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Nintendo fires Treehouse employee who was target of harassment campaign

Former Nintendo of America staffer violated company policy, Nintendo says

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nintendo of America employee Alison Rapp, a target of online harassment amid controversy over the company's approach to localization of certain games, was fired by Nintendo today. Rapp announced her termination on Twitter, saying her firing came after weeks and months of repeated harassment directed at her and Nintendo.

"As many of you know, the last couple months have been quite a whirlwind of controversy and [Gamergate] harassment," Rapp wrote on Twitter. "Over the last few [weeks], I've had to talk safety measures [with my] family — including talks [with] 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 of America confirmed Rapp's termination in a statement to Polygon, saying her dismissal was due to violation of company policy.

"Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture," Nintendo said. "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 reached out to Rapp for her response to Nintendo's statement, and will update with any comment she provides.

After Nintendo's statement was released, however, Rapp took to Twitter to expand on the circumstances of her dismissal. According to a series of tweets, Rapp said her termination came after returning from a recent vacation and Nintendo reviewing her social media accounts.

"When I got back from [vacation], Nintendo stripped me of my spokesperson status and did a 'lateral move' so I wouldn't lead games as a [product manager] anymore," she said. "This was because the GG mess meant they ‘looked at my tweets' and decided I wasn't a good representative of the company... "

Rapp said that she took a second job, moonlighting under a different name, in order to pay off student loans. An unknown person dug up that information, Rapp said, and informed Nintendo of America.

"It was moonlighting Nintendo didn't like, despite the fact that it was anonymous," she said.

"Here's the thing: Do [you] honestly think that without GG's attacks, the ‘lateral move' and the obsessive privacy digging would have happened?" Rapp said. "Do you think that if the industry wasn't afraid of women, sex-positivity, etc. that the [anonymous] moonlighting I did would have been a problem?

"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 for a professional industry."

Rapp, who worked as a product marketing specialist at Treehouse, which includes Nintendo of America's in-house localization group, became a target of online harassment last year. Blowback over the localization of Nintendo-published games like Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fire Emblem Fates, both of which had their content altered as they made their way from Japan to North America, was frequently directed at Rapp.

In the case of Xenoblade Chronicles X, a character customization slider that altered the size of characters' breasts was removed from the North American release, and certain revealing outfits were modified. (Incidentally, Rapp said that she had nothing to do with the Xenoblade Chronicles X "boob slider" removal and, on the contrary, wanted it to remain in the game.)

In October, she compiled a list of misogynistic and homophobic slurs aimed at her in a Google Doc that rounded up many of the hateful "things dudes say about me on the internet." Earlier this year, alongside anger over Fire Emblem Fates' localization flared, her harassers circulated a controversial college thesis Rapp wrote, accusing her of being a pedophile and rallying an anti-sex trafficking organization against her and her employer. (The campaign against Rapp, and uglier aspects of the video game culture war, is nicely summarized in this report from Kotaku.)

Rapp, who is frequently personal and prolific on Twitter, uncommon for most Nintendo employees, was front and center in Nintendo's presence at events like E3. She appeared on Treehouse livestreams and fielded marketing interviews on YouTube. She's also an outspoken feminist, a common target in harassment campaigns.

Nintendo's termination of Rapp spawned a great deal of anger directed at Nintendo for seemingly bowing to a harassment campaign as well as a swell of support for the former Nintendo employee. Rapp said that she hoped the conversation surrounding her termination would focus on larger issues.

"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," she said. "Again, please remember that there are so many good [people at Nintendo] who do incredible work. Let's make the industry better for them too.

"Fact is, feminist politics, sex, etc. ARE dangerous to companies [because] that's where we've let the industry go. It doesn't have to be that way."

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