South Korea’s game industry of both developers and players is pretty famously intense, with quite a few big name games and developers who work on games specifically for the Korean market. However, in the last two years, it appears that forces have been working behind the scenes to discover any game developers — male and female — with controversially feminist views, especially in relation to a radical feminist website that is now defunct.
In an exhaustive report about the various cases of devs being fired over their politics, Kotaku lays out the situation pretty succinctly.
For two years, vigilante swarms of gamers have been picking through South Korean games professionals’ social media profiles, sniffing out the slightest hint of feminist ideology. Anything from innocuous Twitter “likes” to public pleas for gender equality have provoked harassment from these hostile freelance detectives. It doesn’t end at hate mail and online pile-ons; jobs have been put in jeopardy.
In 2016, the gaming company Nexon fired voice actress Jayeon Kim, who worked on the massively multiplayer online game Closers, after discovering she owned a shirt that reads, “Girls Do Not Need A Prince.” The shirt, and Kims’ employers’ response to it, sparked a controversy that echoed across the world. It wasn’t the women’s lib lingo that spurred the whole ordeal. The shirt was sold by affiliates of a controversial feminist website called “Megalia,” which, two years later, is still central to the ideological inquisition that’s consuming the South Korean games industry. Since the beginning of this year, anti-feminist gamers have tracked down and outed at least six other South Korean games professionals—both men and women—for allegedly aligning themselves with the radical feminist community that formed around the now-defunct website. The Korean Game Developers Guild claims that a total of 10 women, mostly illustrators, and 10 men have been under fire for these allegations.
Despite the fact that “Megalia” is now no longer creating content, the website is still being used to make an example of game developers with even casual feminist leanings. These devs were not doing anything to hurt anyone else, simply wearing a t-shirt, or liking a tweet, that caused them to lose their jobs while companies apologize for “wrongfully expressing” their views.
There is some hope in the Korean dev community however, as Kotaku notes:
There has been some resistance to the anti-feminist attacks. Suyoung Jang, the CEO of Kiwiwalks, did something different from industry colleagues who buckled under consumer pressure to punish these alleged radical employees: He stated publicly that he would not investigate or dismiss his employee. In an email to Kotaku, he explained that “The employee did not take any action using the company’s account or name. She was simply retweeting about her individual interests on her personal account.”
This is far from the first time that the issue of women’s rights has come under fire by a gaming community, however, that Korean development companies often buckle to the weight of consumer complaints has led to an incredibly toxic environment. While there certainly is hope, the fact that the situation even exists is horrifying. Gaming in general (whether a professional in the industry or simply a consumer) can be incredibly hostile to women as it is. To use peer pressure in order to exact an anti-feminist agenda against the industry as a whole is perhaps one of the grossest misuses of power a player has, and it needs to stop.
Regardless of your personal politics, game devs shouldn’t fear for their jobs and livelihoods based on personal Twitter accounts or for wearing a self-affirming t-shirt.