Here’s something that really happened and makes me embarrassed to be a gamer.
Jennifer Hepler is a writer for a company called BioWare, which has created franchises such as Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Warhammer Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Jennifer is a senior writer and is responsible for storyline choices and narrative.
In an interview from 2006, which has since been deleted due to horrible comments and criticism, Hepler said the following:
Q: What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
A: Playing the games. This is probably a terrible thing to admit, but it has definitely been the single most difficult thing for me. I came into the job out of a love of writing, not a love of playing games… I’m really terrible at so many things which most games use incessantly — I have awful hand-eye coordination, I don’t like tactics, I don’t like fighting, I don’t like keeping track of inventory, and I can’t read a game map to save my life.
Q: If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a broader audience which includes women, what would that one thing be?
A: A fast-forward button. Games almost always include a way to “button through” dialogue without paying attention, because they understand that some players don’t enjoy listening to dialogue and they don’t want to stop their fun. Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combats even if you’re a player who only enjoys the dialogue.
Now, the problem here isn’t what she said. Writers love to write, no one can blame her. The problem here is what her interview created. After this interview, rabid fans went crazy. Entire forums were dedicated to how little she deserved to be in this business. Every curse word in the dictionary was used to describe her, because die-hard fans couldn’t cope with the idea of gameplay becoming secondary to the narrative.
A reminder… There are games that exist that hardly contain any real gameplay. The hit Heavy Rain focused on quicktime events, that you could fail or pass. The story progressed either way, allowing you to become fully immersed in the story. Recent game Asura’s Wrath, which I’ve yet to play or review yet, looks to be an interactive anime, as opposed to true game.
At the time Hepler didn’t really know this craze was happening. She happened to start up a Twitter though, as a lot of BioWare employees do, and this opened the floodgates. They called her every name they could imagine. They even went so far as saying that the choice to allow Shepard in Mass Effect to be gay ‘ruined the game.’ To see the real-time feed of people commenting on this poor girl, check out here. She’s since deleted her account but people are still tagging her in insults.
Other hateful comments included calling her “the cancer destroying BioWare” and plenty of homophobic, racist, and sexist comments.
So let’s briefly recap so far. In 2006, Jennifer Hepler said that games could include features to allow for more types of gamers to enjoy them. No harm in that. For some reason 6 years later, the internet goes crazy and tortures this poor girl.
In an amazing show of support, BioWare CEO and co-founder Ray Muzyka has come out in support of her choices and statements, even donating $1,000 to a campaign called Bullying Canada in her name, to help prevent other forms of online bullying.
So what does this say about gamers?
We are allowed to enjoy these games. We are not entitled to them. They are not ours. These are products thought of, made by, and distributed by others. We merely get to peek into these worlds, enjoy them for a bit, and then leave. Who are we to be this judgmental?
And again, there are very successful games that have done exactly as Jennifer Hepler has recommended. And she never said to remove any sort of gameplay, but allow for an option where people could bypass parts of the game they didn’t want to play. Maybe I wanted to play God of War without the button-mashing, but just enjoy the story. Who’s to judge me?
And who are we to judge her? I blame some of this on the gamers that are inconsiderate jerks and likely live alone in their mother’s house. A lot of this also should be blamed on the state of the internet today, where every troll with a keyboard can hide behind anonymity on sites like Twitter. Their false personas have ruined a real woman’s real life.
Let me say this as well. BioWare has never done me wrong. People need to get off their damned high horses. Most fans agree that Dragon Age: Origins was a great game. But you know what…? I think Dragon Age 2 is a great game as well. Different than Origins but I still played it through four or five times. And Mass Effect is a fantastic franchise. And Star Wars: The Old Republic is the first MMO game to really give World of Warcraft a run for its money. This company has given us some amazing titles and I (for one) am in love with their storytelling, which is due in part to the work of people like Jennifer Hepler.
Jennifer, I appreciate the work you’ve done and I’m sorry that there are gamers that are so tasteless and ignorant to treat you the way that they have. I appreciate your sentiments and I agree that the world of gaming can do more to be inclusive for new and non-traditional types of gamers.