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Nintendo fires staffer who faced sustained harassment

Company says termination unrelated to online criticism

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Nintendo has fired Alison Rapp, a marketing staffer who became the target of a sustained campaign of criticism on social media last year after she was erroneously linked with the removal of certain sexualized sections in Japanese games for their Western release. Rapp announced her termination in a tweet, in which she said her employer had decided she was "no longer a good, safe representative of Nintendo."

The clear assumption is that Nintendo's decision was made in light of the ongoing campaign against her, but in a statement, Nintendo of America said that Rapp was terminated "due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture," rather than as a result of outside pressure. "Though Ms. Rapp's termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago," the company says, "the two are absolutely not related."

A short time after Nintendo of America's statement, Rapp tweeted again, confirming that she had indeed worked a second job under a fake name while at Nintendo. Despite Nintendo's argument to the contrary, Rapp claims moonlighting was "actually accepted" at the company as policy, suggesting that it was a convenient reason to terminate her employment in an industry "afraid of women, sex-positivity, etc." Rapp also says she was stripped of her Nintendo spokesperson status after social media criticism, barred from streaming games, and "asked not to tweet about rape culture" soon after she took the job.

Rapp came to the attention of certain individuals on Twitter, 4Chan, and other platforms last year, after the US versions of Wii U game Xenoblade Chronicles X and 3DS title Fire Emblem Fates were tweaked from their original Japanese form, removing sections that involved surreptitious drink spiking, a face-stroking minigame, and a "boob slider" that let players inflate or deflate their character's bust. But while these sections were presumably excised because they were deemed unpalatable to Western audiences, Rapp's involvement in their removal appears to have been non-existent. Although she did work in Nintendo of America's Treehouse team — responsible for localizing games for audiences outside Japan — Rapp's role was in marketing, rather than translation, development, or editing. Indeed, she said she was in favor of some of the cut sections remaining in the game.

Rapp didn't actually localize games herself

Nonetheless, she was selected as a target for a number of individuals and groups — largely because she has been outspoken on Twitter about feminism, causing many to brand her as a "social justice warrior." That complaint mutated when it was discovered that while attending college as an undergraduate in 2011, Rapp wrote an essay that put forward an argument against Japan strengthening its anti-child pornography laws, and for an more nuanced Western understanding of Japanese cultural norms. The essay specifically makes the same culturally relativist argument that Rapp's critics were making five years later, but rather than absolve her of perceived guilt, it allowed those against her to change tack — instead of a "feminazi," she was now pro-pedophilia.

In tweets Rapp has identified the GamerGate movement as particular antagonists, saying that "GG" sympathizers had been contacting Nintendo directly with information from her personal life, but she also caught the ire of neo-Nazis. White supremacist site the Daily Stormer said Rapp showed "the impact of Jews and feminism on our society," and that she was "advocating sex with kids." Infamous harasser and white supremacist Andrew "weev" Auernheimer tried to marshal his forces, commenting on the story with contact details for Nintendo employees, and instructions to act "as a concerned parent" while making complaints about Rapp so the company couldn't trace the "white supremacist conspiracy" brewing.

She became the target of neo-Nazis and white supremacists

Nintendo says that such calculated campaigns of harassment didn't influence its decision to terminate Rapp's employment, and that as "a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry," it "firmly reject[s] the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs." But when it lets one of its own go, while she's weathering exactly the kind of abuse her employer says it stands against, Nintendo's stance doesn't seem so strong.

Update March 30th, 11:00PM ET: Updated with additional tweets confirming second job from Alison Rapp.