Creepy Internet Stalkers Harass Female Video Game Designer For Months
By Alex Cranz
Over the last month Jennifer Hepler, one of the writers for Dragon Age and my beloved Dragon Age 2 has been enduring threats, insults and massive invasions of privacy because some asshats found an old interview she did and decided to poke the hornet’s nest that is the internet with it.
In the interview with a website geared towards women Hepler was quite candid and gave her thoughts on game design, gaming and the struggles of being a working mom in an industry that’s very demanding of one’s time. After talking about her work experience and what she does (she writes dialogue for games and helps crafts the story) this happened:
What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
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. While I enjoy the interactive aspects of gaming, if a game doesn’t have a good story, it’s very hard for me to get interested in playing it. Similarly, 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. This makes it very difficult for me to play to the myriad games I really should be keeping up on as our competition.
And with a baby on the way in a few months, my minimal free time (which makes it impossible for me to finish a big RPG in less than six months already), will disappear entirely. If there was a fast-forward feature on games which would let me easily review the writing and stories and skip the features that I find more frustrating than fun, I’d find it much easier to keep abreast of what’s happening in the field.
This is where a LOT of the vitriol from the dirty dredges of the internet comes. She’s working for one of the most well-regarded game companies in the world and working on some of the biggest games that company makes. She spends every days writings thousands of words of dialogue to give those games color and she says that she’s not that crazy about games.
Clearly she must perish. Let’s ignore the fact that countless well-regarded science fiction and fantasy writers have been brought in to write games in the past despite having no experience or inclination for gaming. Or that she talks about how free time evaporates and she finds herself incapable of playing games. Never mind the fact that we ALL wish we could have skipped some of those fights in Uncharted 3 to get to the next cut scene story. She says that physically playing games isn’t her favorite part of the job so she must be skewered and burned while everyone dances around her chanting “fatty fatty two by four.”
What makes this all noteworthy for us here at FemPop is that the attacks aren’t just related to her opinions on video games or her ability to craft dialogue. Even though she’s one of multiple writers on each project and it is impossible to for the public to actually quantify her individual contribution she’s still, apparently, the reason Dragon Age 2 was terrible. Reading the comments people have made and noting the significant number of personal attacks I can’t help but scroll back in time a little.
Have you ever been to the Dragon Age forums? Hepler used to be a pretty regular presence there–especially during the launch of Dragon Age 2 a year ago. She’d post comments on the story, talk about characters she was “responsible” for (like Anders, who has received a bulk of critics’ praise). It was a great way to get some neat access to the developers.
Then the Dragon Age 2 backlash began and she was singled out as the cause by irate fans. Was it something she wrote? Nope. The other writers–even those behind less popular characters, weren’t singled out. No, it was pretty plain to see that she was being singled out for the gamers’ fury because she was the only female writer on staff.
And this new round of Hepler bashing has little to do with her feelings on video games and everything to do with her being a woman writing video games for one of the biggest video game companies in the world. As she aptly put it:
“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 is misogyny in one of its purist forms. If the sexism wafting off the comments about her was any more palpable you’d have to wear some sort of gas mask just to read Reddit (I’m loathe to check out 4Chan’s comments on this because I’m pretty sure the sexism would shrivel my lady parts and then murder me in my sleep).
You can call her unprofessional for her awesome burn above, you can disagree with what she said in an interview six years ago on a defunct website that some dude had to go hunt down in the Wayback Machine just to get people to hate her on Reddit. That’s perfectly fine. You’re entitled your opinion, but you also gotta admit that what’s going down and this wierd vendetta some internet creeps have against her is straight up misogyny. They hate women and they hate this one in particular.
And what’s scary is they’ve been hating her for at least a year. Figuring out new ways to be nasty to her. What’s happening now isn’t the first assault on her, and as long as she keeps working in this industry it won’t be the last.
Just, for everyone’s sake, don’t assume this is because she responded to the trolls or she once said she doesn’t like sitting down to play games. This is because a very small group of misogynists have an uncanny ability to direct the internet’s hatred like a laser.
On the bright side, now when someone tries to tell you sexism isn’t a problem in society or that misogyny no longer exists you can point to tweets like this!
Note: For an excellent defense of Hepler check out Destructoid’s coverage of the issue.