It began with a seemingly harmless admission: Jennifer Hepler said she didn’t particularly care for the game portion of video games. This innocuous opinion would have been left alone, or subject to casual discussion, were it not for one glaringly significant fact: Jennifer Hepler writes for BioWare, developer of the titan franchises Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Hepler was responsible for much of the dwarf content in Dragon Age: Origins, and is credited for writing several characters, including Bethany, Cullen, and Anders in Dragon Age 2. She was most recently credited as a senior writer for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

She explained in a 2006 interview that her least favorite thing about working in the industry was actually having to play the games themselves. Hepler’s passion is writing, a passion she shares with the BioWare collective, as their games are renowned for their engrossing dialogue and story-driven plots. Nevertheless, fans were outraged that an integral member of the production team didn’t really have an invested interest in the gameplay. I suppose the internet has declared that all members of video game production teams are required to absolutely love the products they spend years toiling over, and any outlier is a liability to the project. Still, it’s a bit concerning to hear that someone who works in producing games doesn’t like games. However, that’s not Hepler’s job. Her responsibility is to make sure that what you read and hear complements what you play, and I’m willing to forgive her lack of enthusiasm for games, though I personally wasn’t very encouraged. However, she made some valid points regarding the option to skip combat scenes, as hardcore gamers have been allowed to fast forward through key plot cinematics in the past. We’ve seen that BioWare has, in fact, made these suggestions a reality, as Mass Effect 3’s “Story” mode allows player to skip combat in order to progress the plot. But BioWare’s fans were divided. Some were just more cruel and outspoken than others, making vicious remarks about Hepler. The ability to skip combat isn’t a new thing, as Destructoid detailed LA Noire’s option to forgo difficult combat instances for the sake of the game’s story several months ago. The game has been out for quite some time, and I can’t recall anybody from Team Bondi suffering for it (and I find it unlikely that such an option had anything to do with the studio’s closure). No, I think the issue is that these vicious gamers have decided that they just don’t like her. Hate festered and festered.

Then this image appeared.

Suspiciously, it seemed to exist only in .jpeg format, and attempts to find the original forum thread ended in vain. In this supposed post by Hepler, she claimed that Mass Effect 3 would feature fairly prominent homosexual elements, and states that Shepards would “accidentally observe an intimate homosexual encounter aboard the Normandy.” Naturally, this led to controversy as fans were left wondering why, after years of a heterosexual Shepard, was BioWare suddenly so generous in its inclusion of same-sex options? The language even suggested that exposure to a same-sex romantic exchange would occur regardless of the player’s intent to witness any such act. Even I was left scratching my head about this sudden change in direction, as BioWare had shown in Dragon Age 2 that it not only embraced same-sex romance options, but put the same effort into the writing for both orientations. Literally, the romantic animations were identical and the conversations hardly differed between male and female Hawke. Everyone seemed to be on equal footing. Yet the hate continued to flow in Hepler’s direction, ever plentiful. A page in the SWTOR wiki page cropped up titled Jennifer “The Hamburgler” Hepler, but was deleted after a moderator declared it “vandalism.”

Then, Hepler joined Twitter. The interned promptly exploded, and Jim Sterling over at Destructoid detailed the subsequent drama. Her critics attacked her directly via Twitter and spewed comments so vile that I don’t even want to repeat them here. The name-calling, sexist remarks and heinous memes ended with Hepler ultimately asking Twitter support  to close her account after attempting to exchange barbs with her haters. She attributed this sudden onslaught of bullying to the fact that she was simply a female involved in the video games industry, which ultimately led to even crueler acts of hate as her tormentors ensured her that it had nothing to do with her gender; they simply loathed her as a person and for her writing. As of now, her Twitter page and handle no longer exist.

On March 22, BioWare’s Community Coordinator, Chris Priestly, posted an official statement on the forums.

Hi Everyone

Below, please see a message from BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka in regards to the recent attacks on Jennfer Hepler.

“Jennifer is a valued, talented employee who has been with BioWare for many years and we hope will be with us for many more. It is awful that a few people have decided to make her a target for hate and threats, going so far as fabricating forum posts and attributing them to her, and singling her out for projects to which she has not contributed (i.e., Jennifer is not even a part of the Mass Effect writing team). All of us at BioWare support and will continue to support Jennifer fully, and are happy to see so many people out there are also supporting her during this difficult time.”

– Dr. Ray Muzyka. Co-Founder of BioWare; General Manager, BioWare Label; Senior Vice President, Electronic Arts

Somewhere between “fabricating forum posts” and “not even a part of the Mass Effect writing team,” my eyes burst into flames. The .jpeg was fake. Her bullies had whipped up the content, as they weren’t satisfied with the “we just don’t like her writing” excuse. No, they had to go and make one up because they wanted to hate her more. Here’s an idea, kids: go do something else. Rather than turn away from your waning hate campaign and find something constructive to work on, you made something up and motivated the internet to virtually crucify this woman for something she never said or did.

I don’t even… Just… What the hell? I made the mistake of viewing the latter pages of BioWare’s statement thread and was overwhelmed with the urge to vomit. Users stood by their beliefs that her actions warranted the sexist remarks, even after they’d learned that she hadn’t said such things. People justified the bullying, claiming that her inability to write made it acceptable. Internet, it is never acceptable. How dare you. How dare you. You people are the reason I suggest that we institute a licensing program for internet use. The anonymity of this world emboldens you, removes your filter, and turns you into sadistic monsters. Blizzard’s Real ID sounds better and better with each passing day.

Jennifer, there is no excuse for what these people said and did, and I understand the pressure to defend yourself via Twitter, especially after the unforgivable things that were said. But by acknowledging them, you enabled them. It may sound silly, but the schoolyard logic works. Rise above them. Be better. They don’t write for BioWare – you do, and they can’t take that away from you. But you encouraged them by taking the bait. It does no one any credit to reciprocate: two wrongs don’t make a right. When you’ve got Aaryn Flynn, GM of BioWare’s Edmonton studio, blasting back with this, then things really start to look bad for everybody. It just descends into madness. You all have accomplished so much, yet you’d stoop to these miscreants’ levels and engage with them? People who claim to be insulted by you all, yet still buy your games? As someone who’s been bullied, I know this is no easy thing to ask. When they hit you where it hurts the most, reflex kicks in and you’re compelled to strike back.  Unless you honestly dislike the 140-character method of communication and new layout, don’t you dare leave Twitter. Stand up, face these people, and laugh at how utterly pathetic it is that something as stupid as a video game had them resorting to blatant sexism in a tantrum. Back up your claims and communicate with those willing to engage in a rational, mature dialog. I keep telling myself that this was an issue of fans fearing for unbalanced stories, but I know better.

As for the meme-makers, the slur-slingers, the ignorant sacks of Mountain Dew and puss that dare touch a keyboard and enter the internet with the intent of spreading malice and hate within a digital forum of free thinkers—unplug yourselves from this world and don’t come back until you’ve had a good, hard reality check. You disagree with this woman, so you throw away centuries of activism? You are the reason I hesitate before I call myself a “gamer” for fear of the stigma that may descend upon me. Not because it connotes geekyness or a taboo culture, but because of people like you; ignorant, bigoted children trapped in adult bodies who honestly believe that a video game is worth debasing another human being over. I’ve had enough. You are the dark underbelly of this otherwise-beautiful realm of ideas and individuals capable of engaging in mature dialog regardless of age, industry, gender, or country of origin.

We are gamers. We play games. We disappear into man-made worlds and suspend our reality at the behest of people we may never meet. We, for years, have been hastily-dubbed “geeks,” or “nerds,” though the rise of casual and sports gaming has allowed us to breach the barrier between us and the mainstream media. Finally, games have been acknowledged as “art,” though we’ve many miles to go on this arduous road to respect. Yet, for all we have accomplished, we are still sending children to school and watching them endure terrible acts of prejudice because of the ideas their parents embody and pass onto their sons and daughters. I know that too many of you reading this experienced it first hand, from the playground to high school—you were ridiculed because you were different, because you like games, or anime, or some sub-culture that kids in your class didn’t understand. And if this was ever you, then why would you, of all people, perpetuate it? Why are we not all on the same team, working for the betterment of the industry rather than tear it down? Do you want game culture to come into its own and be respected as entertainment worthy of red carpets and award ceremonies devoid of nearly-nude models and painful slapstick? Then be that change. Be the new culture. If you continue to slander names and dehumanize people because of how they look or the ideas the preach, and you’ve never experienced bullying, hate speech, or even the slightest bit of adversity, then I hope with all of my being that you get your wake up call soon, as you do this industry a great disservice by calling yourself  “a fan.”

Those of you that know how it feels to be Hepler, to be ripped apart for a choice you’ve made or work you’ve done, you have no excuse.

I adore BioWare and Mass Effect. I bleed the N7 red and white. I trust in BioWare to make the right calls and ensure the delivery of quality content. If they feel that Hepler’s work is strong and belongs in the story they’ve crafted thus far, then I will trust in their judgment. If that trust is betrayed once that game is in my hands, then I’ll explain my dissatisfaction like a rational adult as I have done in the past. I  expect you all to do the same, yet you disappoint me time and time.

You people who claim to know best: get over yourselves. You’ve taken your games too far. Your inflated egos have you believing that your opinion is life or death, that unless you are satiated by the developer’s offerings, their endeavors will fail. Not so, oh ignorant ones. You were heard this time merely due to the nature of your remarks, but Hepler still writes. She writes the games you claim to be your own. They are not yours, not in the sense you believe them to be, yet you maintain this inexplicable sense of entitlement.

You all think you know how to make video games? Then put your money where your mouth is and do so. Wow me with your prose. Ensnare me with your heart-wrenching stories. Bewitch me with lore and legend so deep that I lose myself in a world woven with numbers. Teach me to adore a character that exists only the realm of your design. Impress me with your lifelike physics and addictive combat. Then come and talk to me about how much of an expert you are on game writing. I dare you.

Until then, your existence in this world is forfeit, and you shall not be missed.

Update: It appears that some of you don’t understand the gravity of virtual and verbal attacks, so I’ve prepared a dose of reality for you. The following individuals took their own lives as a result of cyber-bullying.

Alexis Pilkington

Phoebe Prince

Ryan Halligan

Megan Meier

 Tyler Clementi

Jamie Rodemeyer

61 COMMENTS

  1. You honestly think Helper knows how to write? Her bad writing and awful statements don’t justify anything but she’s an idiot. From all the horrible parts in DA2’s relationships to the useless crap in SWTOR like being a Jedi Knight who could hit on everything with a vagina. Also everyone on the Something Awful forums who had read her book had said it was a total joke. Personally I had difficulty reading the plot summary. Then her comment about the internet being jealous she had a job in the game industry and a vagina. How could she have NOT seen this coming? For everything that she gets she’s still an idiot.

  2. Wow. Well said. Considerate, intelligent, and passionate. I truly hope these so called “gamers” take a look at themselves and realize how pathetic it is to attack someone for something this little. Bullying is wrong, in every sense. It’s harmful, disgusting, and leads to beaten down paths for the receiver. I’m not a religious man but I pray Jennifer comes out of this unscathed.

  3. Dear lord, I love this piece.

    There’s not much for me to add. All of my thoughts have been covered. I’m just glad that you put it out there for all to hear, cuz it needs to be heard.

    This is the problem with our young industry, though. The more it grows and the more mainstream it becones, the more we’re going to experience the idiocy of the masses. It’s really just a matter of math. All we need to do, like you stated, is ignore our instinct to defend and just leave the morons be. It can be difficult, but the best way to diffuse their sense of “power” is to not show that their hate has any effect in any fashion.

    Wonderful work, Ms. Gutowski.

  4. uh… text is not an attack. just don’t read it. it’s pretty simple. whatever happened to “sticks and stones…”? for real, yo, someone who GETS to make their living doing their passion should be able to take a few jabs from the neckbearded basement dwellers. and to be honest, i might actually play a bioware game if it had LESS writing. i mean, i enjoy a good story, too, but if i wanted to read a novel, that’s what i’d do. i mean, seriously, no one touched her or even TALKED to her. GETTING BEATEN BLACK AND BLUE FOR NO REASON IS BULLYING, BEING INSULTED ONLINE IS THE INTERNET. (personally, having been a victim of actual real physical violence, i would have to say that shit like this is insulting.)

    • Given that you have been bullied, I find it shocking that you would use the fact that you are a victim of physical violence to elevate yourself above someone whose character has been *merely* defamed.

      This isn’t about jabs at her professional qualifications. This is pure and simple hate that manifested as fabricated quotes designed to make her a target. If you can’t see how that’s bullying, then I can only imagine that you learned little from your own experiences.

    • “having been a victim of actual real physical violence, i would have to say that shit like this is insulting”

      All due respect to your experiences, but this makes no sense at all. You’ve been hurt by violence so no one else can legitimately be hurt by something less severe? That’s like my dad saying “having served in Vietnam, anybody being hurt over something less traumatizing than war is just insulting.”

      It sounds like you think insults and harassment are just par for the course. You must have a really bleak worldview. I’m sorry man.

    • I think its safe to say that more people die each year from suicides related to mean or hurtful words than from beatings black & blue… so maybe people should think about words more as double edged swords than pillows and feathers…

  5. I have to agree with Alexander. I did not personally engage in the twitter “attack”, but Hepler has become a scapegoat for the massive dive in quality that Bioware games have taken. She came into the picture right around DA2 and The Old Republic. I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of their games post-KotOR, but what little we know of Hepler has made her a perfect target for all of the frustration over the poor quality of writing that has cropped up in their recent games. It doesn’t help that she was hired with (as far as we can tell) questionable qualifications. But this has absolutely nothing to do with sexism. This has to do with her being an idiot who is ruining our vidya.

    • The point is that nothing excuses the personal attacks. Criticize her work all you’d like, but the moment you cross into vilification of her as a human being, you’ve diminished your credibility. Period.

    • “but Hepler has become a scapegoat”
      “but what little we know of Hepler has made her a perfect target”

      Strong evidence, I must confess.

      “But this has absolutely nothing to do with sexism.”

      Right. Wouldn’t want to add sexism to admitted scapegoating and targeting on extremely limited information and a extremely volatile rage.

      “It doesn’t help that she was hired with (as far as we can tell) questionable qualifications.”

      The reason you “can’t tell” is that it’s an entire fabrication. Entirely. She was hired by the same process as any BioWare writer, and assigned her title based on the same protocol.

      And it was an attack, sans quotations. I have no idea how you can call it anything but.

       

  6. I love Ripten and it means so much to me seeing this post. Thank you!

    Anyone who would defend attacking someone (physically or emotionally), because you feel you are entitled to do so, take a second and ask yourself how it would feel. Maybe you don’t care? You would if you walked a mile in those shoes.

    I’m a firm believer in treating others how you want to be treated.

    We all bleed red and breathe air…

  7. I wrote a rather lengthy response, some of it acknowledging how a lot of what those involved said is just wrong and how it shouldn’t of happened. But I also went into some detail about how I dislike this article for being 70% a defensive piece about how much the author dislikes and proceeds to attack anyone whom was even remotely connected (or would fit the category – even using stereotypes in her descriptions of these groups)… which in itself doesn’t seem that dissimilar to bullying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, whether you’re one voice or a thousand.

    I am, however, not going to post my full reply as I know it’ll be a thing of heated debate, and tear down from anyone who doesn’t see it that way, the likes of which I don’t care to even begin to defend.

    • Thank you for the respectful and logical comment.

      In defense of the author, I believe that there is a difference. Where bullying tends to be with a specifically targeted victim, this piece was written with a different intent. Yes, it was emotionally charged. It’s one of the reasons why we ran it. 

      The intent was to shine a light on not only this specific story, but the larger issue of anonymity and vitriol on the Internet. By the virtue of her name being attached to it, this piece is already discernible from the type of hate speech it decries. 

      Your point is a valid one for debate, nonetheless. We wrestled with this issue and, ultimately, felt that the emotions were valid. Yes, she’s harsh toward those that singled out this woman and went after her personally. I wouldn’t temper that reaction, though. It wasn’t knee-jerk at all. It developed and fostered over a period of days.

      • Likewise, I appreciate a thought-out response.

        The intent was pure and shown through, quite a bit in the first part and in pieces through out the entire article. I respected that part of the article. I respect the over all message against bullying and bringing to light the issue of anonymity on the internet and the lack of consequences that it currently holds.

        However, my issue (as it still stands) is with the retaliation-attack on that group and how it takes up a much larger portion of the article than I believe it should. Expressing one’s distaste with a group and telling them to “Grow up, know that the internet (and of course, in this case, the company Bioware and it’s employees) is all built and populated by real people with real lives, real families and real feelings”, without the need to go into numerous paragraphs that pick apart those individuals (again, like they were doing to Ms Hepler) would of sufficed and gotten the point across just the same, or even perhaps more effectually.

        Weird people like me, would perhaps seen the article more admirably and those of that group that we spoke of, may have raised an eye brow to it in thought. Attacking a bully with the bullie’s own tactics, however, is only going to make them feel that their method of attack is just and a correct path to continue on.

        At least, that’s how I see it.

        • I completely understand where you are coming from.The perspective is valid and, though we may disagree on some points, it seems that we share a belief that the root cause for this piece must be addressed.

          • It’s not hate with hate. It’s responding to hate with righteous outrage. It’s looking at an act of hate and declaring it unacceptable.

            This idea that reasonable people do not respond forcefully to horrible behavior — and we need to admit that the internet easily facilitates horrific emotional and mental violence — is enabling this.

            There is no moral equivalence between this article and the attack on Jennifer Hepler. None. One is an attack, and the other is a condemnation of said attack. This article wouldn’t be needed if she hadn’t been attacked.

          • I never said it was morally equivalent, nor do I see how you came to that conclusion.

            The way the last few paragraphs come off to me though is less righteous outrage than a “I hate you too” response, which has never made anything better in the history of mankind. To me it just makes her outrage less righteous, justifiable as it is. 

  8. I wrote a rather lengthy response, some of it acknowledging how a lot of what those involved said is just wrong and how it shouldn’t of happened. But I also went into some detail about how I dislike this article for being 70% a defensive piece about how much the author dislikes and proceeds to attack anyone whom was even remotely connected (or would fit the category – even using stereotypes in her descriptions of these groups)… which in itself doesn’t seem that dissimilar to bullying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, whether you’re one voice or a thousand.

    I am, however, not going to post my full reply as I know it’ll be a thing of heated debate, and tear down from anyone who doesn’t see it that way, the likes of which I don’t care to even begin to defend.

  9. I wrote a rather lengthy response, some of it acknowledging how a lot of what those involved said is just wrong and how it shouldn’t of happened. But I also went into some detail about how I dislike this article for being 70% a defensive piece about how much the author dislikes and proceeds to attack anyone whom was even remotely connected (or would fit the category – even using stereotypes in her descriptions of these groups)… which in itself doesn’t seem that dissimilar to bullying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, whether you’re one voice or a thousand.

    I am, however, not going to post my full reply as I know it’ll be a thing of heated debate, and tear down from anyone who doesn’t see it that way, the likes of which I don’t care to even begin to defend.

  10. Thank you for the great article, Stephanie. You nailed it. As for the naysayers and people who continue to voice their dislike or hatred of Jennifer, they’re clearly not intelligent enough to understand the reasoning behind your piece; there’s no fixing stupid.

  11. Awesome article.

    Why are people complaining that you can skip combat like this is some kind of down turn in gaming? Nobody complains when you can just skip the story. Oh, yeah. Today’s generation of gamers are illiterate slobs who’s attention span for actual plot doesn’t extend past the “he’s a terrorist, kill him” mentality of the Call of Duty franchise and it’s ilk. I used to be proud to be a gamer, not any more. When I hear complaints about “too much talking” in supposed role-playing games, and then companies changing their games to accommodate such a ridiculous idea, I realize that the game industry that I fell in love with is all but dead. I think Helper has it right, in all honesty. I’ve always played games for the story that they’re able to craft, the interactivity able to pull you in and make things much more meaningful than just watching a movie. The “game” aspect of games has always been a somewhat secondary consideration. Besides, she’s a fucking writer, who cares if she knows or cares about the game aspect of video games. You don’t expect electricians to know anything about gaming, but he’s the guy putting the wiring in your house to allow you to plug in your gaming system of choice! You don’t expect the child laborers in china putting together your systems to know how to actually play anything on them, do you? That’s the same kind of fucked up logic these people have.Also, Meanwhile Backlash, words can hurt. I’ve been shot and been involved in a few IED attacks, so it’s not like I’m coming from someplace where the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with was someone calling me a “fag” on the internet. If you don’t believe that, I guess you’re fine with the Westboro Baptists coming to soldier’s funerals with signs telling the family’s that their lost loved one is burning in hell? I mean, that’s just words, right? Just don’t read them. I’m sure you’d be fine with that if they showed up at a loved ones funeral you were attending.

    • “Why are people complaining that you can skip combat like this is some kind of down turn in gaming?”

      Because they are video *games*, not video stories. If you want to focus on stories, there are numerous other mediums available, such as movies, television, and books.

      Books, though, I understand why Hepler does not bother with books, given her track record. Feel free to look up her publications, and I think you’ll understand why the vast majority of gamers, people who generally put the Game portion over the Story portion, are not pleased with her proposition.

      I’d point out some of the logical fallacies in the rest of your post (A funeral under harassment is hardly comparable to posts on the internet), but I fear your qualification as a combat veteran far outclasses my position as a rational thinking person in all respects.

      • You’re doing that game = combat thing, which I don’t think ‘the vast majority of gamers’ would necessarily agree with.

        But by the same token, there are plenty of games out there that rely on good reflexes and twitch gaming skills — there’s no need to demand that the story elements of narrative heavy games (not sure how someone becomes a Bioware fan without liking story?) get reserved for the few and the l33t.

        • Minecraft is a game with no story, and very little focus on combat.

          Puzzle games generally have no story. Many racing games don’t. Simulators rarely do.

          I’m sure I could hop on the Steam store and find dozens of specific examples, but my point is that no, I’m not doing that game=combat thing. There are many, many very good games that are utterly devoid of story.

          I would also point out how most stories are terrible, tacked on drivel just to give gameplay elements some cohesion, and often interfere with gameplay, to the detriment of the overall presentation.

          Fact is, story is secondary to gameplay, and it should be.

          • This seems like a strange attitude in reference to an RPG released by an extremely story centric studio.

            But it doesn’t sound like you really care about the story in games — which is fine — because, as you seem to agree with me, plenty of games are engaging without story. My point was that Jennifer’s remark was directed at combat, specifically, not gameplay, and you seemed to be conflating the two.

          •  Well, combat is gameplay. In fact, it’s the industry standard, which is honestly unfortunate, more games like Minecraft or Katamari would be wondrous.

            Combat is something Bioware has never really done well, but it has gotten worse since the days of, say, Baldur’s Gate, or Knights of the Old Republic. Their writing was much better then, and interfered with the gameplay less. This is the entire reason disenfranchised fans have lashed out at Hepler (and no, I don’t condone that at all), because of a decline in quality. Though this can be seen throughout the industry, Bioware and Hepler are an acute example.

      • My wife is a WoW type gammer and I was trying to get her to play ME1-3 so that she could experience what we all did. She gets motion sick with the shooting part of the game and finds it hard even on the new easy story mode though. I’m disapointed that she can’t/won’t play it because of the combat but I love her and I’m just glad to have a wonderful wife who plays games at all (let alone lets me play them, my ex didn’t)… Anyway I hope you see my point.

        If you had a wife like mine wouldn’t you want her to have an option that would allow her to enjoy the games epic story and characters? And would you still hate on her if she got sick playing and was turned of to games that are wonderful but unplayable for her? Wouldn’t you want the industry to add a mode for her so that she would play it and discuss it with you?

        Because of my wife I feel a connection to what this writer feels. there are likely many many other women/girls who would join us as gamers if we would be more inclusive and sensitive to their wants/needs.

    • “Why are people complaining that you can skip combat like this is some kind of down turn in gaming?”

      Because they are video *games*, not video stories. If you want to focus on stories, there are numerous other mediums available, such as movies, television, and books.

      Books, though, I understand why Hepler does not bother with books, given her track record. Feel free to look up her publications, and I think you’ll understand why the vast majority of gamers, people who generally put the Game portion over the Story portion, are not pleased with her proposition.

      I’d point out some of the logical fallacies in the rest of your post (A funeral under harassment is hardly comparable to posts on the internet), but I fear your qualification as a combat veteran far outclasses my position as a rational thinking person in all respects.

  12. Awesome article.

    Why are people complaining that you can skip combat like this is some kind of down turn in gaming? Nobody complains when you can just skip the story. Oh, yeah. Today’s generation of gamers are illiterate slobs who’s attention span for actual plot doesn’t extend past the “he’s a terrorist, kill him” mentality of the Call of Duty franchise and it’s ilk. I used to be proud to be a gamer, not any more. When I hear complaints about “too much talking” in supposed role-playing games, and then companies changing their games to accommodate such a ridiculous idea, I realize that the game industry that I fell in love with is all but dead. I think Helper has it right, in all honesty. I’ve always played games for the story that they’re able to craft, the interactivity able to pull you in and make things much more meaningful than just watching a movie. The “game” aspect of games has always been a somewhat secondary consideration. Besides, she’s a fucking writer, who cares if she knows or cares about the game aspect of video games. You don’t expect electricians to know anything about gaming, but he’s the guy putting the wiring in your house to allow you to plug in your gaming system of choice! You don’t expect the child laborers in china putting together your systems to know how to actually play anything on them, do you? That’s the same kind of fucked up logic these people have.Also, Meanwhile Backlash, words can hurt. I’ve been shot and been involved in a few IED attacks, so it’s not like I’m coming from someplace where the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with was someone calling me a “fag” on the internet. If you don’t believe that, I guess you’re fine with the Westboro Baptists coming to soldier’s funerals with signs telling the family’s that their lost loved one is burning in hell? I mean, that’s just words, right? Just don’t read them. I’m sure you’d be fine with that if they showed up at a loved ones funeral you were attending.

  13. I love this piece, but I don’t agree on one point.

    Defending yourself from abuse never costs the moral high ground. I believe that ‘oh well, that’s the internetz’ tolerance and ‘don’t feed the trolls’ are two sides of the same coin — the ether version of ‘boyz will be boyz.’ No, they won’t. Some boyz will be evil. And they need to be called on it.

    Maybe not by the victim. Maybe the onus needs to be on the observers to express their righteous outrage. But the victim never gets blamed for being attacked. Never.

    • I think that the point Steph is trying to make is that trying to combat Internet bullying usually results in one of two approaches: stooping and logic. 

      Lowering oneself to the level of those already so irrational that they would go out of their way to harm someone in this manner can’t work. It provides more fuel and obliterates the little self-respect that the victim is holding on to. 

      Combatting vitriol with logic is equally futile. The aggressors have already expressed a disinterest in civil discourse. Why would the start being rational after being called on it?

      Unfortunately, the “stand up to a bully” mentality is something that works well in the physical world, but less so in the virtual space we spend so much time in.

      • “Lowering oneself to the level of those already so irrational that they
        would go out of their way to harm someone in this manner can’t work.”

        I’m saying that a victim simply can’t lower himself that far — bullies (particularly a rabid *horde* of bullies) have given up all claim to sympathy. I’m not offering a solution, but a tweak to the mentality of ‘don’t feed the trolls.’

        To borrow an excellent phrase I read today, the onus needs to be on the bullies to not *be* bullies, not on the victim to not be hurt. Any suggestion by bystanders that the victim enabled/deserved/provoked behavior that is clearly abusive justifies that behavior. We need to stop that. We don’t need to be teaching kids how *not* be bullied, but making it abundantly clear that bullying will not be tolerated in our airspace.

        I’m not saying that we can’t learn skills to help cope with being attacked, but I’m trying to strip away any moderation in order to make a point about how an environmental tolerance of this behavior, in the form of ‘don’t feed the trolls’ or ‘that’s just the internet’ feeds into this abuse. Which … as the post pointed out, has killed children.

        • That is a VERY good point. I don’t think that Steph was implying that people shouldn’t defend themselves. However, in this particular case and, especially, in the way that she chose to defend herself (the now infamous “vagina” comment), silence would have been the preferable choice. In this case, the victim lowered herself further than she should have.

          I never intended to imply that people should not defend themselves and, I don’t think Steph meant that as a blanket statement. I think, in that part of the piece, that she was speaking directly to this specific incident.Your points are not only valid, but well spoken and admirable. Thank you.

      • Because in the real world when people say mean things to women they get Punched by the observers if not the woman herself. Here on the internet they feed off of our desire to punch them in the face and our absolute lack of power to do so. They sit home smirking and feeling smug, I don’t imagine they are happy people themselves. It’s twisted antisocial personality disorder on a mass scale with no way for the sane people to stop it. All we can do (for now) is avoid them altogether.

  14. Good read.

    While I totally disagree with Hepler’s opinion (a game with no gameplay is just a movie), I can’t fathom treating a person that way. The saddest thing about it though is how soul crushingly expected it is now.

    Go to any video game related forum and if you can’t find an example of one human treating another human like dirt in less than 2 minutes you would have to be blind. Those of you who play World of Warcraft or The Old Republic (or probably any MMORPG) type in your respective general chat channel that you’re a Christian and watch what happens. You might not have to type anything, just wait a few minutes. It’s horrible. It’s everywhere.

  15. Personally, I don’t see the issue with wanting to have skippable combat. It would merely be an option. No one is holding anyone else at gunpoint forcing them to choose a method that they wouldn’t prefer. I would play a game such as Mass Effect or Final Fantasy VI normally the first time through, or maybe even on repeat plays, but sometimes I just want to see the story parts and having the option to do so would be cool.

    Seriously. People already go on youtube and watch cutscenes if they’re not in the mood to play a game, why not just give that option to the games themselves and have it available in GLORIOUS HD?

  16. Thank you for writing such a good piece in defense of poor Jennifer Hepler! No one deserves to be attacked like that, in any way, shape, or form! We are all human beings here, lets act like civilized people and not just a bunch of raging haters! I think the game play skip idea is a great one, and if you don’t like it fine! Who cares? How I play my games doesn’t affect you! I don’t know how many women work in the video game industry (and I’m sure it’s not many) and she should be proud that she works for Bioware! She shouldn’t have to filter her words (or close her Twitter) to make other people happy!

  17. What a ridiculously biased article. This isn’t journalism; even editorials should have some sense of reasoning. You’ve outright lied several times in this festival of garbage, though if from an ignorant lack of research or with full malicious intention isn’t clear. (For example, it was Hepler that brought sex and crassness into it with her comment that she had “a career in gaming and a vagina, two things [her detractors] would never get.”) Both are as damning and inappropriate for a journalist. And your closing examples? All notably unstable teens. Are you now insinuating that Hepler is a disturbed child? Or is she an adult, Ms. Gutowski? Your childishly overblown reaction to a very minor controversy shames only yourself. Not the internet.

    Basically, you’re an idiot and bad at your job. Have a good day in your cesspool of abject failure!

  18. Unfortunately, the cyberbullying connecton with gay and teen suicides looms over this controversy in a way that makes it difficult to address one of the key issues…game franchises taking dramatic turns in their story and gameplay development. Game fanatics hate this and will run any which way to give their anger a reckless voice.  

    • The connection with cyberbullying just points out what this was. If that makes the perpetrators uncomfortable, good. If that makes the people who watched it happen without comment uncomfortable, good.

      Criticism can be expressed just fine without gang violence, without fabricating ‘information’ and organizing a witch hunt. It happens all the time. If you criticize in a mature, helpful, sincere manner and a studio doesn’t obviously act on your opinions, are you entitled to *personally* attack people? Is it acceptable to leave all of your opinions at the gate and use horrifying language and death threats? Do you get to call someone at home?

      ‘Fanatics’ is a correct term. This whole thing reads like a failed relationship gone stalker scenario.

      “Bioware doesn’t satisfy me any more. I’m going to insult it every day in the hopes that it will change to please me.”

      I have no doubt that there are plenty of fans of DA:O who played DA2, didn’t like it, and moved on with their lives. Maybe they posted a critique. Maybe even a rant. But then, satiated, they tried a different studio. Different franchise. They did not seek out someone else to blame for their obsession, and vent their frustration with abuse. Frustration is okay. Abuse is not.

      And, on a practical note, what were they expecting? How was this supposed to inspire Bioware writers to write for them? If you give us what we want, we won’t attack YOU on Twitter?

      Some facts: the interview was in 2006. Anyone claiming to be an old-school Bioware fan who is under drinking age has zero credibility. Jennifer Hepler has never worked on ME. Not even a little.

      • Do you honestly equate this to gang violence? Please stop and check reality. Gang violence is when you get beaten, robbed, shot, and killed by a fucking gang. Not when some assholes on the internet post words.

  19. Boo hoo, i was hurt by words on the internet.

    If you can’t handle bullying over the fucking internet, I really can’t pity you if you take your life for it.

  20. IIRC Hamburger Helper posted on her Twitter that she’s quitting/leaving the Mass Effect 3 writing team. That contradicts what Bioware stated. I never trusted the source of that forum post but because of this contradiction, I’m not going to take what Bioware states as 100% truth either.

  21.  Bullshit, bioware and EA are NOTORIOUS for deleting any and all threads and posts that in any wait negatively affect their game/s. The post the white knight author posted was well over a year old, good luck finding it, not to mention theres plenty of circumstantial evidence to support this, like the fact that prior to working at bioware helper has several yaoi fanfictions under her belt, and has only ever written highly sexualised fantasy stories prior to being employed there.

    This hate campaign was a long time coming, the vast majority of the rabid internet users who despise her are actually disenfranchised bioware fans who became disgusted with what their once beloved rpg maker has become. And being the internet people love to throw their nastiest phrases about, i fail to see what is unusual or unfair about this situation, lets break it down shall we?;

    Company makes really good rpgs
    company gets bought out by EA
    company gets turned into a sweatshop dev team
    quality plummets
    pushes a female yaoi fanfic writer to their front for public scrutiny
    says stupid shit
    old fans who liked the early games focus all their confused hate at her
    butthurt on all sides ensues.

    Everyone needs to do alot of growing up here, especially the white knights who keep writing self righteous bullshit articles saying BE NICE TO THE PRETTY LADY SO SHE’LL SLEEP WITH ME!

  22. I couldn’t even read everything simply because this is some major white-knighting bullshit. If you defend a useless bitch you think your Bioware overlords will praise you and give you a bone? Personally i played both Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, and as i can see the most boring parts were the ones Jennifer “Hamburger” Hepler worked on(dwarf part and whole Dragon Age 2, i won’t even mention Anders). Bioware games are degrading more and more and it doesn’t help that they try to shove homosexuality down your throat. For instance trying to be friends (having a high reputation) with a character of same sex will always end in the wanting to devastate your butthole. Simply put, they shouldn’t ever let Jennifer write anything, ever again. People don’t hate her guts for no reason, there is always a reason you simply don’t want to see. People don’t get paid to write articles which praise Bioware nor do they get paid for giving 10/10 reviews to catastrophic MMORPG’s that are so badly made and written it makes you vomit. People simply hate on the cancerous object slowly eating up the level of the gaming industry. For some that’s Jennifer Hepler, for others Bioware, but actually it’s EA.

  23. (This only pertains to the end of your article about the gravity of cyberbullying) If someone takes their own life because of what someone said to them over the internet (and not even in real fucking life) then they deserve to die and I would laugh at their funeral for how utterly stupid said person is. 
    And for Helper, she brought it on herself she egged these people on, blatantly insulting people and talking about how people were jealous of her job and her vagina. Also to rap this up, if she commits suicide because of this crap I will laugh non-stop for 3 days, 17 hours, 11 minutes, and 48 seconds on camera. (And after reading some of these comments on bullying down here if kids aren’t bullied ever than everyone would be a giant bunch of pussies, I was bullied as a kid and yeah sure I hated it then, but now I don’t want to kill myself because of past experiences, I grew up and began the awesome process of not giving a flying fuck.)

  24. This will be the only time I say this. 

    Hate speech will NOT be tolerated. If you want to spew bile or revel in someone else’s anguish, go somewhere else. This is not the place for you.We welcome and encourage debate conducted in a civil and respectful fashion, even if that means getting a little “spirited.” Talking about laughing at a suicide victim’s funeral (yes, I said “victim”) is so far over the line that I have to question if there is any humanity within the person that made that comment.

  25. God, what a white knighting pussy the author of this article is.

    The internet is not your personal hugbox. It is the respository of everything, it is both the sublime and the demonic, but it is not for the weak. Anyone who has been seared by it’s flames and not been destroyed has emerged stronger.

    You want to waste your tears on someone who has damned herself with her own words? Who got her job by nepotism? Fine, but do not presume to tell the rest of us what to do. Why should we follow you in eating everything shat out of an incompetant arsehole?

  26. So she gets treated poorly because her fave aspect of gaming isn’t the gaming aspect? That’s silly! Excuse me for saying this, but my fave aspect about gaming isn’t the gaming- its  the music soundtracks!

  27. I only wish that there were some way to feed this logic and good sense to those that need to stop being bullies and get with the program. Unfortunately the people who are the problem here probably wouldn’t read this, they enjoy being bad too much to stop; as soon as they saw a view opposing their own they would stop reading and make sure to keep their minds closed tightly. Your comment about real ID sounding better and better is right on. people on the internet should have free speech, they just need to be accountable and not able to hide behind profiles etc… it would (hopefully) reduce the willingness of people to say things they wouldnt say face to face in real life, here on the internet.

  28. Do your job right or dont do it at all, and us having to attempt the same job has no correlation, the entire last paragraph makes you look like an ass hat. She is payed to do this shit right not fuck it up, thats the point of a job. But yes people definetly go to far on the internet thats for damn sure.

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