peter Fries, were fired after Price said less-than-kind things in response to a GW2 community member trying to counter her take on an aspect of her job and Price defended her. The original story featured a short statement from ArenaNet, but both Price and ArenaNet's Mike O'Brien have said a lot more since. 

Jessica Price sat down with Polygon and shed some light on exactly how her release from ArenaNet went down, saying that the company "folded like a cheap card table" and she was "given no opportunity to argue my case".

“My manager was on vacation," she said to the publication. "[O’Brien] spent some time insisting that developers must be friends with the company’s customers, and that it was unacceptable to say that we aren’t, even when we’re not on the clock. He told me I’d look back and regret this, because we were doing great work and I’d ruined it.

Another interesting take from the report is that Price says she's had no previous problems regarding her social media interactions and that ArenaNet actually encouraged individualism and free expression. "They said that they admired my willingness to speak up about issues in the industry," she said. Her interaction with the YouTuber is routed in that, but, without even allowing her to plead her case, O'Brien didn't know that and his actions contradict that reality along with this more recent statement to Polygon:

"Concerns have been publicly raised that she was responding to harassment. It’s not my place to tell employees when they should or shouldn’t feel harassed. In this case, however, our employees could have chosen not to engage, and they could have brought the issue to the company, whereby we would have done everything we could to protect them.

We won’t tolerate harassment. When an employee feels harassed, we want them to bring the issue to us, so that we can protect the employee, deal with the issue, and use it to speak to the larger issue of harassment.

Whatever Jessica and Peter felt internally about the situation, this was objectively a customer engaging us respectfully and professionally, presenting a suggestion for our game. Any response from our company needed to be respectful and professional. A perceived slight doesn’t give us license to attack."

The deed is done when it comes to ArenaNet, Price, and Fries, but hopefully, this event and the IGDA will encourage studios to set understood standards so they don't end up having to react in such a fashion going forward. Stay tuned to Shacknews for additional updates.

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