Gamers Launch Harassment Campaign Against BioWare Writer

Concept art of the Gallows courtyard from Dragon Age 2. A tall, imposing wall split in the center by a column of light. From dragonage.bioware.com.

Jennifer Hepler is a writer for BioWare who has worked on Star Wars: The Old Republic and the Dragon Age series. She’s also the latest target of gamers’ misogynist rage for the crime of being a woman with an opinion about video games that some assholes on Reddit didn’t like.

How the whole thing appears to have started is someone posted a combination of quotes from an interview from 2006 that doesn’t exist any more, as well as quotes that were entirely made up, on the gaming sub-Reddit in order to have a rant about how Hepler is “a cancer that is poisoning BioWare.” The thread was eventually deleted because of the attacks and the false attributions. But that wasn’t enough: angry gamers took to Twitter instead, harassing both Hepler and the people who offered support, and apparently even going so far as to make harassing phone calls to her home. Things escalated further when Hepler dared suggest that sexism played a part in the hatred. Right, and sexism played no part in the harassment of Jade Raymond, either, did it?

There’s a homophobic element to the attacks as well, with gamers (TW) accusing Hepler of “screwing up Mass Effect by making Shepard gay.”

The bulk of the outrage appears to have stemmed from two interview answers where Hepler talks about not enjoying playing games and offering up the idea of skipable combat for players who are more interested in a game’s dialogue. Notice the title of the thread where the quotes in question come from: “BioWare aims to get rid of gameplay from games.” Because someone on the writing team is going to have that much control over game development. The outrage here speaks of both jealousy–she gets to make games and she doesn’t even like them!–and a complete ignorance as to how game development actually works.

But more importantly, she’s talking about making games more inclusive and suggesting that people play games for different reasons and in different ways. This is at the heart of why the misogynerds are so angry: the industry is changing, it’s been changing for a long time, and it’s no longer the sole domain of misogynist nerds like them. The sheer entitlement that these people have, that games should cater to them and only to them, is astounding. For them, making games more accessible and inclusive is the exact opposite of what games are for: bragging rights. It’s not cool to tell people you beat a game when the option to skip combat entirely is there, is it? But games aren’t just skill challenges any more; some games are more interested in telling a story with the player, rather than blocking most people from even finishing them.

As Thess puts it:

So … to the immature dipshits: You are going to have to share your toys now. You are going to have to share your video games and your comic books. You are going to have to accept that we like these things, and that they will become more inclusive and not just cater to insecure, homophobic, insular fuck-knuckles on the basis of that liking. You are going to have to go back to fucking kindergarten and LEARN TO SHARE. And if you don’t like it? You can actually ignore the fact that it’s there and play it the same old arsehole way you want to. The potential for story-heavy or story-only play; the possibility of male LI for male Shepard; storylines that actually involve some depth and do not entirely rely on blowing people’s heads off and being lauded as a hero for it? THEY DO NOT HARM YOU BY EXISTING.

To summarise the summary: GROW THE FUCK UP.

This sort of immaturity is misogynist for the same reason people calling The Sims not a real game or talking about how casual gamers are ruining video games is misogynist: it’s based on a fear of girls getting into the clubhouse.

Update Feb 21, 2012: BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka released a statement in support of Jennifer Hepler here. In addition, BioWare made a donation to Bullying Canada and encourage others to do the same.

128 thoughts on “Gamers Launch Harassment Campaign Against BioWare Writer”

  1. I hadn’t heard word one about this but naturally this doesn’t surprise me in the least. The entitlement that comes with being a white heterosexual cis man is literally off the charts. I really strongly dislike so much of gaming subculture.

    1. That is literally why I have a hard time calling myself a geek. I’m just fine with others claiming that title, but I hate it for me and it’s not my battle. These neckbeards make me want to punch them.

      Plus I’ve gotten harassed at cons enough as a teen that I only felt safe at Geek Girl Con. I only go to them for work now and then I have to take a pill to get through it.

      1. There is a strong element of white privilege to this kind of entitlement to gamer culture, IMO. You don’t see people of colour feeling this kind of ownership over typically “geeky” interests. So yes, race of the harassers is relevant, at least to me.

        1. It’s good that it’s relevant to you, absolutely, but more importantly, perhaps, it’s also relevant to the people of colour who’ve been saying for years how they’ve been regularly excluded in many of the same ways as women have (and some that are unique to racism, of course, just as some are unique to sexism). And women of colour end up getting both. :/

          This is not a criticism, at all, I’m agreeing with you, I just can’t seem to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m criticizing you, but I really don’t mean to be, so I’m sorry it sounds that way – that’s my failure.

          1. I’d actually go further on this one – although Jennifer Hepler was not the victim of racial harassment per se, race definitely plays a part in this harassment…

            One of the unattributed quotes used to incite the attacks had Hepler saying that she didn’t want BioWare’s fantasy games to resemble books written by “old _white_ guys” – an entitlement dogwhistle if ever I heard one. She had already come under fire for liking Asian fantasy and for her stated interest in bringing ideas from non-Western fantasy traditions into the games. Which dovetailed neatly with sexism and homophobia, as it meant she was called a “yaoi fangirl”.

            So, there’s that. And there’s also the open letter on the BioWare Social Network after the launch of ‘Dragon Age 2′, which did a lot to draw up the battle lines. The user Bastal’s complaint to David Gaider that BioWare was neglecting the straight male gamer focussed on the presence of same-sex male romance, but also stated that the female romance options for a male Hawke were “exotic”, and would only appeal to a “subset” of these underserved straight male gamers.

            Merrill presumably is exotic because she is an elf – but in Isabella’s case (human, long-haired, of quote-unquote normal video-game-woman build) he seems to mean that she is a woman of colour. So, he appears to be saying that BioWare has a duty to provide a “normal” (that is, white) woman for their “normal” (straight, male and by implication white) audience to romance.

            Looking at how that sounds, it seems like it can’t possibly be what he actually is saying, but I can’t see any other realistic interpretation. Unless he just really doesn’t like pirates…

            To what extent the broader mass of people harassing Jennifer Hepler sign up to that particular kind of damage, consciously or otherwise, is unclear – but race has certainly factored into these kinds of attacks on BioWare’s writing team in the past.

    2. *Like*

      I wish I had more to contribute but Thefremen’s post pretty much sums up all I can say, and in a far less inflammatory nature too!

  2. Alternative solution: make combat that players won’t want to skip. If you could skip the combat without it hurting your gameplay experience, the combat shouldn’t have been in there in the first place.

    Another thing I’d like to see is bifurcation in a storyline depending on whether you defeat a boss or not. If you beat it, story A unfolds, if you can’t beat it story B unfolds. (You might even have a story C if your previous actions have put you in a position where you can side with the boss instead of fighting them in the first place.)

    1. This is besides the point of the post, but Hepler is talking about players for whom there isn’t really any combat that they would be compelled to play, because of controls or reflexes or time investment or they just aren’t interested in fighting. Your alternative solution wouldn’t work for those players.

      1. This. I think the Story Mode in ME3 is a good compromise, though; the combat is easy enough that my slow reflex time in FPS style games doesn’t matter, whereas when I’ve tried to play the previous two ME games, I’ve ended up dead trying to figure out what frakking keys to press!

        1. Well, one could look at L.A. Noire, which didn’t get this kind of furious response when it allowed you to skip any action segment which you failed several times in a row. That was a mechanic to prevent any given action sequence from preventing somebody from enjoying the rest of the story. I didn’t use it, but I thought it worked pretty well as a concept- especially after finding that I had to repeat one mission dozens of times in a GTA game essentially to luck out one time, in order to carry on with the storyline.

          This isn’t really about the story mode, though, I think – that’s a nail that a lot of homophobic and misogynist anger is being hung on.

    2. But not everyone will want to participate in combat, anyway. Combat is just not for everyone, and I don’t see how having the *option* to skip it (which, as far as I can tell, is a choice you make at the very start of the game when you choose how you want to play) should cause a problem. Everyone should be happy with this solution, unless of course they are unhappy because the interests of someone else are also being catered to. In that case, this is a terrible, terrible offense and omg hdu, etc. etc.

      Which seems to me to be the core of this issue, which the article sums up so well: misogynists in gamer culture think they are entitled to control all the games, and any attempts to broaden or redefine anything is like a full-on assault on their entitlements as man-nerds. Sickening.

      1. ^Especially the last bit. But yes, I wanted to chime in on this tangent. I don’t mind combat in most RPGs/Games, but there are times when I am 40+ hours into a game and seeing the same attack animations, the same enemies, the same powers, it gets incredibly TEDIOUS for me. At that point, I rather be able to skip through combat if I can. Likewise, on subsequent playthroughs of games? I really do not want to trudge through all the extra hours of combat just to get to the story. I’ve seen and done it all in the first playthrough, no thanks on the third or fourth. I just want to see the differences in story/romances/decisions.

      2. “…misogynists in gamer culture think they are entitled to control all the games”

        Or, more accurately, that they are entitled to all games that have connections to traditional hardcore interests. This sort of outcry occurred specifically because it is related to FPSs and RPGs (and Bioware). Their toys are not only being shared, but are unrecognizable in other people’s hands.

        Recognizing your own entitlement is often extremely difficult – I know. The more likely reaction is this sort of spiteful stampede of frightened lemmings. Understandable, but unacceptable.

        1. Can’t say as I’m all that fond of the skippable combat idea; at very least, it’s probably not something of which I would take advantage. 

          These self-entitled little fanwads—especially that bigoted dweeb at Reddit making the “Twilight fan” comments and so on—still need to get the hell over themselves.  Not to mention, keep their foul little sucks zipped until they develop something resembling basic self-awareness and reasoning capacity.

  3. This whole situation makes me so upset. This harassment is disgusting.

    Having options that make games more accessible is a wonderful goal. Frankly, players don’t have to pick an Easy option when one exists. It does not “ruin” their game since they aren’t forced to choose it. If they want to play on Hard no one will stop them. Allowing more people to enjoy games is a wonderful thing for the industry.

    Harassing and intimidated people who want to make games more accessible to players is horrific. I am so disgusted that there was enough of this bad behavior that Jennifer Hepler felt a need to leave Twitter. I would have loved to follow her and read her opinions. I am incredibly upset that she was chased away by such terrible behavior! The thread on reddit and the attack on Twitter are absolutely shameful!

  4. I don’t know if I agree with misogyny being the main reason for the hatred as much as it’s just against change and becoming less exclusive, but I agree that people feel entitled to everything, which is just bull crap. It’s a problem we see in movies, anime and gaming and is one of the most common arguments for piracy. Being a fan doesn’t entitle you to jack.

    1. But that’s the point, the increasing inclusivity means more women are playing games than ever before; objecting to that is sexist. It’s not always sexist, but it is very often, and definitely is in this case. It’s very often homophobic and racist, too.

    1. It’s wonderful to see how much more sympathetic Mr. Sterling has become since his own gigantic bluster a couple of years ago, as it validates the idea that calling out boorish man-children for their lethargic attitudes towards sexism sometimes works.

      Anyways, thanks for bringing attention to this. Has there been any public, large-scale effort to support Ms. Hepler so far?

      1. I don’t know if I would go that far about Sterling; he comes out against harassment here and he’s done the same for similar things in the past, but if you notice, he avoids talking about the sexist nature of the attacks.

          1. He might want to avoid blundering about the sexist context of the attacks, he has never been a victim of such harassment and people might view him as a wannabe “white knight”. I’ve seen that accusation enough times on virulent threats like on Kotaku.

  5. I don’t get it; I thought the portions of DA:O credited to her were superb. Has any games writer ever faced this kind of an onslaught?

    1. Orzammar and the Anvil of the Void quest were definitely the most interesting part of DA:O. But it seems as if these are many of the same people who hated DA2 and now blame her for how DA2 went “wrong” (read: not catering to straight male hero fantasies).

      But even if she were a hack, she wouldn’t deserve this harassment.

      1. Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

        This is horrible on many levels. I do believe these people represent an increasingly vocal minority, but perhaps the rest of us should do more work to make that evident.

        I sent her some words of support on Twitter, but I fear she won’t ever read them. Now more than ever it’s important to speak up and demonstrate that these cretins don’t represent us.

  6. Skipable combat is absolutely neat idea but to be honest, c’mon Bioware listen to Jennifer Hepler and give me option to complexly turn combat off as it is so much of a chore in recent games and judging from the demo of ME3 it’s not going any better.

  7. This is depressing. I’ve not heard about this specific incident before, but I’m all to familiar with the scorn that has been heaped on the Story Mode in ME3, and there were a flurry of articles on Gamasutra a week or two ago where a lot of people expressed rather strong opinions on how certain kinds of story-driven games simply shouldn’t exist. I tend to think it’s all macho ideology anyway (“stories” being female-coded and all), but it’s still upsetting to see such overtly hurtful language being used. I sent a (hopefully) supportive tweet to her, but it looks like she’s trying to close her account.

    On the other hand, although the subject matter is depressing, I’m delighted (in a slightly cruel way) by the term “misogynerds.” I would like to add it to my repertoire for future use, if that’s okay with you.

    1. “Misogynerds.”

      ^ This. One of the best new words ever. I’ll be adding this to my repertoire, too, if you don’t mind.

      I sent some supportive tweets to her, bioware, et al, and got promptly tweetspammed by some haters. But you know, I looked more closely, and it actually looks like there’s only the same 5 or 10 morons sending hatespams to her account. They each only have like 30 tweets and 1 or 2 followers, all from this fiasco. Very sad people, honestly.

      At any rate, the Block button fixed everything quite nicely for me. It’s like putting shouting mice in a glass jar.

  8. Compare this to the crapstorm that William C. Dietz endured when his new Mass Effect novel came out with huge disconnects with the rest of Mass Effect canon. No one talked about his body, they just attacked the content.

  9. I first came across this kind of hate for Ms. Hepler in a Let’s Play (which I will neither name nor link, no need to publicize it), and am sorry to see that it’s found a wider level of visibility and “participation.”

  10. This came to a head recently, but it’s been going on for something like a year now. Folks on the BSN used to mock up fake screengrabs of quotes attributed to Hepler (such as one claiming that gay romances would be obligatory) and spread them across the forums – and various misogynerds would harp on the matter despite her being a) on maternity leave at the time and b) having a profile on BSN which made it perfectly clear she hadn’t posted in quite some time.

    It’s disgusting, and while I’m glad a few Bioware folks have made some overtures towards indicating it’s not acceptable, at this point I think a bigger show of support is in order. Things are out of hand.

    Well before Gaider’s much-beloved posts about inclusivity, he was making posts to the effect that women gamers should be happy for what they can get, because they’re such a tiny minority in the gaming community and can’t be catered to. I remember those posts because I remember thinking that after nearly twenty years of gaming nothing looked like it was going to change. I remember wanting to give up on games altogether.

    The prospect of things actually shifting – of people like Hepler working to make games more accessible to everyone? That’s something fantastic. That’s something to be fought for. And if that means Bioware’s losing an audience they should have never worked so hard to keep in the first place? Folks who think it’s okay to harass an individual for *liking different aspects of a game* for *years*? All the better.

    1. I saw one of those fake screengrabs over the weekend, it was something about working on a coming out story for ME3. (The implication being she’s pushing a homosexual agenda!!!11 I guess.) What the hell, why would people make this shit up?

      I totally agree that there should be a formal statement from one of the doctors or whoever in support of her.

      1. Why would people believe it, is my question (That’s the same one I was thinking about – it popped up a looong time ago). It was such a blatantly obvious bit of trolling, given that we were in the middle of the full backlash against DA2 and folks were busily making fake quotes and holding up The Witcher 2 as the heterosexual RPG messiah standing against Bioware’s evil homo germs. But the internet has all the collective memory of a goldfish, it seems, and its denizens aren’t particularly given towards critical thinking.

      2. For what it’s worth, I had this exchange with David on Twitter earlier:

        danbruno: @davidgaider I imagine she is long gone from Twitter, so please tell Jennifer that she is awesome.

        davidgaider: @danbruno She IS pretty awesome, and a wonderful person as well. I hope this doesn’t get her down. There are many great people in DA fandom.

    2. BSN as whole Internet is just a big hate wagon for many people, it’s not excuse for developers but really it’s hard to make a stance in such situation. While this hate campaign towards Hepler rides on the sexism and misogyny, there is this thing that skipable combat ruins game experience, but the other hand there are another bunch of haters that complain that Bioware turned ME franchise into Call of Duty (Action option). Are these the same people? Maybe, I don’t know. Thing is it’s hard to say to your audience “Assholes now can leave, no one will miss you” when video game audience pretty much constantly complain about their toys.

      1. Nah, that’s just me being irate. Weeding out not-nice people from your audience is largely impossible (unless they quit in a frenzied huff of their own accord, that is) if you want to make a profit – the important thing is not to specifically target those people as your sole target audience.
        That said – there’s a difference between entitled gamers that complain about mechanics and themes and ones that harass you for including gay characters.

  11. BioWare’s volunteer forum mods probably can’t get the internal backing to crack down on those posts. Or it hasn’t occurred to them to do so; one of them is Stanley Woo, after all, and he’s had problems understanding inclusivity in the past. (Border House even wrote about that.)

  12. Wow, I can’t believe people give a fuck about game portions that can be skipped. Nintendo already did this with games like NSMBW, and Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii. It didn’t ruin a damn thing. Just gave an option for folks struggling. If anything it was more “hardcore”, because if you’d died enough times a block or character would appear asking if you needed help. It felt like a troll for me and only encouraged me more.

    This just doesn’t affect a darn thing. People need to get over it and not give this woman a hard time because she’s trying to be inclusive. We can definitely use more diverse minds working in games so we can get less cliche ideas for gameplay and stories. Getting tired of some of these big time games having b-movie plots and teen boy fan service. These whiners are the same folks who want gaming to be taken seriously, hah.

  13. There are many legitimate reasons to dislike Bioware these days, but this is certainly not one of them. These people should be ashamed. I don’t think I’m going to like ME3 at all, but it will be because the gameplay and story have mutated into something so far from the original game it is almost unrecognizable as Mass Effect, not because a few side features have opened up to be more inclusive to more minority groups.

  14. You know the thing about RPGs is that they are about story. I hardly ever hear anyone ask about the combat on an RPG unless the combat affected playing the game or a certain battle glitched out. The discussions were always about the characters and the story. It seems to be that the majority/most/these people want RPGs to be like Call of Duty, etc. Push button, kill people, who cares about the story. So I think an option to skip combat is awesome.

    It reminds me of the people that attack those that like Japanese voices in their games, it’s like having the option of Japanese there some how offends their senses. Just like having an option to skip combat. I wonder if a vein on their head twitches when they have to pick difficulty.

  15. I still haven’t had a chance to play the ME games, and was probably going to get them eventually. But this has convinced me that I need to get ME3 when it comes out, both to spite these jerks and to send Bioware the message that the (non-faked) quotes from Hepler are the sort of thing I want to hear.

  16. the thing that i find the most baffling in all this rhetoric is that games and comics are somehow being invaded by women/non-bros — newsflash, women have been on the scene since always, and this talk reinforces the “invasion” as something new. It’s not.

    1. I mean, not THE MOST baffling – taking the time to harass someone seems really strange to me – but it is a conversation that comes up all the time.

  17. I was a developer for a AAA studio for a while. We were working on a big-budget, 3PS-stype game. I had used to play shooters but didn’t really anymore (became more of an RPG and retro gamer by that point). It didn’t stop me from doing my job. I even joked about it at work and nobody gave me a hard time.

    Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be good at games or be the kind of person who prefers a certain type of game to work on a game. You *do* have to be familiar with the games in that genre, the conventions of the genre, and generally what makes that kind of game good or bad. You have to be willing to play the game you’re designing, even if it’s not your favorite type of game, and to try to come up with ways to make your game unique and engaging.

    In some ways, not being a huge fan of a genre makes you more objective in how you approach the work. (Helper’s perspective probably put BioWare in a position to design a game that would appeal to a wider audience than if the entire dev team were old Baldur’s Gate fanboys.)

    If you’re an artist or writer that goes double, since what you’re adding to the game is not as directly tied to gameplay. Consider Mass Effect – if the combat sequences were RTS or turn based RPG instead of an FPS, I think you could have the same story and much of the same art assets as the original game.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is that not only do the frothing misogynerds not understand that they’re not the only market for games, they don’t understand what goes into making a game either.

  18. I feel like mysogynistic isn’t the right word and that it goes deeper and is bigger (which is mind blowing) than that. This borders on schizophrenia to me. I think that we’re talking about a woman here amps up the emotion and makes the attacks more heated because they feel more enabled as marginalizing a woman but at it’s heart there is some serious mental illness at play here.

    Terminology aside though, this is just disgusting.

    1. No, mental illness doesn’t cause this sort of hatred, and I don’t think it’s useful to compare what is going on to mental illness.

      Misogyny is exactly the right word. Unfortunately, misogyny is pretty deeply engrained in our culture, to the point where it literally distorts peoples’ perception of reality (eg. Jim Sterling’s example of people viciously attacking Hepler and then being all hurt when someone called them a “moron” for it).

    1. Yeah. That part REALLY disturbed me. Because she dared have an opinion and shared her thoughts from her perspective. It’s not even like she’s CEO of BioWare or is saying that ALL GAMES MUST NEVER HAVE COMBAT AGAIN. So… I don’t even understand this beyond mob mentality and ‘eww you got inclusivity in my power fantasy’ misogyny vitrol.

  19. I was following this bewildering and abysmal happening on twitter yesterday (with SleekitSicarian above) and did my effort to send positive/supportive tweets to Hepler, and on tumblr in the fandom, and to trade tweets with various BioWarian employees. It is something that has been going on for a year now (especially while Hepler was on maternity leave and wasn’t there to defend herself even if she wanted to/felt the need to against all this erroneous and blown out of proportion bs). But yesterday was something special. I eyeroll as I type that.

    The venomous hate and disgusting behavior is overwhelming. Depressing as well. I love what Hepler contributed to the DA franchise. I also love that the DA writing crew is comprised of a lady MAJORITY now (to which Gaider’s recently talked about in interviews). The thing is… if you do not like someone’s writing style, plotlines, or their characters, then by all means have your opinion. Constructive criticism is valid. Emphasis on constructive criticism. Not outright personally attacking individuals, harrassing them over phone calls, terrorizing them across social media venues, and lashing out with ‘I hope you die’ comment cruelty.

    1. I sent her a tweet today supporting her, and was immediately set upon by a group of dudes each insisting that they “aren’t misogynists” and that they “just want quality writing”.

      Then a 4th guy came in and called me a whore.

      What’s that about not this not being rooted in misogyny? Yeah, sure, it’s all about the writing. That’s why my sexual habits are SO RELEVANT.

      1. This is almost exactly what happened to me, except for some mysterious reason they started bringing anti-Semitism into it. That’s when I realized these were just professional losers with nothing else to do on a Monday night.

      2. I sympathize and empathize. As I mentioned above, I sent her (and other BioWare and industry folks) tweets, and I got my share of return comments. I really did not need to read them to know what they contained.

  20. I’ll never understand why offering choices and options offends some people so bloody much. Being able to skip combat is a brilliant idea, actually — and no different from hammering Escape to skip dialog, now is it? There are times when I don’t want to be babbled at and there are times when I don’t want to be bothered with yet another fight. Combat does not equal “gameplay” unless the game is built solely for combat. And weren’t there quite a few voices who spoke against the apparent trend of Bioware games becoming more action-game-style?

    Not to mention that there are many games, including utterly brilliant ones and/or old classics, that don’t even have any combat to begin with. But I guess those wankers don’t consider those to be “real” games, because gaming does equal (ego-)wanking to them. If you can’t “rape” something or someone, it’s “for scrubby casuals” and of course “gay”. They lingo they use is so damn revealing …

    My deepest sympathies for this lady. I hope her colleagues at Bioware have her back and will support her properly — and that no hateful little shithead will take it even further than they already did.

    1. Not to mention that with the Origin feedback system, such a skip could give them quantifiable feedback on what customers are enjoying.

  21. As if I needed more reasons to despise Reddit.

    This is beyond disgusting. Too many gamers have a nasty habit of abusing and disrespecting people who work for game companies- I remember from the WoW forums the CMs, regardless of gender, were routinely pushed to the limit and even faced threats and death wishes. Yet, as any cursory history of gaming culture will reveal, the very worst- the nerdrage nuclear options- are always reserved for women who dare to be clever, creative, and outspoken.

    The fusillades of unchecked misogyny that are fired by these communities are profound indictments. I am tired of hearing people try to excuse it by saying things like “anyone with a bit of common sense knows all gamers aren’t like this.”

    Sparky, don’t tell *us*- don’t tell the people complaining about it. Find an iota of courage in your “bit of common sense” and go tell your bros that this behaviour is unbecoming. Don’t argue with *us* about the prevalence of this kind of behaviour, make it known on your end that it is not acceptable. It’s the cowardice of people like Mr. Common Sense that enables this sort of behaviour.

    I have said for quite some time that combat as the central metaphor of progress and self-perfection in games is tired and could do with a change. I’ve said that we should try harder to be more inventive about how we tell stories and how we progress in games. It’s good to know that expressing such an opinion will have angry hetero cis men leaving threatening phone calls on my voice mail.

    Let there be no doubt: these people hate nothing more than a strong woman who dares to be prominent and successful in a field that a certain clique of people thought safely masculine.

    What we’re witnessing here is a swirling vortex of the worst parts of gamer culture. The unrivalled sense of entitlement, the deeply held eschatological belief that gaming is getting worse, the hatred of outspoken women, the rampant fear of feminisation that lies at the heart of hegemonic masculinity in gaming culture, the nostalgia for the “good old days” in gaming- a time which never actually existed, the neoliberal/capitalist ideology that says you’re entitled to savage anyone who works for a company to which you’ve paid even one cent.

    Jim Sterling got it quite right: how on earth can one fathom the clueless entitlement of people who participate in this digital auto da fe of a woman whose sole crime was contributing to an ongoing discussion? How can we understand their shock and horror at someone daring to respond to such vicious and prejudicial personal attacks?

    I applaud Hepler’s colleague for standing up for her.

    I didn’t plan it like this, of course, but I have an interview with a game’s writer that I’ve been working on for some time that we’ll be publishing on TBH soon. Her words will be a positive affirmation of what is best about the writing profession, I believe, and a wonderful reminder of the good that narrative can do, the power of story, and of course the power of the women who are participating in their creation.

    1. “Sparky, don’t tell *us*- don’t tell the people complaining about it. Find an iota of courage in your “bit of common sense” and go tell your bros that this behaviour is unbecoming. Don’t argue with *us* about the prevalence of this kind of behaviour, make it known on your end that it is not acceptable. It’s the cowardice of people like Mr. Common Sense that enables this sort of behaviour.”

      I LOVE this post! This is the heart of what I’m trying to get to. There’s this ‘boys will be be boys’/'welcome to the internetz’ apathy about this kind of behavior that is absolutely wrong.

      We fix this by stomping on the harassment in its infancy, not in telling the victims to grow thicker skins. Jenny is a confident, competent adult with a happy, fulfilled life. This experience has her thinking more about the bullied teens, who often go to school with their online stalker. They get no respite.

      Not trying to turn this into a pulpit, but your post is just spot on.

    1. Though folks might want to know that some of the harassers are turning up there to high-five each other.

  22. This was disgusting when the first “tremors” of it went around at the end of last year and it’s still disgusting now.

    The game industry needs more Heplers, not less, and any and everyone who participated in this any of the number of times it’s come around is what’s wrong with modern games and gamer culture. End of story.

  23. I design games for most of my living. They are, in general, table-top games.

    I no longer play online MMOs/RPGs/computer games for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that Options Other Than Combat usually sucked.

    One of the things I’ve long contemplated for a shooter-style game like MW3 is using the Army’s statistics on “how much combat before a soldier starts developing PTSD” so that it’s not just a “wade through abattoirs of gore” experience. What if you only had a certain (and generally hidden) number of “minutes of combat” before your character started losing optimization points from PTSD? What if, when you got bad enough in the PTSD department, the dialog from NPCs started to change – reflecting your growing paranoia?

    What if, after enough of this, you go into what seems like a normal combat mission – briefing, setup, etc…only to discover that you’re shooting up your own allies and failed the game for going crazy?

    This shouldn’t be a “Sanity Health Bar” – this should invisibly alter how the game plays…

    I will, however, as you to think on something:

    The opening paragraph came like this:

    “She’s also the latest target of gamers’ misogynist rage for the crime of being a woman with an opinion about video games that some assholes on Reddit didn’t like.”

    Which, while I know it felt good to write and vent, paints an entire gender as “The Problem”. You go on to coin a term, “mysogynerds” designed to paint these people in a negative light.

    You close out with the ranting from Thess:

    “You are going to have to share your toys now. You are going to have to share your video games and your comic books. You are going to have to accept that we like these things, and that they will become more inclusive and not just cater to insecure, homophobic, insular fuck-knuckles on the basis of that liking.”

    Now, what I am NOT asking you to do is “sit and be pretty and play nice” – ass-hattery of this nature needs to be confronted.

    I am saying that, as someone who, by all accounts, was not included in the intended audience of your rant by your word choices, that I expected better than gender stereotyping in the opening paragraph.

    Would it have hurt you to have written your opening paragraph like this, so that you not only point out the hypocrisy of gender stereotyping, you refrain from commiting it in turn?

    “A percentage of gamers – a minority and a thankfully shrinking one – has a deep seated insecurity about the way games are evolving from from shoot-’em-ups to story-driven games with love interests that are broader than is available in any conventional medium. These insecurities include lashing out at the creators who make computer gaming a vibrant and new entertainment medium. Their current target is Jennifer Hepler.”

    Just something to think about, from a cis white straight guy who’s a gamer, but not a mysogynerd.

    1. Hi there Ken,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here and offering your suggestions to help make Border House writing more inclusive.

      What I will say is that I disagree with your assertion that the article casts aspersions on all men. One thing that I find interesting in discussions like this is that the “lonely male nerd in the basement” trope is a staple of gamer humour. Just about every man who has commented on video games as a reviewer (comedic or otherwise) has deployed it for his own purposes. Yahtzee, for instance, routinely uses that shtick.

      Yet invariably, a certain set of men (a minority and a thankfully shrinking one?), takes exceptional umbrage whenever a *woman* employs that trope to speak out against sexism. They treat it as if it’s a racial slur, or a parallel to what the woman in question is complaining about. Much as you do with your comment. Think on that for a second: we live in a world where rape threats to women come with real force. By contrast there’s something almost charmingly anachronistic about the almost-completely-rehabilitated basement nerd stereotype, which is connected to virtually no social oppression of “white male nerds” as a people. They do not comprise a group disproportionately affected by, say, job discrimination or a serious social crisis like rape. They are not economically or otherwise materially disadvantaged as a class.

      So what harm does Alex’s anger do?

      By contrast, what is hurled at people like Ms. Hepler is part of what stifles and silences women’s participation in communities like this. It is part of a culture where women are looked at a certain way (invaders of male space, sex objects that exist only to be looked at) that then has material consequences for their lives. This is not about hurting peoples’ feelings, it’s about actual observable effects in the real world.

      As you yourself may observe in this thread, there are a lot of men who agree with a more reasonable perspective on the subject of Hepler’s comments. Many men have been disgusted by the behaviour of these gamers, Alex linked to one in her article. Here at TBH we get comments from men who get it *all the time*– if anyone knows “they’re not all like that!” it’s us. And by the way “us” includes male writers.

      It is not a gender stereotype to say that men have a responsibility to call out and help put a stop to this kind of behaviour, to help with the process of changing hearts and minds so that women are not perpetually seen as nattering mother figures trying to abscond with toys, nor seen as existing purely to be fawned over sexually. Clearly you agree with these principles.

      But then you would have to agree that gender stereotypes are not just about what we *say*, but the effects of our words. Alex’s statements do not participate in a discourse that constructs a world that materially disadvantages men in the gaming community (or anywhere else for that matter). The aggression of the most virulent people attacking Hepler *does* materially disadvantage women, however. This is not a contest of hurt feelings or “offence” (a word I despise if only for obscuring what’s at stake in discussions like this).

      By your logic, I should be offended by Alex’s words. After all, I’m a nerd and proud of it, a banner I wave quite routinely. Yet I’m not, why? Because her post isn’t speaking out against being a nerd. Geekery and nerd-dom are why we’re all here and it’s something we share. What she’s speaking out against is exactly what you claim: a sector of the nerd community that is predominantly male and entrenched in certain misconceptions and privileges (there is also a raft of other issues that are less distinctly gendered, I’ll be writing about those soon).

      I greatly appreciate your concern (and the opening paragraph you suggested was actually quite eloquent), but while we strive for inclusivity in our writing, I don’t think Alex’s writing runs afoul of our policies. In speaking out on issues like this, I cannot pretend the point of view I’m criticising comes from nowhere. I can’t ignore “who does what to whom.” The values of both “who”s matter a great deal and are central to the discussion. I would be participating in a pseudo-equalist obfuscation if I ignored the gendered tone of the remarks directed at Ms. Hapler, and the gender of the vast majority of people making them and perpetuating the culture from which they arise. Alex doubtlessly feels the same way.

      I don’t know if you’ll agree with me but I hope you feel I at least addressed your concerns as fully as I am able.

      1. The problem I see with your characterization of the use of the male nerd stereotype is that entertainers like Yahtzee use it in a very different manner than you seem to. When Yahtzee refers to it, it’s as a joke, in the context of a video series known for its shock humor. So when I see it, I chuckle a bit. If I fear that I resemble that remark a bit overmuch, perhaps I think about how to change for the better. And I certainly don’t worry that he’s judging me for it.

        When you, or others on this site, talk about stereotypes like the secluded male gamer, it’s not in the context of humor. It’s in the context of serious discussion about atrocities, and insofar as I can tell done with the intent to injure or belittle. It’s not something that I can just brush off as a joke. And, as a gamer who is hetero, cis, white, and male, I fear that you or your compatriots are attempting to tar me with the same brush. You might try to argue that you understand that all men are not misogynist, but that’s not really how stereotypes and slurs work. They’re insults, not descriptions. I fully understand that this stereotype isn’t dangerous to me. It won’t get me harassed or embarrassed. And it won’t put me at any kind of material disadvantage. But that doesn’t make it just, and that doesn’t mean that it won’t poison any arguments you try to make.

        I appreciate how well-spoken and even-handed your response was, but many of the other commenters on this thread concern me. Their position with respect to Ken Burnside, or presumably any other male reader, appears to be roughly akin to “You dislike being judged because you’re a man? Well, look at all the terrible things these other men did!” That’s not appropriate. I did not choose to be the same gender they are. They are conducting themselves in a manner I consider reprehensible, to act against my interests. (I may be a hetero cis white male gamer, but I enjoyed my romances as female Shepard, and there are certainly few male crewmembers I would like to romance as male Shepard.) Those other commenters have no right to judge me based on the actions of other men. I don’t believe that’s your fault. But I do believe that the tone you and the article’s author are using helped to set the stage for that kind of hurtful remark.

        I don’t want to argue that gender doesn’t inform the harassment and personal attacks. That would be a foolish, losing battle. It plainly does. I would simply like you to acknowledge that these remarks are not caused by their gender, nor are they ones which the whole gender would hold in common. Rather, I would like it made clear that these remarks are because of culture – not male culture or gamer culture, but misogynist culture, and that it is not one which all males take part in. (Nor, in fact, is it one which is composed entirely of males.)

        I’m not asking you not to judge them by their actions. And I’m not alleging that you’re judging them by their gender, race, sexuality, or gaming interests. But I am saying that the way in which you and the article’s author are talking makes it hard to distinguish between the two, sometimes. And I think that’s dangerous.

        1. I’m a white, cisgendered, hetero male gamer, and this is my favorite store on the Citad-

          Sorry, I got sidetracked.

          I’m a white, cisgendered, hetero male gamer also, and I’m not sure what you see as the danger here. When you say “I think that’s dangerous”, what are you actually afraid of? Is the danger that somebody else might possibly read this article and mistakenly believe that it is critical of all male gamers? And… what then? What’s the danger after that? That someone you have never met who misreads articles might think less of you as a person?

          Only, you said: “I fully understand that this stereotype isn’t dangerous to me. It won’t get me harassed or embarrassed. And it won’t put me at any kind of material disadvantage. But that doesn’t make it just, and that doesn’t mean that it won’t poison any arguments you try to make.”

          Meanwhile, a woman has been harassed, including being called a cancer, mocked for her weight, told that video games hate her, told to take her “pig fetishes” and get out of her chosen industry* and so on. That’s the actual thing that has happened.

          Again, could you clarify the danger you think you’re facing, in contrast to the danger Jennifer Hepler is facing? Because from that statement it looks like the only danger is that you might decide that the arguments – in this case, that women in games shouldn’t be subjected to harassment – are “poisoned”, because they weren’t phrased in a way considerate enough of your feelings as a man. Which isn’t really a danger to _you_, except insofar as you will miss out on a lot of valid and valuable perspectives…

          *And that is literally the contribution of one guy.

          1. I don’t believe I’m facing any danger at all. I do not seek to belittle her situation and I think I was cautious in my comment not to do so. (If I failed at that, I apologize.) Let me reiterate, what’s been done to Jennifer Hepler is terrible and in certain instances unforgivable.

            However, it’s only human for me not to want to be judged adversely for things which I have no control over. I do, in fact, not particularly want to be thought of as less of a person. And I, at least, believe that doing so undercuts arguments to justice… not invalidating them, by any means, but making them come off as a little bit less sincere.

            1. Well, perhaps this is where we differ. I can’t see anything here which I think tars me with any brush. The article is talking about misogynist gamers who are harassing Jennifer Hepler. I’m not within that set of people, and I don’t feel like I get any splash damage from criticisms levelled at them.

              If a particular person mistakenly believes after reading this article that all men are being called misogynists, or all men are being accused of harassing Jennifer Hepler – well, that’s unfortunate, but I think that person has bigger problems there than I do.

              If I felt like I _was_ at risk of being judged adversely, I think I would probably seek to ameliorate that by supporting calls for social justice and condemning the behaviour of misogynist gamers. Rather than, say, imposing conditions on how people can talk about them, on pain of their sincerity being questioned. After all, my behaviour is something I have control over, and something for which I can be judged, adversely or otherwise.

            2. I think where we differ is that you see “misogynerd” as a description and I see it as derogatory. If it were a descriptive term, its usage would naturally carry no baggage nor offend unnecessarily. I see it (for many reasons, particularly its dependence on stereotype and its nature as a pithy, slangy contraction) as more closely resembling a slur, which is an insult rather than a description.

              To illustrate my point, there are a great deal of insulting slurs for women who fail to conform to patriarchal gender norms. If, however, a comment or article refers to women by one these slurs, no female reader will think “Hmm, I conform to the rules of sexual behavior enforced by the patriarchy, so I am not being described by this term and therefore I am not insulted.” I feel similarly about the term “misogynerd.”

            3. No, I’m pretty clear that “misogynerd” is derogatory: it would be very odd not to think that. I just don’t think it’s derogatory _to me_, nor to all men. Nor indeed all nerds.

              Derogatory terms can be slurs, but not all derogatory terms are slurs. “Asshole”, for example, is derogatory, but it is not a slur. Calling a woman or an LGBT person by a hateful term relating to their gender or sexuality is a slur – it suggests that there is something fundamentally bad about their gender or sexuality. “Misogynerd” suggests that there is something bad about being a misogynist nerd.

              I’m a nerd, and I think that’s an OK thing to suggest. This isn’t suggesting that a personal characteristic like race, gender, transgender status or sexuality are intrinsically inferior – it’s specifically insulting people within the set “nerd” who are exhibiting the particular behaviour “misogyny”.

            4. To be fair, the phrase “the industry is changing, it’s been changing for a long time, and it’s no longer the sole domain of misogynist nerds like them.” quite explicitly suggests that at one point the games industry consisted entirely of misogynistic nerds. While I’ll happily concede that at one point the industry was almost exclusively white, male and nerdy and is still sadly dominated by white men, I do feel that this goes a little bit too far into sweeping judgemental statement territory.

              I’d also dispute the claim that there is no social oppression of white male nerds, or at least the nerd bit. The classic nerd frequently fails to conform to male gender roles and suffers for it: a common example would be a lack of interest in sports which often goes hand in hand with being over or under weight and the issues that can arise there.

              It’s certainly a minor thing in comparison to the subject of the article, but it is something I picked up on while reading. I appreciate Quinnae’s response to Ken’s initial comments, but I do feel that carefully explaining to someone why they shouldn’t be offended by something is somewhat counter to fostering an inclusive environment.

            5. Jonathan, that sentence is about the perception the people attacking Hepler have: that women and other Others are encroaching on territory that used to be theirs. It’s the reason they are so defensive about inclusivity efforts. The reality is women (and, yes, non-sexist men) have ALWAYS played games and been part of the industry.

              Daniel, thank you for the great comments, by the way.

            6. I do understand the intent behind that particular bit of writing. I’m frequently surprised by just how outright hostile old-school gamers can be to the idea of change and it’s appalling seeing that attitude combined with generalised misogyny and unleashed on an individual in this fashion.

              Please consider it a friendly pointing out of a mildly problematic turn of phrase rather than any real criticism.

            7. There’s nothing problematic about it. Folks like Ermoss have to willfully misread me in order to get “all gamers are misogynists” out of anything I’ve written.

            8. Gah. Alex, even aside from the fact that slurs don’t work that way, please look at your title. It does not say “Misogynerds Launch Harassment Campaign Against BioWare Writer.” It says “Gamers Launch Harassment Campaign Against BioWare Writer.”

          2. I just realised that I haven’t yet thanked you for the wonderful “misogynerd.” So thank you. I have a couple of friends at my pen ‘n’ paper RPG club who will laugh their arses off at that one and will know exactly the kind of person it’s referring to without a word of explanation from me.

            1. “I’d also dispute the claim that there is no social oppression of white male nerds, or at least the nerd bit. The classic nerd frequently fails to conform to male gender roles and suffers for it: a common example would be a lack of interest in sports which often goes hand in hand with being over or under weight and the issues that can arise there.”

              Personally I think this is part of the problem (and this comment isn’t directed at you Jonathan as I think you probably know a lot of what I’m about to write. This is just something that’s been playing on my mind for a while). The ‘white male nerd who does not conform to certain gender roles’ is a well known social archetype and there are a lot of men who have suffered and are still suffering under the kind of stigma this brings. But as a POC and a woman who is also a nerd and who does not conform to the roles expected of someone of my race and gender, I wasn’t exactly treated well by some of my peers at a young age either. Yet I’ve encountered several male nerds online to whom my experiences or the experiences of other kinds of nerd doesn’t even seem to register or is brushed aside as less important or as an exception to the rule.

              I feel that the ‘white, male nerd suffers’ meme is problematic because it comes hand in hand with a truck load of privilege, more than a little entitlement and a chip on its shoulder. These sorts of individual within the gaming sphere have had it rough yes, but the reaction of too many of them seems to have been to create a niche which they guard jealously and target their anger and frustration on other minorities. And when called on it they reply that their past suffering is somehow an excuse or that it matters more than the harassment others have faced at their or others’ hands or that their issues and needs have to be dealt with first because oh how they suffer.

              This is why a couple of the posts above that suggest placing some kind of disclaimer on this article got to me, because IMO it suggests a similar level of entitlement and lack of engagement with the experiences of others: that even when discussing a woman receiving threats at her home we have to go out of our way to protect the feelings of a small handful of men whose knee jerk reactions is ‘but not all men are like X’ even when the article never stated that they were. In fact, looking back I don’t think Alex even referred to these bullies by gendered pronouns. They were called ‘misogynists’, ‘nerds’ and angry gamers. That’s not to say that the stereotype of the white, male, shut-in nerd doesn’t linger when these issues are discussed, but I think that’s down to the pervasive cultural stereotype of what a gamer is (a stereotype some male nerds actually use to their advantage to enforce the belief that gaming is and always will be a male hobby) and not down to the content or tone of the article. IMO Alex called these individuals out on their misogyny and selfishness, not the fact of their gender, race or whether they still lived with their mothers.

            2. I totally agree with that. I think there are two basic responses to adversity, the first is that it increases your ability to empathise with and relate to the problems of others and the second, sadly far too common, response is to become insular and lash out cruelly against those you perceive are threatening your safe places.

              For me, that first response is why I’m here. I used to be very much of the opinion that prejudice was a horrible thing, but I viewed the struggle for equality for many groups as being a historical thing and that the imbalances in society would just get better with time. Very much a snug in my tower of privilege outlook.

              My eye-opening experience was taking a job as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I became very aware that a combination of traditional gender roles and media scaremongering meant that many people viewed me as, even if for only a knee-jerk irrational moment, a potential or even likely paedophile.

              I suddenly became aware that I was a minority in my workplace and one that was often viewed with suspicion. It was constantly there, informing everything that I said and did. It got to the point where my first response to a small, crying child holding their arms out for a hug was not “How can I help this kid?” but “How do I stay out of trouble in this situation?”

              It made me realise that if I, as the one on the privileged side of the gender divide, could run into situations like this, it must be many times worse for a woman. This realisation eventually led me to an active interest in social justice issues and I’d like to think made me a better person in the process. Although it hasn’t cured me of my tendency to waffle in a somewhat off-topic fashion.

              I do think that the second reaction is largely responsible for these misogynerds. What makes it particularly insidious is the heavily propagated image of the nerd as a victim; an oppressed intellectual whose only crime was a bit of social awkwardness and a lack of interest in sports. While I’ve met plenty who fall into this stereotype, I’ve met just as many who are just thoroughly unpleasant people. They still see themselves as the good guy and the underdog and use this to justify their behaviour. It’s similar to how a great many guys who see their lack of success with relationships as being down to nice guy syndrome are actually obnoxious creeps with stalkerish tendencies.

              It’s often said that bullies were often the victim of bullying themselves and I would put money on this being the case with many, if not most, of those involved with this horrific hate campaign. It’s the victim mentality backed up with a boat-load of privilege.

    2. Really? When someone says “misogynist” you think “all men”? And the problem lies with us on that one? o_O

    3. “You go on to coin a term, “mysogynerds” designed to paint these people in a negative light.”

      And there I was thinking that the sexist, abusive and hateful comments these people are spewing had painted them in a negative light already.

    4. I remember an invisible sanity bar in a Call of Cthulhu pc game.

      Implementing PTSD into a shooter would not even be that complicated, it would just require two things.
      For one, the game could, if certain conditions are met, record what is happening on the screen and later, when similar conditions are met and sanity is low enough, replay it as a flashback. Whether or not it replays it is determined by a random dice, but the required result needed to trigger it would lower the lower the sanity is.
      The other idea would be paranoia manifesting itself as hallucinations, simply by spawing more enemies that can not actually wound the player character when they hit and by giving allied npcs randomly the look of enemy npcs of the same size. This would also be triggered randomly.
      It could even be combined by actually putting the player character into a modified copy of the recorded scene (if there are more npcs in either scene, some are added), only that it does not change the fact that some of the enemies the pc shoots are actually their own allies.
      Of course experiencing any of this would be detrimental to sanity as well.

      It would still be possible to complete the game even with heavy PTSD but it would be very difficult since you would spend most of the game in a warzone composed from your memories at this point.

      Your superiors would also react to you going crazy, depending on when you go either by executing you for shooting comrades or simply by sending you on one suicide mission after the next since they consider it the best use for a proplerly trained madman.

      I would not base the PTSD on a specific number of hours of combat experience but rather on the amount of stress suffered within these experiences.

      One could also add scifi elements, like drugs that suppress memory and therefore flashbacks but have other side effects.

      -

      As for the harrassment, it is simply defending every last percieved privilege and feeling of entitlement and being an elite with tooth and nail. Including “men are superior” in some cases.
      We humans are a status-obsessed species in general. Not saying it is excusable, simply saying that evolution went wrong here and we may have to fix it on a genetic or epigenetic level at some point.

      1. It’s an interesting mechanic from a story and an artistic perspective, but I’d question how it makes a game more enjoyable. Not that all games nor killing in particular need necessarily be enjoyable, but your proposed system seems a bit heavy-handed. Still. It would be interesting as a jumping-off point. Perhaps a system whereby excessive combat stress or fatigue triggers a berzerker mode, or otherwise forces a more aggressive fighting style and/or animations? That would simultaneously present itself as a reasonable (and, perhaps even enjoyable) option for combat while also demonstrating that control will be taken away from the player character if he or she chooses to go such a route. (This could also have repercussions such as causing more hostile incidents or turning friendly or neutral characters hostile.)

        -

        Please don’t talk about genetic “solutions” to social problems in such an unclear fashion. There’s bad history there.

        1. If the amount of status obsession is in fact partially based on genes (upbringing of course plays a role), worldwide releasing of a retrovirus tailored to deactivate or completely disable this specific gene would solve part of the problem. This would make solving the social part of the problem easier as lesser instincts get in the way. Starting a holocaust over this would be way too wasteful and unethical.

          1. And releasing a virus that fundamentally changes people’s personalities and which may potentially have adverse side effects – because no matter how much we think we know about medicine, errors still occur – without their consent is something you would consider *ethical*?

            Not even going to comment on the “wasteful”.

            1. Let me explain my point of view, it all makes sense in context. Imo the value of a species, any species, including any sentient one, and therefore any right for it to exist, given that it consumes resources that could potentially be used better otherwise, is directly proportional to both what it provides to the environment and what it provides to the souls that incarnate to live as this species (any notion of beauty and compassion are included in this). In the end our very souls are nothing but raw material to produce gods, or more precisely beings of such deep insight and strength of character that they can be can be considered accountable enough to be given the power and authority to reshape reality on all levels by those who already have it, to further advance reality.

              There are arguments against trying to fix the human species in such a manner, but they are more about whether it will be beneficial or detrimental to the function of the species in both regards (could they prove useful enough for what this species is intended to provide to souls and universe to justify keeping them despite the detrimental side effects, are the side effects maybe intentional challenges we are meant to train our strength of character on?) than about the consent of individual members, the simple reason being that any valuable judgement requires an objective view, and ours, on average, is not objective enough.

              I am not racist but maybe I hate the entire species for their weaknesses. That may or may not corrupt my judgement, I am aware of that. I am aware that I hate my own weaknesses, so there may be a bit of projecting.

            2. Hey gang, this is super off-topic, so if you want to continue this conversation, can you please do so elsewhere? This thread is pretty full as it is. Thanks =)

  24. I love her suggestions for making games more inclusive. Games have their own industrial complex with violence, making everything else take second stage. Her suggestion of being able to skip combat is a welcome solution for people like me who object to how games generally expect us to take part in violence as the standard form of play. If the misogynerds object to vitriolically to losing this entitlement, then further discussion, along with ME3′s Story Mode, ought to put the Streisand Effect to work.

    This harassment is so sickening and needs focus now. No one should have to experience that for the simple fucking crime of being a woman and doing what she loves. I’ll be working furiously all night on perfecting my Deathpocalypse Rainbow Laser and will point it right at Reddit’s heart.

    1. There’s ways to skip violence and still actually be playing a game, instead of fast forwarding through everything. It’s called a non-lethal option. Strangely enough, no BioWare game has implemented it, but several other RPG’s give the option for a diplomat character, like the Fallout series, bar Tactics and 3. Or Alpha Protocol, where you can stealth through the game and not kill anyone. ME3′s story mode is a ridiculous way of phrasing ‘very easy’.

      The answer to removing violence in games is not to add a fast-forward button, the answer is to adding non-combat routes through the game.

  25. I don’t know whether someone has suggested this already (I’m in a rush this morning and have only had the chance to scan most of the comments) but what do we think to putting together a letter and/or petition asking Bioware to come out in support of Jennifer on this one?

    I don’t mind doing some organising/helping. It might make me feel a little bit less sick about sharing a species with these amoebas.

    1. That seems like a great idea to me. I don’t know how to go about doing such a thing, though, but I think it would be good to have a more organized response in support of Jennifer.

          1. Brilliant, thanks Alex! You’d think when someone spent as much time on the internet as I did, I wouldn’t be so bloody clueless–but no!

            And thanks for your brillant article bringing this whole thing up. It most likely would have completely passed me by!

        1. Signed! I think… had a password brainfart, but the counter went up after I refreshed, so I think it registered my signature.

          It would be really nice to have some kind of public statement from Bioware.

  26. The whole situation is absolutely horrific. When I hear about hate campaigns like this getting to the point of harassing phone calls (and beyond) I literally feel sick. I’m actually quite glad that I can’t even begin to understand someone who thinks that’s okay. Ranting on public forums is one thing, but targeting an individual like that is just completely alien to me.

    I am glad I caught the article, as this had passed me by. I have a lot of friends who are unaware of the issues covered by the Border House and I figure the best thing I can do is to bring examples like this to their attention and try and raise awareness. The fact that there are an unfortunately large number of misogynistic loudmouths on gaming forums isn’t really news to anyone, but I know loads of people who would be genuinely shocked to know that this kind of stuff goes on.

  27. to be honest, I used to play games for combat, still do a little, but I could honestly sit down and watch Mass Effect or Dragon Age as a 40 hour film. I LOVE story in my games. There may be nothing that feels as good as landing a head shot through a shield slit on a Cerberus pansy, but that isn’t enough. Don’t people remember games like Silent Steel or the journeyman Project? Little to no actual “combat” but those were amazing games….still are.

  28. How much do you want to bet that the kind of people behind this hate storm are the same ones who go “it’s just a game; don’t take it so seriously” when someone critiques a game’s bigoted content?

    I’m glad BioWare has publically supported Hepler, and that many people around the internet are doing the same. That she has a strong community of people who are willing to stand up for her helps me keep faith that gaming culture will one day be better than it is.

    1. How much do you want to bet that the kind of people behind this hate storm are the same ones who go “it’s just a game; don’t take it so seriously” when someone critiques a game’s bigoted content?

      I’d bet a lot, because it’s a good point you have there and another expression of their “all that matters is what I want and I’ll do anything to get it” mindset.

  29. Interestingly, my SO and I had a disagreement about this earlier today, and never once did he resort to an ad hominem attack based on my appearance or gender. Too bad more people aren’t able to do that.

  30. Absolutely appalling, these people are absolutely indefensible and self-evidently symptoms of the ongoing problem of the gaming community with entitlement and anti-diversity sentiment.

    Sigh.

  31. Wow, I have been blissfully ignorant.

    I stopped using Xbox Live a long time ago because I couldn’t stand to listen to the sort of abuse that was hurled out by some of the troglodytes that inhabit it (it’s the only place I’ve heard “jew” and “nazi” both used as insults by the same person in the same breath), and I rolled my eyes at the homophobic whining about Anders flirting with Hawke in DA2.

    Both times, I’d assumed that it was a few people who just hadn’t grown up in the same century I did. I told myself things like “Xbox live doesn’t really represent the internet,” and “most of DA’s fans are more mature than that.”

    It wasn’t until my sister linked me this article and I read the comments following that the dots connected – that this is not the words of a couple people being blown out of proportion. It is endemic to the community, and by keeping silent, people like me are allowing those people to speak for us.

    I’m not good enough at writing to sway anyone with a blog or forum post; I’m more of a numbers guy. Is there anything that I can do, besides speaking up against abuse when I see it?

    1. Believe me, Tim, speaking up against it when you see it is MORE than enough.

      One of the biggest problems with something like this is that these ignorant morons will turn on a woman like Hepler, and after that, any women who come out in support of her are accused of being ‘biased’ or ‘feminazis’.

      In that sort of environment, the work of male allies becomes viatally important, because a lot of these troglodytes will listen to another man calling them out on being sexist or abusive long, long, LONG before they’ll even entertain the idea of listening to a woman about it.

  32. Ernoss, seriously? I consider myself a gamer, and I co-founded a blog for gamers. Clearly I don’t think all gamers are misogynists!

    We have a saying in social justice circles: “If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.” If you feel like the word “misogynerds” (which, by the way, was created because words like “neckbeard” are fat-shaming and based on geek stereotypes and have nothing to do with the actual problem with certain groups of geeks, which is MISOGYNY) implicates you, it can only be because you have participated in misogynist behavior. If you haven’t, then there’s no reason to get defensive about it because it’s NOT ABOUT YOU.

    Seriously, this is some 101-level shit here.

    1. I’m not trying to accuse you of thinking that all gamers are misogynist. That would be a silly, worthless argument. And I don’t think your article is trying to talk about me.

      What I do think, though, is that a lot of the people commenting on this article are talking about me, and I think that your tone and word choices have a lot to do with that. Now, I fully understand that pithy, provocative articles are a staple of modern blogging. I’d just like to advocate a bit more caution and a bit more precision in language.

      1. Hello Ernoss
        What I think what Alex is getting at is that it is not about the topic per se it is what it has been said.

        To take a simple obvious example
        I teach medieval fencing.
        And it is not the same thing to say to a girl, don’t let him close to wrestling because he is twice you size.
        And don’t let him close to wrestling because you girls do not to wrestling to well.

        The first one implies that it is tactically unsound due the size difference and her opponent would have more of an advantage if the weapon is taken of the equation.
        The advice would be the same for a man of the same frame or even for men with the different relative proportion.

        Other that being untrue the second implies the underlying thought that she should be wearing a bikini mail and that she can only look pretty with sword because she can not use it in a meaningful martial way. (And the equivalent for men is equally derogatory)

        It is not a matter of expressing oneself; Almost every time when there is no familiarity between the interlocutors and or the person being talked about, the second statement caries the expression of fundamental beliefs.
        Now when you do not share that value, it easy to dismiss it as being boisterous sleeves effect to emphasise a point and go to the actual subject being discussed and wonder why some people react so strongly.

        Phil

    1. In light of that link and the abject diatribe it contains, Alex I have to commend you for the restraint of your article.

      Phil

  33. Jennifer Hepler has put her finger on one problem that is seriously limiting the development of games as a truly inclusive form of entertainment and it’s one that I banged my head against in my own career. I’m glad that professionals like her are trying to think outside of the borders that circumscribe what is possible in a game, because we need it.

    That problem is killing – the focus it receives and sheer amount of it in games.

    I’m a student of military history and, more than the battles and dates, on the military experience. I’ve spoken with servicemen and women of many nationalities and different branches of service and the thing that stays with me is that killing even one other human being has the potential to do serious psychological harm.

    Now think about the hundreds of lives a player ends in the average first person shooter. One shooter game I worked on had the player personally killing the equivalent of a company of soldiers PER LEVEL. Our name for people like this is “High-functioning Sociopath”. They are not, generally speaking, heroes to be emulated.

    I wrote an article for a, now-defunct, website that spoke about my limited experience as a writer in games (my background was mostly in design) and specifically about how I thought the level of violence that was mandated in the FPS/3PS genre due to the core gameplay mechanic (shooting people) artificially skewed the stories to justify this level of bloodletting by defining the player’s enemies as some sort of lovechild between the horde of Genghis Khan and the Waffen SS.

    De-emphasising the bodycount could fix that. Ideas that Jennifer Hepler is exploring might help bring that about. Not that I think that simply making the combat skippable is a particularly good idea, the key lies in finding a different emphasis for our core gameplay and that is a job for a Designer, not a writer. Nonetheless making the experience be not about the slaughter of hundreds or even thousands of sentients has to be a step in the right direction.

    I know this post has almost exclusively defended the value of Jennifer Hepler’s work to the exclusion of defending her value as a human being but I would have hoped that by now it has been established that this sort of abuse is NOT alright. These sorts of people are not just attacking people like Jennifer, they have been trying to drive a great many of us away from gaming communities from news sites and from online gaming. They won’t succeed.

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