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.