Nintendo employee Alison Rapp, who's been a target of harassment over censorship controversies in recent months, said on Twitter that she has been fired. "Today, the decision was made," she wrote. "I am no longer a good, safe representative of Nintendo, and my employment has been terminated."
Rapp laid the blame on those harassing her, saying that the people attacking her for months online had been hounding Nintendo to get her fired, as we reported earlier this month.
Update - 11:48am: Nintendo denies she was fired due to harassment, and says she was let go because having a second job was in "conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture". The company did, however, acknowledge what's happened to her in recent weeks:
"Though Ms. Rapp's termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavours."
She's been a target at least since last fall, receiving so much online venom that she published a round-up of some of the worst of it. People had been calling her "cancerous" and a "feminazi face piercings bitch." They dug through her online wish-lists to shame her, seeking anything to ruin her rep. That continued as Rapp remained on the bad end of cannon shots in gaming's culture war. She was labelled a social justice warrior and blamed for what appeared to be Nintendo's efforts to tone down sexualized elements in Western versions of games Nintendo had already published in Japan.
For years, Rapp had worked within Nintendo's Treehouse division, which directly translated the company's Japanese games, but she didn't work in translation or localisation. She was part of marketing. That didn't spare her.
The Japanese gaming giant has faced increased scrutiny late last year when a number of recent Nintendo games, including Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fire Emblem Fates, had been altered during the localisation process. These content edits largely centered on the sexualization of young girls and appeared to be altered out of an assumption by Nintendo that Western audiences would be less tolerant of teenagers being presented as sex objects.
Nintendo never did much to explain why it was making these changes, and critics looked for a boogeyman, finding one in Rapp who had a long Twitter history of supporting feminist issues (and an equally long one of seeming to be a huge Nintendo fan long before she worked for the company).
Among the changes Nintendo made in their games for America was the removal of an option to change a female character's breast size. "The reality is, I actually had no involvement with localised content changes of any kind," Rapp said today, as she'd told us in December. "Come on, I *wanted* the XCX [Xenoblade Chronicles X] boob slider!"
Rapp regularly discussed her harassment on Twitter and seemed to be managing her way through it, but, when Fire Emblem Fates was released in February with a flirtatious face-touching mini-game removed, things took another turn. Someone found a 2011 college essay of hers, in which Rapp explored Japan's relationship with child porn laws and, ironically, seemed to fall more in line with a Japanese cultural viewpoint about the sexualization of teens. It was a complicated, messy essay that often argued for Japan to keep its cultural values intact — the very thing many of her harassers were supposedly arguing for — but was spun by some as defending pedophilia.
The idea that Rapp was pro-pedophile became the new line of attack, and an anti-sex trafficking group was even convinced to condemn Rapp. The attacks pushed the idea that kid-friendly Nintendo shouldn't stand by her.
"Over the last few wks [weeks], I've had to talk safety measures w/my family - including talks w/police to warn them of possible suspicious activity," she said. "Throughout this, GG has been digging up all kinds of things about my personal life and contacting Nintendo about them."
Rapp specifically mentioned GamerGate today as being agents of her harassment, but it was never clear whether one particular group was after her. My reporting suggested some people had taken tactics used by harassers during GamerGate and applied them here.
Image Credit: Jim Cooke
A commenter on the Neo Nazi and white supremacist website The Daily Stormer, for example, published an extensive list of contact information for different Nintendo executives, encouraging people to report Rapp and ask for her firing.
It might have worked.
Beyond saying she's been "terminated," Rapp couldn't (or wouldn't) say much more.
"Obviously this is a lot to sift through and some of it's highly confidential, so apologies that I can't go into tons of details," she said on Twitter. She did not respond to a request to comment.
And despite what happened, she was still thankful for her time at Nintendo.
"I do want to also say that I had some truly incredible coworkers at Nintendo," she said, "and I'd love it if you continued to support them."
We don't know the full details of what happened, or what the conversations were like between Rapp and Nintendo. It's possible that Nintendo truly was uncomfortable with Rapp's college essay (despite it being publicly linked on her Linkedin page) or old Tweets about similar topics and decided to part ways with her.
But we do know this: Nintendo was publicly silent while one of their employees was harassed and smeared online over something she did not do. That's a fact. It's not in dispute. Nintendo watched Rapp become the center of a witch hunt and did nothing publicly to defend her. Despite my requests for comment, the company said nothing. As it turns out, maybe that silence said everything.
The response to Rapp's firing has been swift, vocal, and mostly negative, even in places normally hostile to outspoken individuals like Rapp. "Nintendo is in the wrong for firing her," said a poster on the GG-friendly subreddit Kotaku in Action. "Good job guys you fired a person who literally did nothing wrong," said another on 4chan. (Other posters in both threads celebrated Rapp's firing, of course.) The Nintendo of America Twitter feed is being deluged with people protesting and condemning the decision, and one indie developer even says he cancelled a game planned for Wii U.
Whether any of this prompts Nintendo to respond is unclear. For now, the silence continues. (Update - 11:48am: Nintendo has now commented, see the top of the story.)