BioWare Writer Describes Her Gaming Tastes; Angry Gamers Call Her A 'Cancer'

BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler is trying to delete her Twitter account today after feeling the hate of gamers who are angry about what she apparently said in a 2006 interview.

She's been called terrible things on the internet today, after a flame that was lit by a post on Reddit calling Hepler, as the "cancer that is killing Bioware". She's worked on Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The original Reddit post that surfaced earlier this month was a screenshot of the BioWare forums with alleged comments from Hepler's interview with website Killer Betties.

Reddit /r/gaming moderator ohemeffgee removed the post for violating Reddiquette. He cited some of the problems:

1. It directly targets an individual. Keep in mind when you sharpen those pitchforks of yours that you're attacking actual human beings with feelings and basic rights. Follow the Golden Rule, please.

2. On top of that it cites quotes that the person in question never made. This person was getting harassing phone calls and emails based on something that they never did.

The link where the original interview from October 2006 was supposedly posted is now faulty, and in fact the entire site seems to be empty. But you can find the archived version here.

And what was the cause for this uproar?

The cause of this uproar appears to have been her response to a question about what her least favourite thing about working in the gaming industry was. Her answer: "Playing the games." The original Reddit post featured a heavily edited version of the interview, which subtracted the fact that Hepler is expecting a child in the coming months, and therefore has a minimal amount of time to dedicate to gaming. She also mentioned that she finds it difficult to get immersed in a game that is not complemented by a good story: "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."

Hepler also seemed to anger some gamers with her suggestion to add a fast-forward button to skip combat in games, similar to the skip button for dialogue and in-game cinematics.

The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that's the biggest perk. If you're a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kids' homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don't need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest -- especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don't enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players -- not just women -- the same options that we have with books or DVDs -- to skim past the parts we don't like and savour the ones we do.

The original screencap posted on Reddit included the words: Cancer, Infection, Sewage, Plague. These are not light comments. Reddit's ohemeffgee also said that Hepler has been harassed with phone calls and emails from people echoing the statements made by Reddit user corporateswine, who uploaded the first Reddit post that spurred the witchhunt.

Hepler has also been receiving nasty Twitter replies. BioWare's Studio GM, Aaryn Flynn, rose to her defence against the attackers on Twitter, albeit perhaps not in the most PR-friendly manner possible.

A YouTube video was created with instructions in the description to send "hate mail" to David Gaider, one of BioWare's other writers. The harassment has gone so far as to prompt the BioWare writer to try to delete her Twitter account.

Whether you agree with Hepler's comments on video games and her suggestions for making a better experience still does not excuse the treatment she's been receiving today.

We've reached out to EA PR for comment from Jennifer Hepler, and we'll post an update as soon as one is available.


Comments

    That YouTube video wasn't created in reaction to any of those events, it was made almost a year ago in reaction to the terrible direction Bioware was going with Dragon Age 2.

    Wow, leave the woman alone, angry nerds is all I can say -_-

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      Quiet you fool.

      Ignoring 4chan is just good policy.

    This comment has been reported for inappropriate content and is awaiting review.

    I'm sure she's not the reason for Bioware turning to crap.

    It's taken a coordinated effort on behalf of many people working at Bioware to systematically turn every one of their IPs to shit. So singling her out is unfair.

      She hasn't ever worked on a Mass Effect game yet she's also blamed for the series perceived decline. It's turned from making light of her comments about "not playing games" into a cruel vendetta based on lies.

        You are seemingly under the impression that ME is their only series...

          No, people are bashing her for the apparent decline in ME3, some suggesting she's the reason ME3 will have a gay romance option like in DAO/DA2 - even though she hasn't written for ME3 at all.

    Everyone attacking her is an asshole.

    People are allowed to have opinions without suffering this sort of vitriol.

    I almost kind of agree with the quote that sparked all of this:

    The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that’s the biggest perk. If you’re a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kids’ homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don’t need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest — especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don’t enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players — not just women — the same options that we have with books or DVDs — to skim past the parts we don’t like and savour the ones we do.

    But I'm not too sure that I like the conclusion she reached or the reasoning ("as a woman" just seems to invoke the housewife mental image here and I think this problem is much more broad. "As an adult" would probably have made it more sympathetic)

    The problem is that a lot of games, particularly story driven games, are rather long. I'm not talking about the flash in a pan COD style campaigns where you're done in four hours. I'm talking about the Bioware RPGs, the Final Fantasy games, Pokemon, Elder Scrolls and all the other games that are notorious for taking hundreds of hours of time.

    Most of that time is filler. You might have 10 solid hours of enjoyment and 90 hours of grind to get to that enjoyment. That's terrible pacing. Can you imagine a book that was boring for 90% of the time? Or a TV show? You wouldn't fast forward to the good bits, you'd just give up on the whole thing.

    The solution wouldn't be to add a fast forward button to cut out the fight scenes and needless grinding. The solution would be for developers to make games that had a decent sense of pacing.

      It's worth noting that there's been a strongly positive reaction to the 'Story mode' option in ME3 - people have said it's a great way to get friends or relatives who usually don't like combat in games to play it, and be interested in the story and characters by themselves. The narrative moves much more quickly when combat is so much easier.

      But I agree - in story-based gaming, having to grind is a nightmare, particularly if you don't enjoy the combat.

        I would love if ME 1 & 2 had a story mode, I would do some quick run throughs to prepare for ME3.
        I dont have time to fully replay them both now

          Agreed. I'm replaying FFXIII-1 before starting my release-day copy of FFXIII-2. All of these battles are taking far longer than I expected. I really only want to watch the cut scenes.

        the problem is we pay for an expencive game to have many hours of playing and after they give to us a short story at the same price

    I respect her, she has a life and choices, she is Human. If people get off calling her these kind of thing's, they aren't gamers, they are internet bullies, they are fakes and only hear what they think is bad. As such this post stated, she said "She is expecting a child in the coming months" and this was removed from the interview so people would only view what she said, and not why. None the less what people say, she has helped give us some of the greatest games we all play and love, Dragon Age, and my favorite SWTOR, people need to learn to keep their stupid comments and insults to themselves, and if they truly believe they are doing the right thing, then they give a VERY bad name to the term gamer, for which they are not.

    Not a big fan of Bioware's writing, but I do think that her comments are justified.
    While it would certainly be beneficial for a game writer to enjoy games, I don't see why it would have to be compulsory. I've heard people argue that if she doesn't like games, she should write novels or films, but they're really very different. The closest you could get to writing Dragon Age would be writing a choose-your-own-adventure book. It would be thousands of pages long. I can see why she'd enjoy writing for games due to the interactive nature, and she should be able to do so without this level of criticism.
    There really is no justification for abuse on this level. It exceeds constructive criticism and is just.. Really personal and nasty.

    Wow, just wow. I feel so sorry for this poor woman.

    And I agree with her to some extent. An optional fast-forward (akin to the Nintendo innovation of auto-level-completion) at the expense of achievements of course, would be a decent inclusion, especially in longer, story-heavy games. Some games, I only slog through just to find out what happens next (though as Trjn adroitly points out, this could also be rectified by making the gameplay more interesting)

    pro writer in da house

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2139643.M_I_T_H_

      i empathise with what this woman is going through, but that description made me chucklez.

    Man, all you white knights need to toughen up.

    It's perfectly reasonable to misconstrue someone's interviews, edit responses, and make them say something they never said.

    It's also totally fair to attack someone based on their physical attributes when they're a writer and their body has nothing to do with it.

    And, HELLO? She's a woman! So she totally deserves to cop it for making that decision not to be a man at birth.

    Never mind the fact she's got a surname that can be changed around to say something different, so if she wanted to be in gaming, she should have changed that too.

    Also, her opinion doesn't match mine, so she's 100% wrong and needs to die.

    Stupid white knights...never looking at facts!

      ...is what I would say if I had no brain, no maturity, and no humanity in me.

      Honestly, I'd be happy if there were global Allure bans for anyone who makes serious statements like the above on this article.

      Please, make it happen.

    But I agree! There are actually a few games I've only played for the story, where gameplay gets in the way. In the second half of Persona 4, I was way more interested in the story events and the dialogue than I was with the gameplay.

    Same with Grim Grimoire, I cranked the game down to the casual setting because I just wanted to watch the cutscenes than play the actual game.

    And it's not necessarily a bad thing, those are 2 of my favourite games. I see nothing wrong with having the ability to make certain gameplay sections incredibly easy so people can advance the story.

      It's not that it's a bad thing, it's that it's arguably the wrong medium. A lot of people will tell you the Persona 4 anime does as good if not a better job of relaying the tale than the game, and without having to deal with the combat.
      You conclude combat should be skippable.
      I conclude it should just be an anime and not a video game.
      There's definitely room for interesting discussion there though.

        The advantage with video games though is you can incorporate an element of choice. The anime doesn't show all the social events and you don't get to choose what happens, so you're much less invested in the story than you are with the videogame.

        Also, there's the issue of length. The persona 4 anime will be about 8 hours long if you marathoned it, but there's easily 40hrs of dialogue in the videogame. It's got much better pacing than the show, and it's also got the bonus of being interactive.

        To be honest, I think a lot of western developers are kinda missing the point of story in video games. There are still some awesome developers like Remedy with Alan Wake etc, but a lot of videogames lately sacrifice story for gameplay, and when the game is all said and done, it's the story that sticks with you and forms your final impression of the game.

          perhaps it should be a visual novel then.

    Personal attacks and harrasment are bad. Yes? Good. That is how i feel.

    However attacks on her profesional ability are fair game, and to be perfectly honest I'm with the angry masses on that. If you don't really enjoy playing games except for story, and you think games should have a fast forward option to essentially skip all gameplay in the name of story, then you should not be writing for video games. It is that simple. She should be writing novels, or screenplays or something. Which of course cunningly (not really) leads to my attack, Bioware's writers are horrible these days, and I find it hard to believe she could actually write an even semi decent novel, I don't care whether she's fat or docuhey or a mother or a woman, but with the exception of Origins (in some parts) the projects she's worked on have had horrible writing, whether it's her or David Gaider (That guy thinks he's Tolkien or Jordan or something, it's ridiculous).

    Also
    "A fast forward button would give all players — not just women — the same options that we have with books or DVDs — to skim past the parts we don’t like and savour the ones we do."
    If you're a writer, and you're skimming books, you're kinda doing it wrong. Read the boring parts, analyse what's wrong with them and use the knowledge to improve your own writing. Granted sometimes you just want to read, but dayum, pretty much everything this womans says just screams "I'M IN THE WRONG LINE OF WORK"

      Very much agree with the above comment. I have concerns if people who are not "interested in playing" games, are having key roles in there development. Would people rather be sat there watching selectable cut scenes, or playing games?

      I disagree with you wholeheartedly. And why do people care if a function they'll never use gets added to games anyway. It's not going to make a difference to the people who don't want it, just to the people who do want it. Like me.
      I think it's a good idea in some cases. Like Uncharted games. I love the story, and I love the platforming parts and exploring for treasures. But to me, the shooting of seemingly-endless amounts of unnecessary enemies takes away from the experience, and cheapens the story making it impossible for me to want to continue with the game. I'd love to be able to skip the unrealistic and completely unnecessary shooty parts and just get on with the meat of the game.

        The meat of an Uncharted game is the shooting... it is a "third person action game". I have concerns because developers adding things like this, means levels of complacency creeps into developing the actual gameplay. What if they do focus testing and find enough people skip pass a gamplay point, because it was "too hard" and then completely remove it? People who were happy to play through it will miss out completely.

          That's what I'm saying. people have their own opinions about the "meat" of a game. If people can skip cutscenes then why shouldn't there be an option for people to skip other things. And why should people care how other people play the game?

            Because 'game' implies you play it, not just 'watch' it?

            But either way that's not the real point, others have pretty much said everything I could hope to, and put it better. It's not that I care how others play, it's that you simply can't add in that option without it either immediately or eventually changing core parts of what makes the game.

            To expand on Snacuum's comment, one of my favourite parts of Dragon Age: Origins was the banter between your companions while you explored, now if I were a developer trying to optimise development, and we had this data that said, the people interested in story skip the combat/exploration, and the those that don't aren't as focused on story, one of the things that would seem like a smart feature to cut would be the context sensitive dialogue that triggers dependent on who is in your party, where you are and what you're doing. Hell just look at DAII, they IMMENSELY reduced this, and the bits that remained were much more static and pre determined.

            Then there's the bigger issue of should games even be giving us plot/story in the way they do? Half Life and Dark Souls are both excellent examples of letting you play the story rather than just observe it, the lore is there and it's actually very deep (especially in Dark Souls case), but it doesn't just force it down your throat with extended and often poorly implemented exposition.
            In writing it's considered a basic rule that where possible you aim to show, rather than tell. I like the idea that within video games the rule should be, where possible, aim to let players experience rather than be shown. I want to be Nathan Drake, if I wanted to watch Nathan Drake there's these awesome movies with Harrison Ford over on my shelf...

          They usually have telemetry and data reports that give a pretty good estimate of who does what in their games.

          Personally, I think people who use a 'Story' option to skip or greatly reduce combat would generally be a minority anyway. When millions of people buy (for example) Mass Effect 3 solely for the shooting, and the game is built around combat, there isn't suddenly going to be a situation where everyone skips the gameplay.

          If there's a huge amount of people who *do* like to skip combat, then the industry will go where the money is and make games that are (I'd guess) more akin to interactive novels. As long as there's demand for combat, people will make combat games.

          But in the meantime it hardly hurts to try to cater both groups (and people who would play both styles) if the game allows it and they feel the need. Adding an option to make combat significantly easier disadvantages nobody - it's not really extra work, and it makes the story much more accessible to people who play that way. Everybody else has their fill of shooty goodness.

          It shouldn't be like that - look at it like this. You make a game. It has a pretty good story and good gameplay, and is looking to be a hit when it is released. You have Audience A, which is everyone who will buy it without 'battle skipping' - ie the current situation. Then there is Audience B, who decide not to buy the game even though they think it is interesting, but don't want a huge time commitment for whatever reasons, and so they choose not to buy the game.

          By enabling battle skipping, developers will not lose any of Audience A and the money they bring. However, they will bring in new people from Audience B, who previously would not buy, and therefore get more money. It's about expanding your audience, and making your product accessible to more people who want it. Maybe not everyone from Audience B, but you'd get some, and for a feature that for many games - not all - be fairly easy to implement.

          I don't know about how much it would cost to make this feature compared to the profits it would bring, that's something developers would have to determine for themselves. But its difficult to see any downsides to having it, as it really is OPTIONAL, for both developers and players.

          For people arguing that gameplay and narrative should not be treated separately, I agree with you for the development process. If enabling gameplay skipping affected the gameplay's development or story development, I'd argue that the developer is doing it wrong. But if not, then there really is no loss to gamers who will play the game as its designed, while making it more inclusive to those who don't have time but still want to spend their money.

        "And why do people care if a function they’ll never use gets added to games anyway."

        It always matters what features you put into a game, it will always affect the whole. Any features you put in will need to work, they can't give the player a broken and unsatisfactory experience. A "gameplay skip" feature would require that all storytelling moments are separated from the action, there will never be any important events while you fight, no emergent story context. The gameplay bits will be in the 'game' bits and the story will be in the 'movie' bits. That's fine if that's what you want, but a lot of gamers out here are asking for our games to still be games, even if they have good stories.

        In terms of this lady I am glad that Kotaku is shedding light of the matter, I still don't agree with her or consider her justified but understand her sentiment. I always thought places like /v/ were blowing it out of proportion.

          Did video games rise to mainstream attention, begin with them "catering to both groups", no. It was a niche thing that more and more people caught onto and enjoyed. However, the more you try and cater to a larger audience, means you end up diluting the game so much that it becomes a product for the masses. This is a dangerous road to go down as it leaves you with an audience that will likely move onto the next thing when they can and your original audience is disenchanted with your product.

            Yes!

            Now imagine demon's souls with an easy mode. Easy mode needs to work, so the current player-control mechanics will probably make it too over-powered and no fun, so that needs to change. Since those mechanics has changed, hard mode is now just a harder version of easy mode... that most people don't play because there's nothing there for them but a challenge that only works when you understand the mechanics shown in easy mode...

            Different game now.

      I basically agree with everything Sam said. The personal attacks are dispicable, but there is a tiny grain of truth to them. Taking the 'game' out of a 'video game' is, to my way of thinking, completly missing the point of the medium and is all indicitive of Bioware's current direction.

      I'm reminded of when Lorraine Williams was in charge of TSR in the late 80's-early 90's. A woman who despised Tabletop RPG's and the gamers who played them was running the company making Dungeons and Dragons. Long story short (and simplified), she ran the company into the ground.

        EXACTLY!

        imgaine half-life with only the non in game cinimatics........

        it would become a 3d novel.

    This happened weeks ago, why is it suddenly coming up now?

    Every single time rubbish like this happens, gives more ammunition to the people against R18 gaming who take examples like this to "prove" only immature children with no social skills play video games.

    Wow... it's amazing how hateful people can be when behind their computer monitor.
    It's quite disgusting.
    I really hate the current quality of components of society that are being produced in the modern age. Cowardly, two faced and, sometimes, just evil.

      Not really, I'd suggest that the internet highlights the fact there are a lot of angry people right now for a multitude of reasons. There are scumbags on the internet for sure, lets not shoot down peoples right to express there thoughts on an issue, be it rightly or wrongly.

    Reddit is a cesspool for internet warriors. Kudos to the mods for shutting this down instead of letting it run rampant like the paedophile sub forums. For all the moral and creative high ground these cretins take, they're using some pretty dodgy tactics like quote mining to make a fuss. Hey ass hats, it's not the evolution debate, it's a goddamn video game and you're harassing this woman because she might disagree? That's fantastically selfish and conceited.

    I don't see how this is news, /v/ insults her and Bioware every day. I think they named an award after her for Worst Writing or something for their /V/GA's.

    I'm of the opinion that if you want a movie, watch a movie. Games are games, and the interactivity and gameplay is the core of what they do. As much as is possible of the narrative should be told through gameplay, rather than explicit exposition.

    When a game writer says that they think gameplay should be optional, it tells me that they should not be writing for games. It's not the same as writing for films or novels. You don't have have a story and tell it to the audience, or have actors play out the scenes. The players should receive the setting and narrative through their own in-world experiences.

      That's what I like.

      And not just that, but writers who are familiar with how the game plays and interacts with the player will write better and more cohesive stories for them. You could be a good writer and make a great drama for God of War, but really you should be focusing on how angry and violent Kratos is. In a game like Deus Ex you would disciver that a rich detailed story with multiple paths and NPC reactions and elements that constantly refer to mystery and conspiracy would add to the overall setting.

      Here's a good one: I just did the Dark Brotherhood starting mission in Skyrim, where you choose out of three who to kill. I don't know whether my choice meant anything, but it allowed me to make up my own mind and have my own rationalisations for my choice, while still having some mystery. A good bit of story there, appropriate to my actions, all within gameplay.

    I dislike her for the fact that she dislikes the "game" part of games, but the abuse isn't really warranted.

    And yeah this is hardly news. This has been going on for months.

      What if she prefers visual novel type "games"? There isn't a terrible amount of game play in those, they're just story. Is it so wrong that maybe she prefers those games to your run-of-the-mill FPS?

    Disgusting, and some of the the reactions on Kotaku ranging from "so what?" to "its bad, but...." are depressing as well.

      So in the "It's bad, but..." case, we're just supposed to start sobbing and lie to you? I'm not gonna do that, and I'm offended that you're asking me to.

        Your only two choices are justifying the behavior (which is what the "its bad, but.." approach is doing) or sobbing and lying? Really?

          Well if we're speaking in simpler terms, yes. In my reply a couple posts above, I did use that method in a way, however I did not justify the abuse. I think that the abuse is bad but I still dislike the woman. So then, my only other real option is lying and saying how horrible it is that the poor woman is being abused, that I feel so sorry for her and that I should send her gifts, which is really not my opinion at all.

          I"m sorry what?
          Those are my only two options?
          I'd like to think that just because someone can express something in a horrible way we don't immediately disregard the value in opinion.

          You're wrong, but you're coming from the desire to prevent the unnecessary verbal abuse of human beings.
          That doesn't suddenly make you less wrong, it doesn't justify you're inaccurate black and white claim.

            Can you please make that somewhat clearer? I went over your comment several times and I was not able to make sense of it.

              I went over it several times and I'm not sure how to make it clearer sorry. : /
              I can try and summarise?
              There's not only two choices, you can take a valid and good point from a poorly delivered argument.
              Attila is wrong.

              That help?

                Oh bloody hell I'm an idiot. I accidentally read your post as a reply to mine. Makes much more sense now. >.>

    Seems like she should be writing fan fiction for Twilight, not computer games.

    If you want combat to be skippable, then it probably shouldn't be included in the game in the first place. Most games provide interactive challenges that are intrinsically satisfying in their mechanics. If you don't want to participate in them, you're kinda missing the point.

    Heh, I love it how people think that by suggesting a fast-forward button in combat (something some people can want, especially if they're constantly losing the same fight) is attacked because everybody feels as if it was implemented then every single gamer in the world will be FORCED to use it in every single combat.

      The problem, Kaiser, is that if gameplay is skippable, then it means that the gameplay has to be completely divorced from the story. Not just for those who are skipping, but everyone playing any version of the game.

      This is what the uproar is about, gameplay and story are being treated by Hepler as being mutually exclusive, and that's not just wrong, it's diametrically opposite to what a game writer should believe.

      Gameplay should be the driving force behind the narrative, not a distraction from it.

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