Twitter and gaming sites are all astir over the opinions of a Bioware writer, but what's all this really about? In a word: entitlement.
Wow... gamers can be utter jerks.
There's a helluva storm going on on Twitter at the moment, and it's being reported pretty heavily around the traps. It's showing up a lot of the problems with the wider gaming community - the raging sense of entitlement, the misogyny and homophobia that we've talked about here before.
The angst started a few days ago, when a years-old interview with Jennifer Hepler, a writer at Bioware who's worked on Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and Star Wars: The Old Republic, resurfaced on Reddit, under the header 'This woman is the cancer that is killing Bioware'.
Hepler drew this criticism for her repeated comments that she's not actually a big gamer, and would like the opportunity to skip combat in games in favour of focusing on the story. In fact, she rightly pointed out "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." So yeah, makes sense that an option to skip combat is a good idea.
Only, it appears that for many gamers, only other gamers should be allowed to write for games, and having the option to skip combat is akin to murdering babies. You know, only WORSE.
However, things really heated up when she had the temerity to defend herself. "I just figure they're jealous that I get to have both a vagina AND a games industry job, and they can't get either." It was probably not a wise move, to bring gender into it, but at the same time, I can't blame Hepler for the observation; it's entirely likely that if a man said the same things about skipping gameplay that there would not be anything to this at all.
Sadly, with Hepler's comment, things got positively nasty and unrepentantly sexist; given her championing of including non-straight relationships in the game, the homophobia flowed pretty thick as well. I'm not even going to give the comments air time here, but if you want to you can easily have a look at the still raging Twitter feed.
I'll admit, I'm a bit late to this. I only discovered the issue when one of the regulars around here emailed me about it; he was pretty obviously on the side of those going on the rampage against so-called bad writing. And how dare she defend herself, and then how dare her boss wade in and actually tell people to fuck off?
It depresses me that while there are in fact a lot of people defending Hepler, and supporting her and her work, it's almost lost amongst the raging white noise of gamer indignation.
At the end of the day, Hepler is a writer - not a game designer. These are two very different things, so the idea that someone who works at Bioware is not a gamer shouldn't be all that surprising. I mean, guess what - I doubt Tom Clancy plays games, but I don't see him getting called on it. And her ideas about being able to skip combat are actually good; on top of that, other games already give you that opportunity. Strategy titles like the Total War series have given players the ability to skip key parts of the game, letting players focus on the part of the game they enjoy most. No one cries over that, so I'm not sure what the issue is about it moving into other games.
But because Hepler has dared to have some kind of challenging opinion, it's open season. Those attacking her feel as though they have some personal right to call for her removal, to wish her ill health and worse... over a game.
As to the thoroughly warrantless attacks on her size, gender and ability... well, it's embarrasing. As a games writer, I have tried to champion the cause of gamers as mature individuals many times, but when I see the kind of behaviour that's ticking through at about twenty tweets a minute... I get disheartened. Maybe we deserve to be seen as barely socialised basement dwellers.
We're certainly acting like troglodytes, that's for sure. And Jennifer, if you happen to read this, I'm really sorry.