While many employers have some form of social media policy, the interaction between game developers and the game community has been a point of contention in the gaming community recently after two ArenaNet writers were fired for their interactions on Twitter with a YouTube partner who streams “Guild Wars 2.”
ArenaNet spoke out after the backlash from the game developer community, and stated that the employees “failed to uphold our standards of communicating with players” and called the behavior “unacceptable.”
“I had, in my time there, zero warnings about my social media use. Everything I said on Twitter was consistent with what I’ve been saying for years and how I’ve been saying it,” Jessica Price, one of the writers who was fired stated in an interview with Polygon.
The situation makes it clear that game developers need to have clear guidelines on how to use social media as a game developer. As the mission of IGDA is to support and empower game developers, the organization published a series of questions that developers and studios should consider and answer in order to have more transparent guidelines.
“Two ArenaNet employees were recently fired because of their interactions with community members on social media,” MacLean wrote. “This incident makes very clear the perils of social media for game developers, especially when transparent and well-understood guidelines for staff members are not in place. Often, game developers love engaging with their player base, and the interactions can be very helpful for both the developers and players. However, without clear information from an employer on social media use, interacting with people as a game developer can jeopardize someone’s job and career, and even their personal safety.”
The series of questions developers and studios should ask include, “Are staff allowed to discuss non-confidential aspects of their jobs on their personal social media accounts? If so, what sort of aspects of their jobs are they allowed to discuss? What feelings are they allowed to express? What sort of language (with examples) are they or aren’t they allowed to use? Are they allowed to disagree with consumers?”
One of the questions raised in the aftermath of the “Guild Wars 2” controversy is whether or not game developers “owe” consumers their private time in the form of interacting with the community on social media. The blog post also has questions intended to clarify this point for the game developers, including, “Is direct engagement with consumers a job requirement for non-community/customer support employees?”
On a related note, some discussion of what defines a “game developer” has also come to the surface, and whether or not a writer would be called a “game developer.” In terms of the IGDA, MacLean made it very clear in a tweet from her official IGDA account.
“The IGDA welcomes everyone who contributes in any way to the creation of games, including (but not limited to) designers, artists, marketing, producers, bizdev, HR, finance, writers, lawyers, and coders,” MacLean tweeted. “Narrow definitions of who a “game developer” is hurt our community and hurt our industry. They serve no purpose except to create more division and argument— and that’s the last thing we need in our industry, and in our world right now.”