For many people, Gamergate isn’t really a thing anymore. For the most part, it has receded from the headlines — we’re more than a year past the period of peak thinkpiecery on Gamergate, online harassment, and how the two intersect. But that doesn’t mean some of the group’s more enterprising members have stopped rabidly going after anyone they think is promoting an SJW (social-justice warrior) narrative or messing with their previous vidya.
For a particularly gross example, look no further than a piece of news that just dropped (part of a Twitter thread that starts here):
To understand why this matters requires just a little backstory about who the author of that tweet, Alison Rapp, is, and what was done to her. [Update: Read Nintendo’s response at the bottom of this post.]
In recent months, some gamers have gotten increasingly outraged at how Japan-originating games are “localized” when they are brought to the U.S. Due to cultural differences between the two countries, sometimes sexualized content is toned down, for example. For a subset of gamers, many of them in Gamergate and many of them in need of other hobbies, this is an astonishing outrage that represents everything wrong with the world and the SJWs who run it.
Over the last few months, many of these gamers have turned their ire on Rapp, a young marketing employee at Nintendo who, as Patrick Klepek wrote in a comprehensive and well-reported article in Kotaku, “has been accused of somehow being a driving force behind the supposed censorship of that company’s games.” Rapp, it should be said, doesn’t even have anything to do with localization at Nintendo; she’s been targeted simply for having been “outspoken on Twitter about online abuse against women in gaming,” as Klepek put it. In the course of digging as deeply into her past as possible to find ways to discredit her, some gamers found an undergraduate thesis she wrote in 2011, and it seriously exacerbated the campaign against her.
In her thesis, Rapp laid out a highly academic case for why the U.S. shouldn’t pressure Japan, where the sexualization of young teens has long been entrenched in certain corners of the culture, to adopt child-pornography laws similar to our own. It reads like pretty standard-issue undergraduate cultural relativism. Anyone familiar with these arguments — even those inclined to think it’s fair to judge someone based on academic papers they wrote in college — would know that Rapp wasn’t condoning child pornography, but rather making a more nuanced argument about American cultural imperialism and so forth (she also argued that child pornography doesn’t cause people to abuse children).
These nuances were lost, perhaps willfully, on a group of Gamergaters and their allies, who quickly used the thesis and various old tweets of Rapp’s to launch a campaign to tar her as a defender of child pornography — a campaign that extended to lovely corners of the internet like The Daily Stormer. The anti-Rapp crusaders were helped along when Jamie Walton, who runs an anti-sex-trafficking organization she co-founded with the filmmaker Kevin Smith, decided to ask via Twitter why Rapp hadn’t been fired (Walton has also beefed with another famous Gamergate target, the game developer Brianna Wu). Walton’s involvement seemed to accelerate the online campaign against Rapp — even as some gaters, it should be said, questioned the ethics of the campaign on KotakuInAction, Gamergate’s Reddit redoubt.
Now the crusaders appear to have gotten their wish. We’ve reached out to Nintendo for a statement about the reason for Rapp’s dismissal and will update this post if the company responds. But it certainly looks like she lost her job because she wrote a college thesis well within the bounds of the subjects discussed in college theses.
If so, that’s an inspiring victory for Gamergate, a movement dedicated to standing up for the little guy and protecting people’s rights to free expression.
Update, 3/31: Last night, Nintendo released a statement denying Rapp’s firing had anything to do with the campaign against her:
Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. 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.
In the initial tweets that broke this story, Rapp never mentioned having been fired for a reason that, on paper, isn’t directly connected to the harassment campaign against her. After Nintendo’s response was published in various outlets, she acknowledged, via tweets and an interview with Game Informer, that she had moonlighted to pay off student-loan bills, and had done so under an alias. It was only because of the campaign against her, she argued to Game Informer, that Nintendo found out about her second job via a tip from someone “external to the company.” She tweeted this argument last night as well: “The amount of obsession it must take to dig up old tweets, find addresses, link me to anon things not related to games is NOT. NORMAL.”
We’ve reached out to Nintendo for further clarification about Rapp’s firing and will update this post if the company provides any new information.
Correction: This post originally stated that Jamie Walton is the wife of Kevin Smith. She isn’t — Smith co-founded The Wayne Foundation with her. The text has been updated to reflect this.