Ashton Liu
March Editorial: The Darker Side of Communication
Ashton weighs in on the Jennifer Hepler incident.
03.03.12 - 12:21 PM

By now, some of our readers have probably heard the BioWare firestorm regarding Jennifer Hepler.

If you're confused about what I'm referring to, a writer at BioWare, Jennifer Hepler, created a Twitter account, and in short order was verbally assaulted by a multitude of BioWare's 'fans' who did not think much of her writing. For her part, she responded with a less than tactful post (that has since been deleted, along with her Twitter account) about how her detractors are basically jealous that she's a woman and has a job in the industry. This spark ignited the gunpowder barrel known as the Internet, with people raging against Hepler, with delightful and intelligent insults such as "obese cunt" and "cancer that is killing BioWare." After a while of this nonsense, studio GM Aaron Flynn called the person who made the latter comment a "moron," after which said person demanded an apology and started a tirade about BioWare hurting his feelings, with many more jumping on the "BioWare disrespects customers" bandwagon. This has culminated in various people, including Jennifer Hepler and the aforementioned moron, being harassed in real life.

It's undeniable that sites like Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites have given fans a direct line to the companies that develop the games they love, but it also has a dark side, which combined with the anonymous nature of the Internet, allows longtime patrons to harass and intimidate the same people who provide them with the games they play. Some of you are now saying, "this is a rare case that happens once in a blue moon!" Not true.

If anyone has stepped into Namco Bandai's Facebook page at any point during the previous two or three years, they would have been assaulted by rabid fans' ferocious posts regarding games of the Tales series not being released stateside. It got so bad that no discussion about Namco Bandai's other games were possible, and anyone who attempted to do so were browbeaten and belittled until they left, allowing Tales fans free reign to harass and insult the person who updated Namco Bandai's Facebook page. Only when Tales of Graces f and Tales of the Abyss 3D were announced did the bile get dialed down, but there's no telling when it will return.

If that's still not proof enough, perhaps Atlus' announcements of Gungnir and Growlanser on their Facebook will suffice; Growlanser fans consistently chastised Atlus for "insulting" them and "playing around" when Atlus was merely having some fun in announcing the games they were going to localize. When Gungnir was announced before Growlanser, fans erupted with anger, forcing Atlus to just forego the entire announcement process and announce Growlanser directly.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Hepler's writing, and her statements about games garners a mixed reaction from me, but putting aside her writing quality, the way this was handled by her detractors is troubling at best and downright revolting at worst. The fact that there exist people who stalk and track her down after a mere fourteen posts on her Twitter account is incredibly telling of the mental maturity - or lack thereof - of these individuals, to say nothing of the people who log into Twitter or Facebook every day to do such things. As a gamer, I am loathe to be associated, even remotely, to people like this.

Many people forget that beyond the screen of text and pixels, there exist individuals who have feelings and private lives, and they do not have the right to harass these people. Say what you will about their skills, their games, their releases, or their habits, but the instant you begin to stalk and harass a person, you lose any leg you have to stand on and just become a thug with a keyboard. The fact that people are angry that BioWare has struck back also shows an amazing and pathetic cowardice.

It's shocking that after making comments such as calling a person a "cancer," these people have the gall to demand apologies and throw around words like "customer disrespect." They have confused "disrespecting customers" with "always getting their way." It's called being part of society. If you are going to strike at someone, you should expect retaliation; to express hurt feelings after being called out on your behavior only shows your lack of any sort of proper development as an individual. News flash: you can either be treated with respect and consideration, or you can act like a dimwitted sociopath. You don't get to be both.

Now grow the hell up.