The Dangers of Gamer Entitlement

Why BioWare's Jennifer Hepler suffered a vicious verbal attack at the hands of gamers this week.

This week, a small subset of the gaming community humiliated, defiled, and verbally attacked a female BioWare employee for the suggestion that video games should place more importance on narrative.

The attack on Jennifer Hepler, which continues with a consistent, unrelenting, and deep-set conviction not unlike religious fervor, points to an escalating manifestation of gamer entitlement, the idea that gamers have the right to do and say without suffering the consequences of their actions.

Hepler, a senior writer at BioWare with credits on titles including Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, was the subject of a Reddit post earlier this month referencing an interview she gave in 2006 in which she says a fast-forward button could be used to make games more appealing to a broader audience, including women.

"Games almost always include a way to 'button-through' dialogue without paying attention because they understand that some players don't enjoy listening to dialogue and they don't want to stop their fun," Hepler said in the interview. "Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combat even if you're a player who only enjoys the dialogue. In a game with sufficient story to be interesting without the fighting, there is no reason on earth that you can't have a little button at the corner of the screen that you can click to skip to the end of the fighting."

The original Reddit post--titled "This women(sic) is the cancer that is killing BioWare"--was later removed by Reddit's moderators for violating the site's code of conduct and directly targeting an individual.

Hepler, unaware of the escalating undercurrent of rage mounting over a point she made six years ago, joined Twitter on February 2. In the 10 days since, Hepler has been called "cunt", "slut", and "whore". She's been criticized for her gender, her appearance, and her religion. Attacks on her have referenced Hitler, bestiality, rape, murder, cannibalism, and prostitution.

And for what?

For suggesting that maybe video games should have skippable combat sequences, just the way they have skippable story sequences? For suggesting that players who are more interested in story than gameplay should be given more choice? There's hardly any point in trying to defend her original argument, whose validity should be immediately clear to anyone who understands that video games, like other forms of media, constantly strive to evolve and attract a growing audience. (It's even been put into practice before--L.A. Noire allowed players to skip action sequences after three failed attempts.)

No, the torrent of abuse that Hepler has endured has had little to do with skippable combat in games. The savagery displayed this week flows not from specifics but from the sense of ownership that makes some gamers believe that they own the games they play. That's a common mistake; gamers buy games, so naturally they feel entitled to them. But games are, and have always been, the property of the people who made them. People like Jennifer Hepler.

While an increasing number of publishers and developers seek to establish an ongoing relationship with players through fan sites, communities, forums, and social networks, the creation of this two-way communication channel brings with it the illusion that players are entitled to affect the decisions directly related to them. So, when a company like BioWare--whose relationship with its players and community has, for the most part, relied on mutual respect--makes the decision to delay a game due to any number of reasons, gamers who have actively invested in "loving" BioWare and its games feel it's their every right to lash out.

Gamers who feel this sense of entitlement fail to view the player-developer relationship as the multifaceted construct that it is. They fail to see that a relationship between an individual and a company requires a different set of guidelines, emotions, and responses to a relationship between two separate individuals. Jennifer Hepler is the consequence of that misconstrued connection. She is an individual whose attackers, angered by her suggestion that games should focus less on combat, acted on the belief that they are the only ones who can, and should, dictate how games are made and played.

How much respect should a company show to a group of gamers who launch a personal attack on one of its employees? BioWare Edmonton studio general manager Aaryn Flynn gave up any hope of a civilized conversation earlier this week, retorting with "Whatever, f***ing moron" in reply to a tweet about Hepler's "pig disgusting fetishes." The backlash was immediate: tweets filed in calling BioWare unfaithful to its community, arguing that the company "treated its loyal fans like crap" after they offered "genuine criticism."

But BioWare has the right to do so much more. It has the right to pursue legal action against Hepler's attackers. It has the right to shut them out of its community, to refuse them any kind of service in the future. It has the right to tell them that this behavior has no place in the gaming community, to show them that every sexist, racist, comment only serves to undo years of growth and progress in changing outdated attitudes in the industry.

Like us, BioWare has the right to stand up to each and every gamer who brutalized, harassed, and dehumanized Jennifer Hepler, a game developer who to date has dedicated her working life to making games better for the very same people who turned on her.

UPDATE: BioWare CEO and cofounder Dr. Ray Muzyka responded to the attacks on Hepler overnight, donating US$1000 to Bullying Canada in her name.

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Discussion

1813 comments
phatness84
phatness84

whether it happens to one person or multiple people, the abuse and defamation needs to stop. Gamers, bad games or bad suggestions are not the end of the world, it might not be your cup of tea, but abuse is no way to handle it. You are not making the game, so dont act like your word is law. be happy these companies take suggestions from  us instead of do things their own way all of the time. Dragon Age: Origins was, in my opinion, one of, if not the best games in history.  Dragon Age 2, it was a rush job so of course it wasnt gonna be as good. But a bad game does not warrant abuse. So gamers, stop your bitching and whining about something you have no right to bitch about.

Wuzzystuffykinz
Wuzzystuffykinz

Wow is everyone here really dumb or what? She wasn't referring to skipping the actual fighting game play! She was referring to skipping fighting in cutscenes, just as you can skip dialogue in cutscenes. Where you can't control anything that's happening, it's just happening and you're going along for the ride. Lots of people just skip through long dialogues, so she's suggesting why not skip through long fight scenes?

leepialong
leepialong

Good! Hamburger Helper and Bioware can go to hell. Dragon age 2 fail-->SWTOR Fail-->ME3 Fail.

supergulo
supergulo

While I do believe the gamer can give opinions about games to improve them, as they are the customers, they should have a little input (might you, little, not 'what they say is law') I also think that this attack was uncalled for, criticism is saying things like 'I would rather not have skippable battles, as it would do X and Y' and give them your opinion, while another very differentthing is to insult the person.

Be polite, and you shall be treated as such, no one is going to look at you as anything other than a jerk and idiot if you only speak insults and petty excuses for said attitude.

jazzbrownie
jazzbrownie

The way Hepler was treated was unquestionably unnecessary, but trying to tie all this in to "gamer entitlement" feels weak at best.

supa_stud
supa_stud

so after all the abuse she got she then signed upto twitter to then get more abuse? silly really, im not condoning this but end of the day she isnt the only one this has happened to, it happens to ppl everyday in every situation, shes just lucky enough that some1 actually gives a crap about em enough to write an article about them. games are games if all you do is want to watch then go watch a film, games are meant to be played. see how i did that without throwing an insult out there that involves pigs

mondoblasto
mondoblasto

''But BioWare has the right to do so much more. It has the right to pursue legal action against Hepler's attackers. It has the right to shut them out of its community, to refuse them any kind of service in the future. It has the right to tell them that this behavior has no place in the gaming community, to show them that every sexist, racist, comment only serves to undo years of growth and progress in changing outdated attitudes in the industry.'' Well said Laura, well said.

notorious98
notorious98

@Derugs If there wasn't a market for games like that, Agatha Christie games wouldn't exist. Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain wouldn't have been made. Yes, there is obviously market for games like that and it's relatively profitable.

notorious98
notorious98

Quite frankly, I agree with her. Sometimes there's games that have a good plotline going on, but the gameplay just blows. For me, Red Dead Redemption. I absolutely hated having to ride my horse for 4 hours in the middle of nothingness just to get to the nearest town so I could ride a carriage to another. I loved the story, but I hated the time I wasted. The combat wasn't fun, the gameplay wasn't fun. So I would have loved to have a "skip everything" feature in that game.

BurningChrome
BurningChrome

If you want to play a game for the "story", put down the game and go read a book!

James009
James009

Jennifer Hepler is right. WTF wrong with everyone these days?

woodramus
woodramus

i'm going to rewrite a shepard quote here: "this kind of attack makes SOPA look like a good idea" 'nuff said and no one wants that

syntax_negative
syntax_negative

Laura Parker, I agree that the backlash over Jennifer Helper's idea is odd and very unproductive but "Brutalized, harassed,and dehumanized".......really!? Grow a thicker skin please!

Shelledfade1
Shelledfade1

First dragon age 2, now mass effect 3.... I'm sorry I don't give a damn crap about what biowares problems are, they messed up. Simple as that. I'm going to go out of my way to never buy another bioware game again.

addicted2050
addicted2050

@Derugs: Actually I do buy RPGs for the story, no interest in combat whatsoever (unless it's game play like ME2 or ME3). Making them into movies would take away the interactivity, which is the main point of story based RPGs, not looking and killing stuff, at least, in my opinion. For someone like me, who only plays RPGs for the stories and is just not interested in the RPG style of gameplay where all the stats and stuff come into picture, such an option would be great. RPG gameplay like in Dragon Age Origins is just boring for me, as I don't have the patience for it, neither does it feel like you're actually killing something. But hey, that's just my opinion and a lot of others', so such an option wouldn't go amiss. For now, I just use cheats to get through the games who game play i don't like ;) And yeah, all those who comment like that are all juvenile kids who should be sent to their room and given lessons on good behavior.

Derugs
Derugs

I personally think she is entitled and those that criticize or chastise her are over emotional and way to sensitive. Its not the 'players' responsibility to dictate what 'they' want to see or happen in a game. If theres a button to skip the fighting then it isn't a game anymore its an interactive movie. If Mass Effect were an interactive movie watch how much people go out and buy it. If thats the case make a movie put it in theaters and quit making the game period. She is however free to express her own, if not personal, professional opinion. i personally like the game and would buy it how it is presently. If people would leave their emotions at the tv when they put the controller down all this ignorance wouldn't happen.

Derugs
Derugs

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

FredWallace18
FredWallace18

I can't believe the number of people in the comments saying, "What did she expect? People went to far, but she is cramping our style." Yes people need to be ready for criticism, but this isn't criticism: it's abuse, and nobody should have to put up with this kind of abuse. Acceptable reactions from the public would be "I don't like that idea; it would hurt the flow of games," with others responding "No, I think and option in the menus (disabled by default) wouldn't hurt the gamers who like the action but would help others." In other words, intelligent discussion. Too many gamers hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and should be ashamed of themselves.

Vodoo
Vodoo

That's what happens when you give children access to the internet unsupervised. Because I can't see any mature adult making comments like that, just immature kids who want a game made their way. The poor woman made these comments years earlier and was only offering an alternative option to bring the medium to more widespread audiences. Any of you that give an excuse to the immature and unnecessary behavior are no better. Grow up. Life isn't all about you and your game playing. It's a fun hobby but if you start acting like that, you should go start training in Afghanistan for the gamer jihad. People like that have no clue what life is really like outside their little bubble in front of their tv/pc.

colt_a
colt_a

Bottom line is that if you are writing for the gaming industry, and you say you hate playing games....go write novels instead. Many games are based off of books, or have books that surround the games in terms of story. No she doesn't deserve the extent of attacks she received, but if you go out in public to a huge, passionate community and say "I hate most of what you like, but I'm a major part of your industry" expect to get backlash. Just like Bobby Kotick. People hate him for the same reason. If you have an opinion like that, its okay. Just keep it to yourself. Next thing we know, Laura will be writing its okay to where your KKK outfit to a Black History Month event. That's essentially what is being wrote here. Its okay to voice your opinion no matter what the circumstances.

PERVERTOR
PERVERTOR

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away... one could not skip anything and be just as happy

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

Ms. Hepler didn't deserve that stuff, but is anyone surprised? Every time anyone posts an opinion on the internet, you get brutalized with the same crap. She just happens to be a large game company employee. Again, no excuse, but everyone has a story of the most vicious things being hurled at you by people on the net. There is no consequence, and the idea of respect is gone, at least if you are out of reach for a punch in the nose. I guess once it happens to a connected person, it's a big deal. I hope Ms Hepler isn't hurt too deeply.

IowOparPiykvar
IowOparPiykvar

@RoseFlambe169 There was no 'taking out' in her idea. Yes, pokemon wouldn't be the same without combat, but some of the more recent Final Fantasy games would be just fine without combat. I personaly can't make it through a pokemon game because I find it becomes too much of grinding with little freedom to do what I want. Take the Zelda series... except for 'kill rooms' and bosses, fighting isn't actually required. Personally, I enjoy combat... so long as grinding isn't required to level up and if a fight is winnable I have options on how to win. On Skyrim tonight, I took on a dragon by hiding behind a pillar for half the fight... the other half I had to go save Lydia from the dragon, so no hiding... I think the dragon meant to lure me out... Also, I don't like when grinding isn't an option. Some games control how much xp is gained, and if the player doesn't level up 'just so' then they can't win... do any freedom in those games is an illusion. As for the movie argument... the stories aren't as in depth as video games. Just look at the Final Fantasy movies.... only traces of epic story compared to the games. TV shows in theory could compete with the length that games can achieve, but often times shows feel like mini-movies instead of a series.

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

@Sanity_Crash I agree, though I hasten to clarify--as should everyone--that not all gamers are like that. @darknyarth My thoughts exactly. It's not any different from the "skip this level" option that can be found in every platformer today. If gamers are going to act like there's something wrong with getting cheated with Day 1 DLC or DLC on the disc because they already PAID for the game--a totally legitimate perspective--then I can't see why they think they can turn around and get upset that some people want to use the game differently after THEY'VE paid $60. @ZOD777 I can respect and understand that perspective. In my opinion, however, there are two problems with that argument: 1) If all we care about is the gameplay and not the story, why not just play something geared specifically FOR exclusive gameplay like...board games, card games, and other games that don't incorporate narrative at all? 2) For all the talk about how we should just go see a movie if we want endless cutscenes, I find myself wanting to ask gamers, "What movies have Konami put out recently? How about Square Enix?" The stories created by game developers are unique and different in many cases, so to say, "Just go watch a movie" assumes we'll be able to find something in theatres with the EXACT same uniqueness, and I don't think most of us can.

neonilla
neonilla

way.. some people just..does anybody know when the new game coming up?

24k_Solid_Gold
24k_Solid_Gold

That is a very sad story. :( I hope Hepler feels better by now.

The-Apostle
The-Apostle

I'd appreciate it if we could have more games that have great combat AND great stories. It would be full of win. I love watching spectacular scenes, like in the first couple Xenosagas and the Mass Effect Series. :D

RoseFlambe169
RoseFlambe169

True, those comments were over the top, but what do you expect when someone suggests taking out the original component of games? I consider cut-scenes a reward and enjoy them very much, but they wouldn't be worth anything without the combat. Would Pokemon be any fun if we could skip all of the battles we wanted? I think not.

sune_Gem
sune_Gem

Hey guys, I have an opinion! Do you hate me too now?

ZOD777
ZOD777

If someone only cares about the narrative or the story/dialogue, that is what movies and books are for. Video games aren't called video books for a reason.

Vader_300
Vader_300

I don't care who she is, or where she comes from, no one has any right to brutalize her like this. It's all good and fine if you have an opinion but this went way too far. I'm sick of people trying to justify any of this, in a professional environment, you would be UNDERWATER for that kind of behavior. There is no excuse for bullying, your days as a game developer would be pretty much over.

zaxafreon
zaxafreon

Im not in the least bit surprised, this is the internet after all.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

@darknyarth: That's a waste of development funds that could go towards actually making a game good. Narrative is only the cherry on top; always has. Obviously I come from a completely different perspective that if the gameplay is great and there's enough of it to justify an initial $60 price point, awesome. But BioWare has also been slipping, starting with Mass Effect 2. Their series have become bait-and-switch, where the first game is an engrossing vacuum and the sequels have been getting more and more...conceptually retarded, if you will. More straight-and-narrow-fight-like-hell-and-then-cry-a-river-about-it and less of a well-rounded experience incorporating exploration, discovery and a genuine feeling that you can deviate and go your own way for awhile, too. Some combat aspects are also not the fault of the gameplay engine so much as poor design, such as being forced to fight wave after wave after wave after wave while stuck in a virtual arena. This was one of the most damning aspects of Halo: CE. Therefore, creating a situation where a gamer can skip this also allows devs to slack off and keep doing crap like that, too, so it penalises everyone.

Sanity_Crash
Sanity_Crash

There's no rage, like nerd rage.. Seriously all this constant sh*t throwing "gamers" do over the stupidest and pointless of things, it's gotten to the point where i don't even want to be grouped into this "gamer" demographic.. Oh, I love video games.. but don't call me a "gamer" it's practically a racial slur for me at this point. Self entitled little sh*ts.

darknyarth
darknyarth

You know, the concept that you can skip one part of a game but not another should not be considered 'crap'. Do you want to listen to the characters drone on for 10 minutes? Go crazy! Do you want to wade through 40 minutes of slug fest combat? Knock yourself out! But if you're truly just interested in the narrative, why not let the person skip anything they want? What's the harm? There are many pentalties to it. 1) You don't get as long with the product. 2) They could work it so you don't advance as far. 3) They could add achievements for the true completionists to have to go through the game without skipping anything. And many dozens of other reasons it doesn't matter if they added such an option. Honestly, the silliest part of this whole diatribe is that anyone gives a crap. People who want to watch the dialogue of a game or be involved in the story instead of reading a book or watching a movie should be able to. These games have great voice acting for the most part and compelling enough tales to tell. Let people experience them however they want. It's their 60 bucks, if they want to breeze through in 4 hours, so be it.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

She has a right to her opinion, as ludicrous as it may be. And it is. Gaming is about the game, not the story. Super Mario Bros. has not been a classic for almost 30 years because it has an amazing story. Most of the classics we know and love have not. What her opinion does show is that Bioware has their priorities screwed up, if anything else. It's us hardcores that are the reason you are where you are. Never, EVER forget that. Bioware's reaction is admirable, at least. It is good to see companies standing up for their employees.

D4rkside99
D4rkside99

nothing worse than angry nerds hiding behind their keyboard. although skippable combat sequences is a crap idea.

Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

@RageSet Hahahaha, that's really funny! I checked out the link you posted and it itself even says that defamation can be confused with slander. I guess you sure proved your point! You should leave before you further embarrass yourself hahahaha

amiman23
amiman23

Now you know how it feels to be a republican.

Shahnil
Shahnil

Those guys who did those personal attacks on Jennifer Hepler disgust me. I don't agree with her point but I respect it and get a sense she truly views her work as art which most passionate people in this industry do. You don't own Bioware , you don't spend countless hours and late nights trying to make a game perfect from artwork, dialogue, story to marketing. No one goes "Ok for the next 5600+ hours of our existence we are going to make the lamest game we could'. To you idiots who just don't get it, to you this is a game where you lose yourself for a few hours but for most of these game companies these games have been their lives for the last 2 years. Jesus christ at least respect that. +1000 Jennifer Hepler for having an opinion and making your voice heard.

buldog300
buldog300

Wow, insulting someone to that caliber is just ridiculous even for the internet. She has a right to her opinion without being persecuted like anyone else. She isn't the invisible hand of industry that wants the death of gaming; she just wants art to be available to more people. Also, Yes gamers do have some ownership. Without revenue from gamers, developers wouldn't exist. This is the age of the consumer, and a business that wants a profit has to focus on satisfying the wants and needs of that consumer. If I have spent 60 dollars of my money (the equivalent of 7.5 hours minimum wage) and over 60 hours playing a game, I think I have displayed enough commitment to show my opinion matters. Should I have direct say? Of course not, but I should have some say for my patronage. We don't need another Ocean Marketing in this industry. However, gaming is an interactive medium and adding a 'skip combat' button does look like a slap to the face of gamers who fear casualization. Making accommodations for the casual market does come with the risk of alienating gamers who have invested quite a lot into the culture. Games should primarily appeal to the people that have already sunk thousands of dollars in money and time into playing them, not focus on baiting potential markets that aren't even there. Games with story driven premises already exist, and if there is a large enough market to justify making more of them then they will be made. Sometimes people want to read Sherlock Holmes, and sometimes they just want some Lethal Weapon.

dlavizzo
dlavizzo

*shrug* Free speech isn't free only when it's polite. My heart goes out to her for having to suffer through personal attacks, but they're just words. I've been called much worse ("n****** kid" and "monkey" come to mind) and for much less (simply breathing, apparently). I'm still here, and doing rather well for myself. Pull a Steve Jobs. Ignore the haters, go home, and roll around on big piles of money that those same haters are throwing at your company. Based on just his last words alone, seemed like he was on to something. Edit: Mildly ironic that gamespot's forums automatically censor the n word, blunting my point just a bit.

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

upon reading some comments, i have something else to say (i got back here from TV tropes btw, under the trope Internet Counterattack) 1. i am amazed at how many of you have compelling arguments, the general consensus being "Her idea is bad, DA2 sucks, but she in no way deserved this" which i agree with. 2. To those who say gamers don't deserve entitlement...........i disagree, we are paying for a product, if we don't like it, we have the right to complain (granted not REMOTELY like this) 3. back to my previous post, she should not have been completely surprised by this considering it's the internet, and that her vagina comment did not help it the backlash. basically, we have the right to complain about bad products, but not to verbally abuse someone.

psycho_chan13
psycho_chan13

Just another excuse to make a big deal out of nothing. Just let people have their own choice, end of story.

Nevo7778
Nevo7778

@phatness84 I don't like the personal attacks on Jennifer  Helper but suggesting something like that when you haven't addressed one of the biggest problems in DAO or DAO2 is unexceptable. How is it that DAO and DAO2 have no auto run feature? I no longer play DAO or DAO2 because i'm sick of holding down both mouse buttons to run everywhere. How dose BioWare hope to compete with the big boys like Elder scrolls skyrim, Two Worlds 2 and the likes with no auto run feature? The same thing is killing kingdoms of amalur reckoning. KOA is easily the best rpg if it had auto run. BioWare's suggestion is cute but with no auto run in DAO or DAO2, cute doesn't excite me.

magnetite2
magnetite2

 @leepialong 

 

Hate to say it, man, you're the kind of person this article talks about.

 

People that get upset over a game and start abusing a company's employees for it need a big reality check. 

 

You're making the rest of us gamers look bad.

Myounage
Myounage

 @jazzbrownie It's EA PR trying to expand the abuse against her onto all of the negative PR against Bioware. That way gamers will feel guilty whenever they criticize day 1 DLC or other shenanigans.

emikochan
emikochan

@supa_stud Read it again, the abuse started on twitter. Before then it was people posting on reddit, which not everyone reads.

technochoco
technochoco

 @BurningChrome Sorry but story ang gameplay go hand in hand. A good game with a lame story doesn't win for me. A good story with a lame gameplay is OKAY for female players.

 

And sorry, I play games so i don't have to use my imagination like I do with a book. Sometimes I just need to see good graphics and a good story.