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Feb 21 2012

#MenCallMeThings, Dragon’s Age Edition

If you’re having a bad day, if you get creeped out by heaping loads of abuse, this is probably not the post you want to be reading. Try the baby foxes instead. If you keep reading this, you will once again be confronted with how women are treated on the internet.

The woman in question is Jennifer Hepler, who wrote for Dragon Age II, among other games. I don’t play role-playing games myself, but this is one of the ones I heard about constantly on Twitter after it came out. People lost hours of their life to this game and went sleep-deprived without complaint…at least until morning. They chattered about the characters as though they were real people. In other words, my friends did exactly what you’d want from a game’s audience.

That wasn’t enough for some people, however. The Mary Sue has a good rundown of the objections of some gamers to the game and to an old comment by Hepler that if what you like about a game is story, you ought to be able to tweak your game experience to maximize the story. In other words, in a world with more games than most people can play, some gamers are upset that one company’s game(s) might be different than everything those gamers have played to date. They might be…inclusive.

The Hepler hatred has been going on for almost a year. It recently flared into bright, shining misogyny, however, first with a thread on Reddit that got enough out of hand to be taken down after Hepler started getting phone calls at home. Then Hepler got a Twitter account. Suddenly people no longer needed to stalk her to touch her.

There were no apologies for the stalking, of course.

But it was all justified, you see.

And there was only one option for that. Of course, it wasn’t Hepler writing the stories these gamers wanted.

Oh, wait. I guess there was one more option.

So, this is a capital offense, then. What exactly was it that Hepler had done?

Oh, noes. Not teh ghey! Really, does anyone think “forced” heterosexual relationships in games are just dandy but homosexual relationships (which are only forced in that they affect how the story plays out) aren’t?

Normal gamers. I see. Can we double down on that?

If women who read fiction that includes gay relationships aren’t “normal” and can’t be real gamers without scare quotes, what are they?

Right. Silly woman. You can’t have romance in gaming.

Yes, the idea that Hepler was couldn’t possibly be qualified for game development played out repeatedly.

So by now you may have noticed some trends in these comments. Let’s just go ahead and make them blatant, shall we?

Yes, you see, Hepler is worthless because she is her female genitalia. Also, the keeper of that genitalia fails to meet some arbitrary standard of misogynistic gamer weenie attractiveness.

Did someone mention she’s fat?

And that she’s a bitch? For the record, a search on Hepler’s Twitter handle and the non-gendered “asshole” returned only one tweet–from Hepler herself.

Then Hepler took note of the sexism directed at her, and things got even more interesting.

When Hepler mentioned her own vagina, instead of others doing it for her, it suddenly had to be denied.

Or that having a vagina meant she was female.

There was concern trolling, of course.

And the denials. Oh, the denials. The people who managed to contradict themselves in the space of a tweet or two were vaguely entertaining, though not how they meant to be.

Some managed it directly in their one tweet.

Then there were the responses to those who stood up for Hepler.

And the obligatory sexual creepiness.

Hepler’s Twitter account was deleted as of last night. It’s not surprising. The only thing surprising about it is that so many people are still going to argue that the hate she received didn’t display a stunning misogyny.

80 comments

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  1. 1
    stubby

    I played Dragon Age 2 and I don’t remember a mandatory homosexual relationship. The option was there, but you would have to be very homophobic to let it bother you so much. I hope Ms. Hepler didn’t read many of those comments.

  2. 2
    Ingdigo Jump

    WTF?

    The fruits of this I believe were the decision to have different modes of play for ME3 right? Where there’s the Story Only mode, normal mode and GAMEPLAY ONLY MODE.

    WTF are these people whining about?

    Things like Bioshock, Fallout, and ME are the only shooter’s I’ll play because I want the story.

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    The other thing that bugs me about this is the complete inability to even consider another point of view. FWIW, I’m not entirely sure I agree with Hepler on letting players skip whatever parts of a game they want. But it’s an interesting and provocative idea and could have been a good jumping off point into what distinguishes video games as a medium from other forms of storytelling (where allowing a consumer to skip parts they don’t like would be uncontroversial).

    But no, instead it just reinforced the (too often accurate) stereotype of gamers as seething emotionally-stunted misogynistic basement-dwelling cranks, and produced an awful experience for Hepler to boot. Blargh… Stop reminding me that humanity can be so sucky!

  4. 4
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Jamessweet

    I like the game play but dear god are their moments in a lot of games where I wish I could just skip something where I know how to do it, and it should be easy, but is just a frustrating bit of minigame or stalling that opens the drag shoot on the story.

    The Hammerhead portions of ME2 for example where sheer frustration as the game forced me to try to navigate a flying brick that would explode when a butterfly farted on it in order to get to the next mission.

    And anyone who has ever touched an adventure game knows there’s almost always just ONE puzzle where you know the answer but the game mechanics or menu are set up so you can’t figure out how to make the program realize you know the answer.

  5. 5
    Kaito

    I didn’t play DA2, so I have no idea what this “Story Only” mode even is. Also, these morons need to remove their collective heads out of their asses and stop harassing people.

  6. 6
    Stephanie Zvan

    James, I did offer you foxes.

    I don’t play RPGs because I hate grinding. There are a number of games where the final boss battle is really just one more grind. I’ve said for years now that all I wanted for Christmas was Jak II with reasonable continue points. It has the best storyline of the three main games, but several of the missions are pointlessly frustrating. That means I don’t play it again. It also means I hesitate to buy a new game until other people I know have played it without throwing controllers across the room (or wanting to).

    Ing, the Bioshock stories were amazing. Gameplay was interesting, but the world…wow.

  7. 7
    =8)-DX

    Well it looked as if the original complaints were about the quality of her writing. Which was apparently bad because it contained gay romance.

    So all in all it was a load of homophobes resorting to misogynistic ad homs who thought they were raising a valid criticism of ability while in fact they were only exposing their own insecurities.

    But, please, we’re not going to get rid of genital-specific swearing online and it CAN be used in a fun and sex-positive, gender-positive way. I’d suck my own dick if it couldn’t.

  8. 8
    Morgan

    Good fucking god. First two comments cover the WTFery, all right.

    Yep – in ME3 there’s an option to make combat easier for players who are more interested in getting through the story than in challenging themselves with shooter gameplay. There is, as Ing points out, also an option to streamline the story parts so you can get the most bang for your playtime buck. I guess the objection to this is that a) worthless casual n00bs will get to play the game without paying the toll of being TOTALLY AWESOME AT GAMES WOW like we had to, and our elite fellowship will be sullied, and b) at some point in the future the casuals will take over and games will have NO GAMEPLAY AT ALL!!!eleventy!. It’s… stupid and silly and cliquish and panicky and dumb.

    And in DA2 the issue seems to be simply that characters of the same sex as the protagonist may express interest in hir, which ze may reciprocate or decline (as may characters of the opposite sex, of course). Apparently the possibility that one of your squadmates may be gay or bi and think you’re hot is terrifying and “forced homosexuality”. I don’t get it. Well, I see exactly what’s driving it, I just don’t understand that.

  9. 9
    Rieux

    I’ve played the first two Dragon Age games (got, well, coerced into a gay male romance in Origins, which wasn’t particularly unpleasant but was surprising) and I’m midway through DAII.

    I don’t agree with Hepler’s points related to a “Story Only” mode, but holy shit is the misogyny catalogued above ever disgusting. (The homophobia, too.) Not that that kind of abuse could ever be warranted, but the disproportionality between Hepler’s conduct—making an argument about game design—and the response she got is just horrific.

    It’s not infrequently painful to see the way that members of my gender behave. I can’t imagine women have as many opportunities to feel deeply embarrassed by the half of humanity they belong to.

  10. 10
    Alverant

    I disagree with some of what Helper said. But that’s not important. What is important is that the reasons I disagree with her have nothing to do with her gender or appearance and I could make a rational case why I think she’s wrong without resorting to profanity and sexist language. For instance:

    If you don’t get a reward for skipping the cut scenes and dialog moments, why should you get a reward for skipping the combat?

    And

    I don’t think you really take on a role in a computer RPG. If you were actually taking on a role you’d be able to make a wider variety of choices instead of picking from 3-4 lines. What happens when the way you want to play a character doesn’t fit into the given list of responses?

    See, it’s easy. There was no reducing anyone to reproductive organs or making hyperbole about destroying a company and/or industry. And by seeing that flood of outrageous criticism all the legit counter-arguments get lost.

    As for including Jim Sterling, it’s pretty ironic. I watch his podcasts and generally agree with what he’s saying, just now how he says it. I wouldn’t mind if he eliminates the sexist language and cuts down on the profanity saving it for when it fits. I only hope he’s not that way IRL.

  11. 11
    unbound

    Yeah, the downside of the internet is that the 10% of jerks get inadvertently amplified to look like the majority of people. Many game forums are just as bad about one thing or another.

    She is also a writer for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). SWTOR is the first MMORPG in a very long time that I have actually enjoyed. The reason that it is so good is the writing of the storyline that actually draws you into the world and the character…you know, makes it an actual RPG. It is a very well thought out and well-executed game…but it isn’t a very notable game for the increasingly large audience of the noisy MMO player that has no interest in the RPG aspect.

    Plenty of us love the game, but those 10% jerks are very loud about every game being tailored to what they specifically want. And they will use every verbal means necessary including, unfortunately, the misogynistic junk in what is captured above.

  12. 12
    michaeld

    Grinding tends to be more of a Jrpg thing I can’t really recall grinding in a western one. But in the end you have to play what you enjoy.

  13. 13
    Rieux

    Dragon Age in particular (maybe all of BioWare’s products? I dunno) make grinding all but impossible by limiting the number of enemies, and as a result the number of experience points, available in the universe. Plus the DA games put a cap on the level one’s characters can achieve. And many enemies have variable difficulty—the higher your stats when you face them, the higher the enemy’s stats, in order to “give you a challenge.”

    Bah. I guess I’m the anti-Stephanie; I like grinding, followed by squashing puny enemies. (I was psyched when I found a particular spot in DA Awakening that inadvertently allowed unlimited grinding—level cap in a flash, hooray!) Maybe that’s why I find myself liking Japanese titles more than American ones.

  14. 14
    jamessweet

    I don’t want to derail, but since both Stephanie and We Are Ing responded…

    I’m in broad agreement with what both of you side. I like some RPGs, but dislike old school ones quite a bit, exactly because of the grinding. There are, of course, fans of the old school format who just love that level grind and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from it, and games will always be made for that audience… but in terms of mainstream games, I would argue that a modern RPG where you find yourself grinding in order to make the story progress is one that has been poorly designed.

    And that leads to a big part of why I view the idea with skepticism: I fear that it could be abused in order to make up for poor game design. “Gee, World 9 just isn’t really a whole lot of fun… maybe we should adjust the difficulty curve, think about mixing up the pacing… nah, fuck it, players can just use the fast-forward button.”

    On the other hand, the point is well-taken that what one person finds fun another might find frustrating, and vice-versa. So even when it is not the fault of poor game design, somebody could want to skip a section.

    I’ve noticed at least a couple of modern 2-D platformers (New Super Mario Bros., ‘Splosion Man) where if you fail the level a certain number of times you get an option to skip. That is probably a pretty good compromise, though I’m not sure how well it would translate to an RPG.

    Certainly, making content optional is another good compromise. The Elder Scrolls series is pretty good with this, where you could motor through the main quest in 10 hours if you wanted to, but a typical gamer’s experience is going to be more like 40 hours and there is easily upwards of 100 hours of gameplay for those so inclined. Final Fantasy X-2 was sort of like that, too (and, as a result, is the only Final Fantasy game I’ve finished as an adult. The others are just too long!)

    To take it up to a higher level… a good game is not just an interactive movie. It engages you in a different way, sometimes even a more powerful way. The idea that a player gets free reign over which parts of the game they want to play is less like having a skip button on your DVD player, and more like having the viewer pick the soundtrack for the movie they are going to watch. In a well-directed movie, the soundtrack is not just some dumb background music, it exists to set the mood and more, and is inseparable from the complete package. Similarly, in a well-designed game, the gameplay is not just some incidental activity, it is inseparable from the complete package.

    That said, there does not need to be a strict dichotomy here. Hepler raises some good issues, and there are ways of at least partially addressing those issues without sacrificing the genre.

    And besides that, if somebody wants to make an interactive movie, that’s fine too. Not everything has to be for everyone, and certainly not everything has to be for gamers.

  15. 15
    jamessweet

    Plus the DA games put a cap on the level one’s characters can achieve. And many enemies have variable difficulty—the higher your stats when you face them, the higher the enemy’s stats, in order to “give you a challenge.”

    While I like that idea in general, I’ll be the first to agree that some games have gone way too far with it. That was my biggest complaint with Oblivion: While obviously it is the most fun if most of the time you are fighting enemies with which you are well-matched, I really missed the occasional moment of “Oh shit, these guys are way too powerful, gotta get out of here right now!” as well as the “Ah hahaha, cower before the power of my sword you silly little beasties!” moments. Those are annoying if they are too frequent, but to not have them at all… it really felt like something was missing. It took away some of the feeling of progression.

    And anyway, that’s sort of in keeping with the theme of my previous comment. The grinders, like Rieux, are an important voice; and so is Hepler’s. I happen to think both of you would produce a less fun game if given free reign :P but the input from either side is to be valued, because you both have a point.

  16. 16
    Rieux

    Why, thanks, James.

    More to the point of the OP, while I disagree substantially with Hepler on this particular point, I wouldn’t dream of stating that disagreement in demeaning, misogynistic, or (FFS) anatomy-based terms. That shit is shameful.

  17. 17
    lijakaca

    Holy crap, every time I think it’s getting better, it sounds worse – maybe the trolls shout louder.
    On a semi-related note, the first major English hetero romance videogame targeted to women came out last week, and reception was pretty good, but there was, of course, screaming in some game forums and on at least one major review that it was a horrible, shallow game (subtext: because it was hetero female gaze) and that women should NOT get games with hetero romance targeted towards them because, uh, because they just shouldn’t, because they shouldn’t be playing games anyways maybe? And romance is definitely off-limits for a ‘real’ game? I don’t know. But it makes me tired and annoyed, and I didn’t even read the review/forum in question because I knew it would just enrage me. My strategy is to just ignore the niche forums, and make fun of their ‘reasoning’ when it shows up on major outlets.

    This though, I can’t even…how is it that the rest of that gamer community doesn’t smack these trolls down? That’s what really gets me, not the troll comments themselves. That’s why I never go to those communities anymore.

  18. 18
    Ben Zvan

    A faction of the video game industry has been moving toward a more cinematic experience for a very long time. The Getaway was a shooter without a HUD to distract you from the visuals, and the last two decades of Final Fantasy have been more famous for their cutscenes than their gameplay. This isn’t a new thing by any means and if people don’t like it, they shouldn’t play games that try to do it and they certainly shouldn’t blame an entire movement on a single writer who’s probably just acting on the vision of the producers.

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    It’s funny, Bioware got big ups from me for smacking down that one privileged idiot who said “zomg some same-sex character just flirted with me, STOP RUINING GAMES” sometime last year, and now, how long afterward, they decide to dogpile on Helper? Any indication as to why it suddenly exploded now, when it’s been simmering for so long?

  20. 20
    Jodi

    Wow.

    I’m going to go take a walk in the sunshine now and think about all the good, non-misogynist people in my life.

  21. 21
    Stephanie Zvan

    For the record, Bioware as a company has been very good about standing behind Hepler on this.

  22. 22
    sithrazer

    I play video games so I don’t have to interact with people.

    I had a couple long rants going, but they derailed themselves. More options = good, and I seriously worry about the decisions those gamers make when they are so intolerant to choices (and indeed, inclusion) in something as frivolous as a video game (says the guy who was moved to tears when Star Wars Galaxies (an MMO) shut down).

  23. 23
    Avicenna

    As I recall, you could gay it up in the much better Dragon Age I (I didn’t like the simpler combat system and the random spawn enemies of 2. I think it was a step backwards…)

    The point was, it’s an RPG. You play it for story. Bioware games are good because of plot and the way you are forced to think.

    So for instance in 1, if you seduced Alastair as an elf you could NEVER be queen because of the “Fantastic Racism”. However human females could totally be queens…

    And that’s the thing. You didn’t have to sleep with someone to get such an ending. This means the people complaining were either trying to sleep with a male character OR complaining that you could theoretically sleep with a man…

    That’s like actually whinging about gay people being capable of sleeping with other gay people… Good grief! These are the sort of people who think the female version of Shepard is pandering (It’s not! I actually like the voice acting better. I feel it would be more interesting canonically if we had a female protagonist that awesome. Finally a good role model for strong female characters)

    Good grief! In DA 1 you could sleep with a bisexual elf making it a perversion of fantastic levels since homosexuality is not a big deal but shagging elves for the most part is treated in game like being caught nude with peanut butter and a labrador…

  24. 24
    sithrazer

    I didn’t much like the combat mechanics in the first Dragon Age, too much micro-management for my taste, I liked some aspects of DA2′s better but did feel like is swung a bit too far in the other direction.

    I don’t care what anyone says, Zevran is awesome and I find it hard to resist picking the flirt lines even if I’m trying to see other dialogue/story elements.

  25. 25
    Ingdigo Jump

    Ing, the Bioshock stories were amazing. Gameplay was interesting, but the world…wow.

    Bioshock I think had the perfect balance. It never felt like a shooter, it more felt like a fun interactive ride. Just the intro with the first view of Rapture from the biosphere in 1 and the decaying amusement part in 2 reminded me of just one fun, long, Disney ride. It also had the leveling fun and intuitive and rarely lag behind difficulty. The only time I was frustrated was with how Little Sisters were done in 2, making it more of a fetch quest since due to poor Adam purchasing I found myself hitting a wall where I couldn’t fend off splicers…BUT! switching to easy mode for one harvest let me get the insect swarm which let me return to harder difficulty now that I had a good strategy. That’s what I think she was talking about. It was frustrating because there was this ONE thing I just couldn’t do but knew how to but if I could get the reward for it I’d be fine.

  26. 26
    leftwingfox

    I have to say I’m guilty little Grindy McGrinderson. I actually downloaded an indie “Dragon Warrior” knock off for my iphone a while back, and quite enjoyed the old-school grinding.

    One thing I noticed after going back on 36 years of video game evolution was that the old-school sense of reward has been smoothed out a lot. In the old games, when you got a new sword, armour or level, you instantly saw the benefit. Modern RPGs smooth that out a lot, giving you the crack-like hit of advancement for the first few hours of gameplay, before easing out to the point where you’re doing the same damn thing for weeks just to get a fractional increase in power.

  27. 27
    Godless Heathen

    @lijakaca

    “On a semi-related note, the first major English hetero romance videogame targeted to women came out last week.”

    What game is that?

  28. 28
    joegrant

    See, I really like her writing. It’s witty, interesting, and fun.

    It’s the whole Jade Raymond thing all over again.
    A whole legion of armchair game designers, which is irritating as shit in an of itself (Ten years in the games industry, professionally. Thanks for all the Bioshock love, BTW. You’re welcome for a lot of the homoerotic fountains.)
    But: Every woman in the industry has to be twice as good as the male competition to get the same recognition. It’s sickening.

    And then there’s these waste of skins.
    This is why I don’t want to work on AAA titles anymore.

  29. 29
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    #23:

    Good grief! In DA 1 you could sleep with a bisexual elf making it a perversion of fantastic levels since homosexuality is not a big deal but shagging elves for the most part is treated in game like being caught nude with peanut butter and a labrador…

    I read this at work and giggled hard enough to fall out of my chair and I couldn’t wait to get home to tell you that.

    To the point, I am probably one of “noob” gamers fucks like the Twitter twits whine about (though I’ve been playing Bioware games since Baldur’s Gate). I love character interaction and am a sucker for love interests, so surprise, surprise, I love me some Dragon Age, both games. Fuck, I loved playing the same sex options (I mean, who can resist the bisexual elf with the sexy accent?). I don’t begrudge anyone their preferences for more combat based, or FPS, or puzzle games, so I can’t see why they’re all sad in their pants when the choice is given for players like me who will probably never touch Nightmare mode and don’t give a shit about powering up the characters until every fart causes damage.

  30. 30
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’m so old, I still play my RPGs with Pen and Paper…
    ;)
    But reading what she wrote, yeah, you know, this idea could actually appeal to me.
    In P&P I usually enjoy the mixture of character interaction (and that you can fuck up the whole plot if you don’t mind your Ps and Qs) and fighting (sometimes it has a deep satisfaction to end up exhausted and covered in somebody else’s blood, virtually).
    So, let me see if I understand that right, with 500.000 games that follow pattern X, they tried one that followed Y and that is killing the gaming industry just like Obama’s contraception plans are killing religious freedom?
    Those people sound like spoiled brats: They get all the candy but they start crying if only one is given to somebody else. How could somebody not think of them for even ONE fucking second?

    While obviously it is the most fun if most of the time you are fighting enemies with which you are well-matched, I really missed the occasional moment of “Oh shit, these guys are way too powerful, gotta get out of here right now!” as well as the “Ah hahaha, cower before the power of my sword you silly little beasties!” moments. Those are annoying if they are too frequent, but to not have them at all… it really felt like something was missing. It took away some of the feeling of progression.

    I know what you mean.
    I remember a scene where the high-level ultra super-duper save the world heroes where stopped by ordinary bandits with “your money or our lives!”
    The heroes needed 5 min to stop laughing….
    *gamer mode off*

  31. 31
    Jason Thibeault

    Thanks for all the Bioshock love, BTW. You’re welcome for a lot of the homoerotic fountains.

    joegrant: Bloody brilliant. Well met sir.

  32. 32
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    #30

    So, let me see if I understand that right, with 500.000 games that follow pattern X, they tried one that followed Y and that is killing the gaming industry just like Obama’s contraception plans are killing religious freedom?

    It’s not even that, it’s the very thought of having the OPTION of playing pattern Y (that they can choose not to take) that gets them all Inter-rage’d up.

    I tried reading the Mary Sue article comments and even gave up from all the “Yes, but…” and the unwillingness to even just say “if that’s how you want to play, that’s okay” without having to wank on about how their way is best.

    Though the ones demanding to know what this had to do with sexism/feminism are astoundngly headdesk worthy.

  33. 33
    Aliasalpha

    According to kotaku, bioware have donated $1000 to an anti-bullying group as part of a response. Sounds a bit cheap but what I’m really hoping they do is address the issue in the next game they make because I think that’d have the potential to reach at least some of the right audience of dickheads.

    Oh then again, the dickheads are the kind who’d likely impatiently skip through the story to get to the fighting anyway…

  34. 34
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    It seems we’ve stumbled into a nest of assholes. Arm flamethrowers.

  35. 35
    joegrant

    Thanks. And does it amuse anyone else that they seem to be completely blind to the homoerotic undertones of say… Gears of War?

    Large, sweaty beefcake football players in space with large, manly, guns with chainsaws.

    As to Bioshock, honesty department, I worked on 2 rather than 1. Art Deco, however, has a /lot/ of homoerotic imagery. Not even undertones. It’s also a really fun art style to work in… you break something down to it’s fundamental silhouettes.

    But again: I don’t get it. I really don’t. DC universe online, when the green lantern expansion came out? There were people complaining that the default green lantern was Jon Stewart rather than any of the white ones. People complained about Rift’s human race on one side being middle eastern rather than white. It’s as if anything at all that doesn’t cater to them exclusively is seen as oppression. It’s dumbfounding.

  36. 36
    Stephanie Zvan

    joegrant, well met indeed. I love the city design in the Bioshock games as well. It’s as much a character as anything including voice acting. Oh, the decayed decadence.

  37. 37
    Steve

    If you play Dragon Age on “Easy” you can really just breeze through the combat and not worry about anything. So the option is sort of there.

    You won’t see attitudes like that on the Bioware forum by the way. At least not that virulently. There are a couple of other female writers who frequent the DA forums. The lead designer of ME3 is a woman. And there are a substantial number of female players and posters. Same with the gay stuff. Some comments yes, but nothing that extreme.

    It’s not like gay relationships are anything new in their games. They’re there in KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1 & 2, and both Dragon Age games. It’s a standard feature in their games by now. And from what I can tell many straight people try some of them out for fun. Once the game was released, people put up all sorts of pictures and YouTube videos

  38. 38
    Ezekiel

    My ultimate fantasy dream goal life success dream is working in the games industry. I have a computer science degree and everything. But if I found myself in Hepler’s situation…

    How does she restrain herself from hunting down at least a handful of these people and socking them just right in the nose?

  39. 39
    Ingdigo Jump

    It’s not like gay relationships are anything new in their games.

    FFS they were in Final Fantasy 7!

  40. 40
    Ben Zvan

    @joegrant: There were homoerotic fountains in Bioshock? Time for another play through, I guess.

  41. 41
    Steve

    Here is example or a troll ranting about same-sex romances on the Bioware forum:
    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/325/index/9197884/1

    He gets shot down very quickly and by lots of people

  42. 42
    julian

    Andraste’s ass…

    Homophobic and misogynistic nerds are still raging about Zevran? Sorry but I got enough of those idiots on the BioWare forums, not reading all the comments or following the link. They could go fuck themselves then and they can go fuck themselves now.

    I hate these people. Not content to shit all over their own places they go out and start harassing real people with actual thoughts and talents. Hopefully these fucks find their way into a Broodmother’s den or a Blood Mage’s experiment.

    It’s a standard feature in their games by now. And from what I can tell many straight people try some of them out for fun.

    As much as I dislike Zevran he actually is a very interesting character. If you like being able to influence character development he’s a great choice. Out of all the characters he seemed to be the most malleable depending on how you treated him, what dialog you selected and how you choose to carry out your affair with him.

    If you don’t like homosexual romances (still don’t hear these fucks complaining about Lelianna coming onto your female Warden) fine. Turn him down. He won’t bug you about it again. In fact he makes a great “guy” friend as he jumps so casually from a masculine to a feminine persona depending on what guarantees him the most amusement in a given situation.

  43. 43
    Steve

    Also, the same-sex relationship thread on the Mass Effect 3 forum has over 700 pages. The general romance threads on the Dragon Age forums are have always been very popular. And a lot of the people who post in them are women. Yeah, there are complainers about both, but there is also demand for it

  44. 44
    julian

    I love the city design in the Bioshock games as well. It’s as much a character as anything including voice acting. Oh, the decayed decadence.

    I loved the game atmosphere and style. I still remember the first ad you hear after stepping into Rapture in the first game.

    “My daddy’s smarter than Einstein, stronger than Hercules and can light a fire with a snap of his fingers. Are you as good as my daddy, Mister? Not if you don’t visit the Gatherer’s Garden, you aren’t!”

    That plus Andrew Ryan’s intro equaled a gamer content with his purchase.

  45. 45
    Ingdigo Jump

    Also, the same-sex relationship thread on the Mass Effect 3 forum has over 700 pages. The general romance threads on the Dragon Age forums are have always been very popular. And a lot of the people who post in them are women. Yeah, there are complainers about both, but there is also demand for it

    After only giving gynomorph or lesbian same sex romantic options in 1 and 2 I really really really hope they add in some actual Jack Harkens options.

  46. 46
    Steve

    M/M has been officially confirmed. There is talk that at least Kaiden is an option for MaleShep (if you didn’t let him die in ME1). And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were one or two other male characters to romance

  47. 47
    julian

    There is talk that at least Kaiden is an option for MaleShep (if you didn’t let him die in ME1).

    So…that’ll be what? All of five people worldwide?

  48. 48
    Ingdigo Jump

    Damn it. We need MaleShep/Garrus!

  49. 49
    Izzy Leonard

    Slight correction: her most significant accomplishment at BioWare was writing the dwarven campaign portion of the first Dragon Age title. Some of the best political intrigue in a game, ever. She is very talented, not that she would deserve this even if she isn’t.

  50. 50
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    I give her massive props for writing Anders’ storyline in DA:2 as well. Maybe that’s another reason for the haters to be all sad in the face, since he’s one of the two LIs in the game that start off flirting with you but has the audacity to not have tits…

  51. 51
    BlackBloc

    Bioware’s sin is that they were very experimental on DA2, where DA:O was basically Baldur’s Gate in a non-D&D setting. The problem is that DA2 was also done in a year and the constraints on art assets gave rise to things like recycled dungeons and such. The idiots are trying to conflate everything into some sort of gigantic “the noobs are taking over our hardcore RPGs” conspiracy.

    For the record, not every experiment in DA2 was a success, but the game IMO was pretty good.

    BTW the ‘forced’ homosexuality complaint is about Anders coming on to a male PC somewhere mid game even if the player never made any flirty interactions with him. For every other romance in the game, including Anders for a female PC, the player has to initiate flirting. It is petty. In the real world, unrequited love happens all the time. They’re just homophobes who are annoyed that a man took a pass at them. They also don’t like the implications regarding how Anders might have been feeling towards the Grey Warden character in DA:Awakening (which of course they call ‘retconning’ except that Anders’ sexuality was not approached at all in DA:A… as always, characters are Hetero By Default).

  52. 52
    BlackBloc

    @Niki M: Wait, there’s a second one? I must admit I forgot. Is it Isabella? My character flirted with everyone so maybe I happened to flirt first and didn’t notice. ;)

  53. 53
    julian

    which of course they call ‘retconning’ except that Anders’ sexuality was not approached at all in DA:A

    Which is an unreasonable belief on their part. Anyone who follows Dragon Age slash communities knew Anders was boning every male mage Warden in the Tower.

    To be fair though he does (in a random bit of dialog) say all he wants is a pretty girl, a decent meal and the right to shoot lightning at fools. Which just points to these idiots heterosexism. Men can’t possibly be bi.

  54. 54
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    #52

    @Niki M: Wait, there’s a second one? I must admit I forgot. Is it Isabella?

    I think I meant Isabella, but I could be so very, very wrong and just assuming that Isabella would because that would something she would totally do in my twisted little brain. It has been a couple of weeks since I finished DA:2 for the second time.

    #53

    Men can’t possibly be bi.

    Haven’t you heard? It’s like the “one drop rule” of being black. You can’t like even one hint of cock, or you’re gay…or something.

    *merrily skips off to check out some of this DA slash she’s been missing, because she’s one of THOSE fans the haters like to hate more than noobs: The unrepentant slashfan*

  55. 55
    Rollory

    “you will once again be confronted with how women are treated on the internet.”

    Women who do dumbass things, yes. Could find cases just as bad where men are the targets, but then you wouldn’t be calling attention to them, because men don’t typically go crying about how they’re being bullied.

    “People lost hours of their life to this game and went sleep-deprived without complaint…”

    Not an accurate characterization. The overriding reaction was that it sucked and was a major disappointment. The sales figures bear this out: huge initially, dropping off very suddenly and very fast, thereafter staying low. The original did largely the opposite, building after launch and staying strong over and extended period of time.

    “In other words, in a world with more games than most people can play, some gamers are upset that one company’s game(s) might be different than everything those gamers have played to date”

    Again, inaccurate. The point of that is that the woman does not understand her company’s core audience, and does not know how to entertain them. Dragon Age 2 stands as evidence: the combat is stupid and boring, even to people who usually like combat. If someone who liked the combat side of games had had some input in the matter, this could have been avoided, producing a better product. Instead it was deliberately and unnecessarily bad.

    I am not advocating in favor of grind. Grind is boring. Nor am I saying combat is required in a game. If someone wants to make a truly role-playing game where the basic game mechanic does not involve hitting things with swords, but social and interpersonal “moves”, creating and navigating a web of relationships and building social status and such things, I’d be really interested in trying it out. However if you DO make your basic game mechanic be combat – as DA2 did – you should have the basic professional competence to be able to do it WELL. DA2 did not. Hepler’s comments about her attitude toward combat imply this was, if not deliberate, at the very least professionally negligent, and leaves open the question of just how widespread that negligence in Bioware actually is.

    “Really, does anyone think “forced” heterosexual relationships in games are just dandy but homosexual relationships (which are only forced in that they affect how the story plays out) aren’t?”

    As homosexuals make up 2% of the population, yes, that is precisely what people think. No matter how much you want to kick and scream over this, you can’t force gut reactions like this to change. And it wasn’t “only forced in that they affect how the story plays out”, it was an unavoidable event, shoving a repulsive behavior into the faces of people who did not want it and had not asked for it. When you are expecting people to pay you for entertaining them, forcing them to be repulsed and disgusted is not a smart move.

    Homophobic? Absolutely. Homophobia is healthy and normal.

    A significant portion of Bioware’s customers don’t like Hepler and her work for good and sufficient reasons, which she has fully earned. This little storm is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself, which is that she does not understand her company’s audience and is not interested in catering to them. There is nothing inherently morally wrong with this – if she, and Bioware with her, want to go the Twilight-and-homosexuality route, that’s a business decision they are entirely allowed to make, regardless of whether it is a smart move or not – but to be upset that formerly loyal customers get pissed about such a move is really rather silly.

    If she didn’t want this to happen, she always had the option of not producing the material that got people pissed at her. That’s the flip side of free speech. You can say what you like, but you can’t make people like it.

  56. 56
    Stephanie Zvan

    You can say what you like, but you can’t make people like it.

    There’s a bit of a difference between people and proudly anti-factual, victim-blaming, homophobic creeps.

  57. 57
    Ingdigo Jump

    Homophobic? Absolutely. Homophobia is healthy and normal.

    Die in a fire made out of smaller yet angrier fires

  58. 58
    Ingdigo Jump

    Wishing homophobes would get diseases that make them pee blood and then explode into gore confetti is healthy though.

  59. 59
    leni

    Die in a fire made out of smaller yet angrier fires.

    I lol’d. Except I would make them all be gay fires.

    … if she, and Bioware with her, want to go the Twilight-and-homosexuality route…

    Oh please. Zevron didn’t even sparkle. That said, you didn’t have to pick the option.

    Why even bitch about it? Because it’s mere existence offends you? You poor dear. How awful it must be for you. How do you get through the day?

    Jesus, the entitled whining is just so… manly. Not at all as lame as Twilight fans are. Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    ***

    Changing subjects now…

    So I’m currently addicted to Skyrim. If I have a bug or if I’m looking for tips I’ll sometimes head over to the Nexus forums for tips and such.

    I will qualify the following remarks by saying that most of people there are more or less nice, funny, and thoughtful people even when they are bitching about the various things they don’t like.

    But then there is this small contingent of angry, entitled assholes who apparently live only to bitch about everything that is wrong with Bethesda, and why they hated the game so much even though they logged like 250 hours.

    My friend and I have a running joke about these people. When something happens that we don’t like in real life, we’ll shake our fists at the sky and yell “WHY DO YOU SUCK SO BAD BETHESDA? WHYYYYYY?!!!”

    Dishes not done? I blame Bethesda! Laundry piling up? Fuck you Bethesda and your lazy-ass developers too! I actually considered taking a picture of my enormous freaking laundry pile and posting it in the mod request forums, but I didn’t want to insult the modders, whom I mostly love.

    It’s not that I don’t think there are things about the game worth criticizing. It’s just that some people are giant. fucking. assholes.

    Even if they have legitimate criticisms, they aren’t worth listening to because there will be 50 other people who manage to do it in a way that actually makes it worth reading even if you don’t agree with them. The people who complain about this woman as if it’s her fault that the game didn’t meet their standards, or as if she had some sort of final say-so over content: they are the guy at work who never shuts up about the shitty printer. And even though you hate the damn printer as much as he does, you secretly fantasize about ways to rid the world of both of them.

    Yeah, that guy.

  60. 60
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    BTW the ‘forced’ homosexuality complaint is about Anders coming on to a male PC somewhere mid game even if the player never made any flirty interactions with him.

    What, wait, you mean in ONE video game out of a bazillion video games, ONE fictional character treats ANOTHER fictional character in a way women are treated every day all over the world and suddenly this is a big deal (not that I’m in favour of cold propositioning, I’m not, but some healthy part of my brain tells me that it’s pretty different happening in a game to a charcter, because, you know, they ain’t real).

    Yes, homophobia, the fear that a gay man might treat you the same way you treat women…

  61. 61
    julian

    Oh please. Zevron didn’t even sparkle.

    He was a heartless, sadistic assassin! He tortured his ex to death, laughing at her the whole time, when he thought she’d betrayed him! He spent his days whoring it up at brothels and trying to wing his way out the messes he’d created!

    The man’s tougher than Marcus Fenix.

    Fuck, he isn’t even that gay. He tells you he prefers women over men. He just won’t turn down a talented bed partner.

  62. 62
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    Women who do dumbass things, yes. Could find cases just as bad where men are the targets, but then you wouldn’t be calling attention to them, because men don’t typically go crying about how they’re being bullied.

    Yeah, why can’t women just “man up” and deal when a bunch of over-entitled asshats throw Internet tantrums and heap abuse on them that have nothing to do with the source of the complaint (i.e. her gender, her weight, her fuckability, her LACK of fuckability)? We’re calling attention to it because it’s victim-blaming bullshit. The onus is on the bully to not be a fucking bully.

    Again, inaccurate. The point of that is that the woman does not understand her company’s core audience, and does not know how to entertain them. Dragon Age 2 stands as evidence: the combat is stupid and boring, even to people who usually like combat.

    Talk about inaccurate. She’s a writer for the game, and wrote the storyline for some of the characters. You want to whine about the combat, whine to the designers who created the combat system. As for it being stupid and boring, I found it faster and a lot more entertaining than DA:O, and I liked DA:O better as a whole. But oddly enough, I didn’t feel compelled to whine and rage about it to one cog in the gamemaking machine who said some shit about her style of gameplay I didn’t like and who didn’t even work on the aspect I’m whining about.

    And it wasn’t “only forced in that they affect how the story plays out”, it was an unavoidable event, shoving a repulsive behavior into the faces of people who did not want it and had not asked for it.

    Hold on to your bigotry, boys and girls, I’m about to post the exact awful, terrible, ball numbing “shoving” quote from DA:2, the scourge of poor Straight Male Gamers everywhere:

    “Kind, wise, and handsome? You must have made a deal with some demons yourself. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t presume. I’ve just…we’ve hardly met and I feel like I know you. Am I making you uncomfortable?”

    …scared yet? I’ve received more forceful “shoving” on public transportation by complete strangers. And you assholes think Hepler needs to “just deal” with bullying, when you fucks can’t even handle some light awkward flirtation – which you can turn down without any reprisal, which is almost the same line given to a female character (swap “beautiful” for “handsome”). Or did you get the version of the game that lacked the “Yes” option in that dialogue?

    Homophobic? Absolutely. Homophobia is healthy and normal.

    …yep, and fucking other species is gross, so no one should play Mass Effect…oh wait..

    If homophobia is so normal, where’s the whining and raging about Isabela and Merril and Leliana? Why are there mods removing the gender requirement for Alistair in DA:O for hot guy Warden on guy Warden action? Why are more and more people more and more okay with the existence of gay people outside of videogames? Homophobia is as natural as racism and just as disgusting, wrongheaded, and ought to be regulated to the dust heap. Yes, even in your precious video games.

    A significant portion of Bioware’s customers don’t like Hepler and her work for good and sufficient reasons, which she has fully earned.

    AGAIN, she wrote the storyline for a couple of characters and for one DLC. She didn’t program the bugs, she didn’t design the combat. And you testerical whiners are acting like she’s the Second Coming of the Antichrist who is Ruining Games Forever. Where’s the hate for Fenris’ writer? Where’s the rape threats and fat shaming for David Gaider, whose epic smackdown of one of you whiny fucks is still the reason why I am proud to have supported Bioware for years. Even though HE wrote the skinny slave elf that a male Hawke can hit on and bone?

    If she didn’t want this to happen, she always had the option of not producing the material that got people pissed at her. That’s the flip side of free speech.

    And if you don’t like the games she writes for (again, she didn’t produce the game, you fuckwit), don’t play them. Not every game is going to be designed for you and they’re not going to be. Your type won’t be all that missed.

  63. 63
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    Yes, homophobia, the fear that a gay man might treat you the same way you treat women…

    I love you so much for this. ALL OF THIS.

  64. 64
    Evelisse

    “As homosexuals make up 2% of the population, yes, that is precisely what people think. ”

    Basing your hate on fictional numbers doesn’t make you any less irrational.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/6961/what-percentage-population-gay.aspx

    Don’t use made up statistics to justify your bigotry.

  65. 65
    enfpea

    “And you assholes think Hepler needs to “just deal” with bullying, when you fucks can’t even handle some light awkward flirtation – which you can turn down without any reprisal, which is almost the same line given to a female character (swap “beautiful” for “handsome”)”

    Absolutely brilliant, Niki M! I’m going to make sure Jenny sees this.

  66. 66
    leni

    …scared yet? I’ve received more forceful “shoving” on public transportation by complete strangers. And you assholes think Hepler needs to “just deal” with bullying, when you fucks can’t even handle some light awkward flirtation – which you can turn down without any reprisal, which is almost the same line given to a female character (swap “beautiful” for “handsome”). Or did you get the version of the game that lacked the “Yes” option in that dialogue?

    Bwahahaha!

    Maybe he got a bugged version that only allowed a “yes” option. It could happen, but probably not to a nicer guy.

  67. 67
    Eli

    DA2 was a terrible game anyway. But considering the amount of flack that bioware got for the game, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the lead writers(hepler) gets the flack that she does for the shitty writing. But oh noes, I’m a chick…look at people be mean to me. Here’s news, so am I.

    And when I screw up on a massive scale people are mean to me too. And when I see men screw up, I see them get attacked for it. Then again, when we were growing up, I remember us girls being right down vicious at attacking each other for no reason, other than silly inane, self-serving reasons. It was brutal. I’d have figured that she’d remember that.

    Pft.

  68. 68
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    And when I screw up on a massive scale people are mean to me too.

    …and so you’d totally be okay with anonymous people posting and emailing and texting abusive insults having to do with your gender, your sexual prowess, your lack of sexual prowess, your looks, and everything else other than exactly how you “screwed up” aspects of something you only had a part of (again, as I asked above, where’s the seething and similar hate for the lead writer David Gaider? The women only wrote a handful of characters and one DLC for DA:2, FFS). And even if you are, why the fuck should anyone else be okay with that? There are ways to complain and air ones grievances and disappointment, and making a scapegoat of Hepler and heaping abuse on her ain’t it.

    Then again, when we were growing up, I remember us girls being right down vicious at attacking each other for no reason, other than silly inane, self-serving reasons. It was brutal.

    And you’re okay with adults, even adults on the receiving end of that vicious behavior growing up so they know what it’s like, behaving like catty, whiny children for no good reason? Seriously?

  69. 69
    julian

    But oh noes, I’m a chick…look at people be mean to me. Here’s news, so am I.

    Here’s more news, you’re a moron with nothing to add to the conversation or any insight to provide.

    Congratulations, you’re a troll!

  70. 70
    julian

    @Niki M

    It’s a troll. They’re entire social structure is built around mistreating and harassing others. They’re not real people with compassion or the ability to empathize. Best not to list examples of harassment with them as you may inadvertently give them ideas.

  71. 71
    Ingdigo Jump

    DA2 was a terrible game anyway. But considering the amount of flack that bioware got for the game, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the lead writers(hepler) gets the flack that she does for the shitty writing. But oh noes, I’m a chick…look at people be mean to me. Here’s news, so am I.

    Somehow I doubt that.

    Also blaming the writer for game play issues? yeah totally rational.

  72. 72
    Ingdigo Jump

    Personally I blame Biowares caterer for the bad parts of DA2

  73. 73
    leni

    But oh noes, I’m a chick…look at people be mean to me. Here’s news, so am I.

    Is there a photoshopped picture of you somewhere on the interwebs? Cause I’d like to see it. And not to continue the nasty commentary. But just because I think you’re totally full of shit and I’m curious to see if you really understand what this is about.

    Did you get some phone calls at home or death threats for expressing a totally unremarkable comment like the one you just left here?

    Go ahead. Share with us.

  74. 74
    leni

    P.S.

    And when I screw up on a massive scale people are mean to me too.

    It’s so refreshing to see people excusing death and rape threats and photo-shopped images about how ugly a person is for totally mundane opinions.

    I just gotta say, wow. What a breath of fresh air!

    ***

    I mean- you people are all a bunch of pussies! Death threats are totally effing normal. Rape threats are normal. Faking photos of people is totally. totally. normal.

    And also, first grade girls are a super, duper good measure of ethical behavior.

  75. 75
    julian

    Personally I blame Biowares caterer for the bad parts of DA2

    I blame that guy for the game’s crappy musical score.

    God damn it, xe got a lot of the landscape down beautiful, but could I please get some music to match the background? And respawns plz. This incredibly dangerous road bandits constantly travel being empty after one low level encounter is kinda weak.

    Jeez, caterer, get your act together.

  76. 76
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    *whines* but guuuuys, you’re not doing it riiight. We have to find the name of the caterer and then a photo and post that and makes disparaging comments about xe’s gender and looks and claim xe only got the job due to sucking someone’s cock and we have to be really, really defensive when called out on it.

    In other words, needs maor fuckheadedry.

  77. 77
    markramey

    Dragon Age 2 was so bad compared to DA1. The gameplay changes and abandonment of the previous story were some of the worst choices I have ever seen a sequel make. Bioware has absolutely gone down hill rapidly (seriously – fuck Bioware) but that doesn’t mean that a single writer is at fault.

    The only thing I really have to say about the whole thing is that douches were acting like douches (no surprise there) and Dragon Age 2 was the biggest let down in gaming ever.

  78. 78
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, yeah, dude. Worst ev. ar. Totally beats waiting over a decade for Duke Nukem Forever and then finding it unplayable.

    Not everything is epic. Nor do all douches write tweets like those above. Some actually manage to be offensive about the things they’re complaining about instead of irrelevancies like someone’s weight or genitalia.

  79. 79
    Jason Thibeault

    markramey: in case you can’t tell, Stephanie’s mocking you. And so am I. Not Dante’s Inferno? Not Duke Nukem Forever? Not Fable 1 through 3? Not even Daika-fucking-tana???

  80. 80
    leni

    … Dragon Age 2 was the biggest let down in gaming ever.

    See, I thought that after 10 minutes of playing WoW. Somehow I managed not find a writer from Blizzard who disagreed with me and call him or her at home to express my totally unjustified rage.

    Or threaten him or her with rape.

    Or publish photos of them in a childish, cruel attempt to make them feel bad.

    Mostly* I just logged out and played games I liked more.

    * Ok, I made some unkind remarks about the giant polygons that pass for art on WoW. But that was it, I swear!

  1. 81
    The revolting sexism of video gamers - Jesse Brown - Macleans.ca

    [...] help reading the appalling Twitter attacks on Helper, but I wish I hadn’t. Consider skipping this, it’s not safe for work and very unpleasant. Uglier than the epithet-hurling trolls in my [...]

  2. 82
    1 Reason Why | Heart of the Dreaming

    [...] as noted above. (Or, say, what happened to Jennifer Hepler. I was briefly involved with that when things started going down on twitter, but quite honestly, the amount of vitriol was astonishing. Can’t really blame anyone for not [...]

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