The internet had one of its periodic explosions over something inconsequential this weekend (not Whitney Houston) which, as it's prone to do, became Massive Drama as the initial issue was exacerbated and then picked up by more mainstream awareness.
In this particular example, BioWare employee Jennifer Hepler joined Twitter. If, like me, the significance of this action flew over your head allow me to explain what I've learned from my deep minutes of research into her identity.
Jennifer Hepler (whose full resume is seemingly difficult to come by at the moment) has recently been responsible for writing various parts of story dialogue for the Dragon Age
and Mass Effect series. (Update: Evidently Jennifer Hepler has not been involved in Mass Effect, this was an allegation started on Reddit and incorrectly taken as fact by several news outlets.) Still not getting the issue? Well, some of those games — especially Dragon Age 2 — were not particularly good. The explanations for why, or even the subjectivity-based opinion on whether you agree with that or not, differ, but this weekend's prevailing theory is that a combination of David Gaider (himself a confirmed homosexual) and Hepler (herself having confirmed the existence of her vagina) ruined the titles they were involved in with their gross progressivism and flagrant sympathies with minorities.
The fault lies with the two of them, as this logic explains, because it was their throat-ramming of LGBT themes into recent BioWare titles that made them suck — nevermind, of course, that both writers were involved in the first titles in each series (which apparently were less gay and thus less sucky) and that BioWare has traditionally involved LGBT references in almost all of their titles since the studio's first releases.
In any event, Hepler joined Twitter. In and of itself this is nothing, but at some point early on in her social networking career the fact of her new, immediate accessibility became known to the unwashed masses — discovering that they now had a chance to get their criticism of her work across in a mature, respectful manner outside of the curated and heavily moderated world of the official BioWare forums, the people upset about previous games engaged her on a level that was refreshingly civil and constructive.
It was a weekend of some of the most vile, hateful commentary I've ever seen on anything so utterly important, but aside from constantly attacking her presumed weight (the internet nicknamed her 'Hamburger Helper,' which is a rather ironic attack given the average girth of your ordinary gamer) and her gender, the constant refrain was that she had done something bad because she (evidently alone and with no one else's input or decisioning process!) had introduced gay characters and strong female leads into these titles and this should not be allowed to stand. The writing sucked because it was gay. She deserved the hatred because she had creepy, sick homofetishes.
The only positive thing to come out of the whole puddle of vomit was when Aaryn Flynn, BioWare's Edmonton studio GM, told one of the particularly homophobic attackers that he was a fucking moron which led the homophobe in question to rant for hours about how he deserved an apology and would never buy a BioWare game again.
A few places have complained about how embarrassing this behaviour is for gamers, and have called on gamers to be more respectful all around — but honestly this is the sort of activity that ought to disgust anyone who considers themselves to be a human being. It's beyond disagreeing, as the harassment in question had hardly anything to do with her professional work at all. It's also a very disturbing reminder of the underlying resentment — not just specifically related to gaming, but on a societal level — from the privileged majority being forced increasingly to acknowledge and accept the existence of women, homosexuals, asians, the disabled, latinos, africans and so on as people worthy of not just representation but respect. BioWare has had to deal with asinine complaints of repressing their "target" demographic in the past, but the explosion this weekend reflects a very disturbing animosity seething beneath the surface.
Ultimately, Hepler's Twitter identity was a brief one: inundated with hate-speech she closed her account down fourteen posts after starting it. This has been lauded as a victory by her detractors, but it should be seen as disappointing by everyone else whether concerned about "gaming as legitimate" or not.
Update: BioWare responded surprisingly quickly by making an official statement supporting Jennifer Hepler, as relayed through Chris Priestly, BioWare's Community Coordinator:
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
Additionally we will be making a donation of $1000 in Jennifer's name to Bullying Canada. Please feel free to also donate to this worthy cause in support.
Thank you again to everyone who has supported Jennifer and BioWare in this difficult time.