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Controversy Erupts Over Nintendo Employee's Termination

by Mike Futter on Mar 30, 2016 at 04:10 PM

Yesterday (and for almost three years), Alison Rapp was a Nintendo employee working in communications and marketing for the company's Treehouse localization group. Today, Nintendo fired her.

Rapp announced on Twitter earlier that Nintendo made the decision to terminate her employment. "As many of you know, the last couple months have been quite a whirlwind of controversy and [Gamergate] harassment," she writes. "Over the last few wks, I’ve had to talk safety measures w/my family - including talks w/police to warn them of possible suspicious activity. Throughout this, GG has been digging up all kinds of things about my personal life and contacting Nintendo about them. Today, the decision was made: I am no longer a good, safe representative of Nintendo, and my employment has been terminated."

Nintendo tells a different story, though. The company says she was fired for moonlighting in another job.

"Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture," a company representative told us via email. "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 endeavors."

We've followed up with both Nintendo and Rapp to find out what the second job was, especially given the language Nintendo uses to describe it. Rapp told us that moonlighting is acceptable at Nintendo; however, the company did not approve of her second job.

In recent months, Rapp has become a target for a group of increasingly angry Nintendo fans. Because of her work at Treehouse, she has become the name attached to decisions some deem unpopular. 

You might have heard that Xenoblade Chronicles X had something colloquially known as a "boob slider" in Japan. That didn't make it into the North American version. Fire Emblem Fates also included changes in localization to remove a "face petting" minigame. 

Rapp didn't have a say in those decisions, though. But that didn't stop people from digging up personal information and allegedly bombarding Nintendo with complaints about her. 

The group, which Rapp has associated with the larger Gamergate movement, latched onto a paper she wrote in college in 2011. In it, she investigated Japan's child pornography laws and sympathized with that country's cultural norms related to teen sexualization that are often seen as taboo in western society. 

The two stories, from Rapp and Nintendo, don't perfectly align. Rapp told us that she held a second job, but in her Twitter comments, she insinuates that the harassment she faced was the cause of her dismissal. Nintendo cites an unspecified "second job in conflict" with the company's corporate culture, though what that could be hasn't been revealed by either party. The harassment put Rapp under a microscope, which could have led to her employer scrutinizing her behavior. The problem for Nintendo is that if it allows moonlighting, it puts itself in a position to dictate what is moral and suitable for its employees outside of work hours.

Rapp says that those complaints and harassment, which began in earnest during her honeymoon, led to changes in her position. She was given a "lateral move" within the organization. Her second job, which she shielded Nintendo from by using an alias, was outed by someone external to the company. "Here’s the thing: Do you honestly think that without GG’s attack campaign, the “lateral move” and the obsessive privacy digging would [this] have happened?" Rapp says.

The result is that the Internet is aflame with ire directed at Nintendo. Brandon Sheffield from Necrosoft Games (Oh, Deer), Frank Cifaldi from Digital Eclipse (Mega Man Legacy Collection), BioWare's Mike Laidlaw (Dragon Age), Midboss (Read Only Memories), Innes McKendrick of Hello Games (No Man's Sky), and Beth Beinke-Schwartz of Certain Affinity (Halo: The Master Chief Collection) are just six of dozens of developers, journalists, and fans enraged at the House of Mario.

Despite her termination, Rapp says that she hopes the harassment problem in the gaming industry gets more attention instead of focusing on her or those that attacked her over the past few months. "I would LOVE if the convo was less about specific actors and more about how we can make the industry the best, most progressive it can be," Rapp writes. "Again, please remember that there are so many good ppl at the big N who do incredible work. Let's make the industry better for them too."

(Disclosure: Alison Rapp was a Game Informer intern prior to my hiring as news editor.)


Our Take
While the stories don't completely line up, there is one thing of which we can be certain. Nintendo remained silent as Alison Rapp was harassed over the past few months. She took the brunt of attacks for localization decisions made by the company and, as she states, were in opposition to her own opinions in some cases.

What ultimately happened at the end of her employment with Nintendo follows months of the company turning its back on her. Whether you agree with the localization decisions made for Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fire Emblem Fates, or any other game brought over from Japan, remember that these decisions are rarely made by a single person in a vacuum. No one deserves the level of harassment Rapp faced.