Skip to main content

Nintendo fires marketer after sustained online hate campaign

Alison Rapp's dismissal due to other work, company claims.

Nintendo marketing employee Alison Rapp, the target of a persistent online hate campaign, has been dismissed from the company.

Rapp revealed she had been fired via her Twitter account late last night:

In a statement posted online after Rapp's dismissal began to trend on Twitter, Nintendo said the decision was made after it became aware Rapp had a second job.

For months now, Rapp has been the target of sustained attacks via social media and Nintendo has been bombarded with messages saying it should distance itself from her.

Rapp had acted as a spokesperson for Nintendo, had presented livestreams featuring the company's games and was a high-profile female voice on Twitter.

She had also become a recognisible face for Nintendo's Treehouse division, the company's US localisation department, during a time that some of its decisions were being criticised as "censorship" by certain corners of the internet.

Those decisions chiefly comprised the removal of a scene in 3DS role-player Fire Emblem: Fates where a gay character is drugged to fall in love with a straight protagonist and a mini-game in the same title where you could pet character's faces. These examples followed the removal of a slider used to set the size of your character's breasts in Wii U role-playing game Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Rapp's position as Nintendo employee - and as one of the few to have an active voice on social media - was enough to single her out. This is despite the fact that she worked in marketing - she did not decide how games were localised.

Alison Rapp.

In fact, Rapp had posted to say she would have been in favour of the latter example remaining in the game.

Rapp continued to post online throughout the abuse - including during her recent honeymoon in Japan - sometimes encouraging her followers to send her images which would disrupt the deluge of posts corralled her way by internet trolls.

Throughout, Nintendo did not comment on the hate campaign. The first time her former employer made reference to it was last night, after Rapp had been fired.

"Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo's corporate culture," the company declared. "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."

Rapp has since responded to Nintendo's statement and clarified some of the details surrounding the matter of her second job.

"The second job thing? Funny story. Moonlighting is actually accepted at Nintendo. It's policy," she wrote on Twitter.

"To pay off student loans, I started moonlighting under a fake name, and with no real identifiers. An anon found out, told [Nintendo], and here we are. It was moonlighting Nintendo didn't like, despite the fact that it was anonymous."

Some have pointed to personal photos of Rapp from a modelling shoot which she had planned to make available online - although all of this was done under her own name, and discussed via her main Twitter account.

It sounds unlikely this is the second job she has mentioned, although it will have been seen by Nintendo regardless. Rapp's social media activity was scrutinised by Nintendo after the flood of attention and calls for her dismissal landed on the company's doormat.

"Nintendo stripped me of my spokesperson status and did a 'lateral move' so I wouldn't lead games as a [project manager] anymore," Rapp revealed, speaking of her return to work after her honeymoon. "[Nintendo] looked at my tweets and decided I wasn't a good representative of the company."

One particular sticking point has been Rapp's university thesis, dated from 2011 - before she joined the company - and which is publicly available. In it, Rapp discusses Japan's relationship with the sexualisation of children. Ironically, she often argues for Japan's culture to remain unchanged - the exact opposite point she has since been targeted for.

However, the discussion of such a thorny subject - especially when dissected and reproduced by some as a defence of child sexualisation - was enough to bring yet more abuse to the fore. One internet campaign provoked an anti-sex trafficking charity into contacting Nintendo to complain about Rapp's views.

Without knowledge of Rapp's work outside of Nintendo it is difficult to say how justified the company was in its dismissal - although it is clear Nintendo was having difficulties dealing with Rapp's continued tenure as a public face of the company.

Reaction to Rapp's firing was swift and largely damning of Nintendo's decision. Both Rapp and Nintendo trended on Twitter last night. One indie developer has decided not to release their game on Wii U.

Looking through the sentiments posted on social media, many have expressed their disappointment that Nintendo has parted ways with Rapp. There has been condemnation, too, of the fact that Nintendo only commented on the abuse she faced as an employee now she is no longer part of the company.

Read this next