UK website Metro wrote a controversial post yesterday titled BioWare writer quits after death threats to family. If all the facts within the article were true, it would be pretty astonishing news. Unfortunately, while true, it was more of an exaggeration with some facts withheld. But before we go into this, let me say that I believe the fact that people are so willing to accept the story at face value says a lot about the gaming industry today and the state of people on the internet. Trolls and bullies run rampant and the gaming world is no exception. It’s up to those of us who have been a part of this culture for a long time, and who truly love and care for it, to push out the bullies and trolls and show them they are not welcome on our playground.
But now back to the story of the BioWare writer…
Jennifer Hepler was working on sequel Dragon Age: Inquisition but is quitting BioWare this week to go freelance, in large part thanks to threats she and others of the team received in the wake of Dragon Age II’s release.
The game was unpopular with many hardcore fans and although Hepler was able to ignore most of the threats and abuse on the BioWare forums and Twitter she also received emailed death threats and threats against her children, as well as abusive phone calls.
They use this article on the subject of fan abuse on website Polygon as their source for this post but in actuality, that’s not the sole reason, or even a main reason Jennifer Helper quit BioWare.
I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant to experience the attacks. I’ve been there before many times (as a web write for more than 15 years).
‘I was shown a sample of the forum posts by EA security,’ says Hepler ‘And it included graphic threats to kill my children on their way out of school to show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have me as a mother.’
Harsh words from nasty gamers.
But not words that made her quit.
Metro has now updated their story to reflect to true story from Helper herself.
Jennifer Helper has contacted us to make it clear that she did not leave BioWare as a direct result of the harassment she received at the hands of gamers.
‘BioWare was tremendously supportive of me during that time, and I have experienced nothing like it since, due to the excellent policing of the BioWare Forums and new policies on the BioWare Social Network,’ she told us in an email.
‘I am moving on from BioWare now to pursue other opportunities that let me return to be closer to family in the United States after a wonderful eight years in Canada. I have no intentions to leave the game industry — I love the work that I have done and the reactions from the vast majority of fans and look forward to continuing that work in other venues.’
So now that the mystery is solved, it does still bring up a very valid point: what causes gamers today to turn to hate speech and personal attacks simply because they don’t like something about a game or its story?
Would you be able to handle the types of abuse that some in the gaming industry have to endure as a result of their jobs?
We should all think twice before we criticize a game and make sure that we’re expressing distaste for the game or aspects of the game, rather than hate speech towards the individuals who helped make the game. It’s not personal; it’s business. Don’t make it personal.