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Supporting Jennifer Hepler

Jennifer Hepler from an interview a few years back.

Jennifer Hepler is a writer whose work you've likely come across if you've played BioWare games, specifically Star Wars: The Old Republic or the Dragon Age series. In the case of the latter, she was responsible for writing Anders, whose same-sex romance I found to be quite touching in that tortured soul sort of way. She is someone I would consider a staunch ally in the games industry, and someone who has opinions about how to make games more inclusive to a wide set of playing tastes and abilities.

Yesterday both Jim Sterling on Destructoid and Alex Raymond on The Border House outlined recent attacks on her (Edit: adding The Mary Sue's coverage of the timeline as well). Now, despite the fact that I have pointed out that I enjoy Hepler's work, I would also like to make the case that regardless of how you feel about Hepler's writing (and I think most here would agree with her work on same-sex romances in games), the level of vitriol and personal attacks against her? Bullying.

One of the frightening things about bullying is how it gets justified. Justification in bullying is really rather easy to find, and people find all manner of ways to defend it (look at Tennessee's recent attempt at allowing bullying in cases where religious, philosophical, or political beliefs uphold it). Considering how we can question Justice in Dragon Age 2, and the events that concept inspires, it seems apt that we would question 'justice' here in the same way. After all, there is no reason to single out Hepler's sex, weight, or personal appearance in making claims against her writing. If people have a problem with her writing, it is with that they should take issue. Saying this is the internet is getting old. Saying it is human nature likewise.

Allegra, over at The Border House, has now started a petition, asking BioWare to publicly support Hepler. While her GM did stand up for her on Twitter, it would be nice to show that we do support Hepler, much in the same way that we've supported David Gaider when he was slammed for daring to make the argument about inclusiveness and privilege in games. While I do not consider BioWare the most daring game studio out there (perhaps among AAA developers), they are highlighting what can happen when one dares to question the status quo.

Whether or not you wish to sign an online petition (I understand the thought process of wondering whether it accomplishes anything), I do urge people to let BioWare know that we are not among those who would attack Hepler personally, nor do we support removing same-sex options to please some outdated modes of thinking. In today's world of social media, there is after all the ability to reach out via Facebook, Twitter, or good ol' fashioned email.

Update: BioWare has officially put out a response concerning their own support of Hepler on the BioWare Social Network. Chris Priestly, on behalf of co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka, posted the following:

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

In addition, they will be giving $1000 donation to Bullying Canada in Hepler's name.

10 Comments

I Was A Cactus said:

And people call gamers immature. Sometimes I fear that all the pressure from shallow, entitled bastards like these trolls will threaten the future of integrity in video games.

Bearfamily said:

Signed that petition like a fudder mucker. This is just an internet asshole goading somebody into a response with instults then acting up to cause more damage. The asshole in question is out to cause trouble nothing else.

One of the reasons Bioware is my favoirite companines is because they call out langers like him on this shitty attitudes.

Matt said:

One thing that's annoying me here, that Tennessee law was very obviously an attempt to provide an affirmative defense for kids that get bullied and resist without explicitly condoning it.


It's fair to criticize it for not utilizing the proper language, attacking the intent is unfair.

It's horrible for something like this to happen, but AWESOME that Bioware responds right from the top.

hellanicus said:

The world is changing, acceptance for gay rights and equality in general is growing. Christianity is also declining rapidly, with most no longer even bothering to attend church. The population of the nonreligious has doubled in America in under 20 years to 15% of our nation.

One day much sooner than they realize these people will be the ones who are outnumbered and will receive the exact same amount of tolerance and mercy they have shown everyone else. If that doesn't terrify them it should.

fillerbunny9 said:

good on BioWare standing up for their employee. I'd like to know what other parts she was specifically responsible for before fully panning her writing. I will, however, say that I hated Anders with a P A S S I O N in DA2, so if that is indicative of the rest of her work, well, maybe there is something legitimate to discuss: her talent.

Rosa said:

Jennifer also wrote Sebastian, the DLC character, in DA2. She didn't write any of the characters in DA:O, but she was responsible for the Dwarven Commoner and Orzammar/Anvil of the Void scenarios, and all of the characters who featured majorly in those. The Dwarven Commonor Origin is widely considered the best.

I'm not an Anders fan, either -- but I don't think he's badly written. For what he's supposed to be, a demon possessed, melodramatic martyr with a victim complex, he's written perfectly. I just don't like him.

I'm glad Bioware has stood up with Ms. Hepler, because even if she literally ruined all games forever, the treatment she's been getting is appalling just in a human decency way. I don't care if she's the worst writer in the industry -- calling somebody's house and telling them to kill their children and then themselves is never, ever okay.

Adam said:

And a lawmaker accidentally writing a law without the proper language to ensure his intent?

Beach please.

Matt said:

Actually that happens all the time, lawmakers are notoriously incompetent at actually writing laws.

What you gotta realize is that in the eyes of the law, if the bullied child makes any defense they're equally culpable under bullying laws which is why inserting an affirmative for them makes sense via "moral/relgious reason".

The issue that was not considered was that it would also provide an affirmative defense for the bully.

SpriteX said:

People are piling onto this in ignorance of the actual issues involved.

If gamers are at fault for anything it's for focusing 100% of their rage at Hepler alone. Gaider & Woo should be catching some of that flak as well as the EA suits that have them by the balls.

Sadly Hepler makes for a good scapegoat so the real villains get away.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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SpriteX on Supporting Jennifer Hepler: People are piling onto this in ignorance of the actual issues involved. If gamers are at fault for anything it's...

Matt on Supporting Jennifer Hepler: Actually that happens all the time, lawmakers are notoriously incompetent at actually writing laws. What you gotta realize is that...

Adam on Supporting Jennifer Hepler: And a lawmaker accidentally writing a law without the proper language to ensure his intent? Beach please....

Rosa on Supporting Jennifer Hepler: Jennifer also wrote Sebastian, the DLC character, in DA2. She didn't write any of the characters in DA:O, but she...

fillerbunny9 on Supporting Jennifer Hepler: good on BioWare standing up for their employee. I'd like to know what other parts she was specifically responsible for...

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