Nintendo has a problem, and her name is Alison Rapp. Alison Rapp served as mid-level marketing employee in Nintendo of America’s Treehouse division. Treehouse translates and prepares Japanese Nintendo games for American release. The perceived downplay of sexual aspects in some Treehouse projects earned the wrath of many fans. Much of that wrath was aimed at Alison Rapp, though she was not involved in decisions on the content of the games. On Wednesday, March 31, Nintendo of America fired Rapp. In a press release, Nintendo claimed it discovered that Rapp had a second job which she hid through an assumed name. Nintendo and Rapp disagree on whether moonlighting is allowed by the company.
But a simple labor dispute is the least of Nintendo’s troubles when it comes to Alison Rapp. According to CNN Money, Rapp claims that her termination was a direct result of GamerGate. At its best, GamerGate is a Twitter hashtag used to draw attention to breaches of journalistic ethics that are all too frequent in the gaming press. At its worst, GamerGate is a license to harass women who challenge the video game industry status quo for any reason.
But was GamerGate behind the ouster of Alison Rapp? Probably not. Users on the Reddit subcategory KotakuInAction had never heard of Alison Rap. They learned about Alison Rap when everyone else did. After Nintendo fired her. KotakuInAction is the main hub for GamerGate discussions on the platform. But that doesn’t mean that internet activism and harassment didn’t have a hand in Alison’s termination. According to Reddit users, the 4chan subcategory /pol took aim at Rapp. In contrast to KotakuInAction, /pol purports to be a bastion of free speech.
GamerGate is sometimes internet activism at its worst. A world where the loudest, most vile voices are the only ones that matter. But, in this case, they didn’t appear to target Alison Rapp.
That hasn’t stopped GamerGate from taking the blame. Rapp’s supporters took to Twitter to lambast Nintendo and GamerGate.
The name Nintendo doesn’t inspire much confidence in the gaming community anymore. Nintendo brought the video game industry back from the brink of disaster in 1985. Its kid-friendly games and hardware dominated the 1980s and 1990s. But by the early 2000s, gamers had grown up. Nintendo’s brand of feel-good games didn’t resonate with the realism-hungry generation.
Just look at the life cycle of the Wii U, Nintendo’s current generation hardware. After a launch famously marred by consumer confusion and apathy, the Wii U third party developers are the lifeblood of the gaming industry. And they never took a shine to the Wii U which has hampered its release schedule. Consider the major game developers; the guys who have the clout to get their own press conference at E3. In 2015, none of them announced releases for the Wii U. Not one of the Top 10 video games of 2015 were Nintendo titles. Now, only four years into its life, there are reports that Nintendo plans to pull the plug on the troubled console.
The Motley Fool reports that the end may be at hand for the Wii U. The Japanese business magazine Nikkei reports that Nintendo will end production in 2016. By contrast, Sony produced the Playstation 2 for 13 years. The Playstation 3 continued production for nearly a decade. Nintendo later refuted the report, but what does it say that so many believed Nintendo was abandoning the Wii U?
The reality is that Nintendo isn’t the mighty game company it once was. Alison Rapp may have lost her job for several reasons, but there is one simple reason that bears consideration. Alison Rapp breached her contract with a struggling company and she lost. No amount of finger pointing can change that.
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