Gamer Entitlement Gone Wrong
Warning, the Following article contains language not suitable for all readers. Reader discretion is advised.
I’ll be the first to admit, that as a gamer and paying customer of STO I have voiced my opinion in regards to the game and the direction it goes. From time to time I’ve even gone to the point of demands, and as a result I’ve butted heads with Admins and Moderators like Storm_Shade and others on occasion. As a player we feel a bit of entitlement to have our thoughts and opinions heard, and sometimes we are and the thoughts we have are good, but when we feel ignored we get angry. “I paid for this game it should be what I want!” “I’ve waited 5 years for this, it should meet all my expectations.” To a degree it makes sense, that we as paying customers should have a say, but also to a degree it seems childish, that we should assume a game company should bend over backwards to meet the expectations of every individual gamer. And to a degree it’s just us ranting, we’re never seriously angry, just upset, and we eventually calm down, move on, and discuss things in manners that are given consideration.
But this is not always the case. That gamer entitlement, coupled with the anonymity of the Internet, and human nature sometimes leads down dark and dirty roads. Such was the case with recent events regarding Jennifer Hepler. Hepler is a senior writer at BioWare, responsible for some of the writing in Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and the recent MMO Hit Star Wars: The Old Republic. Back in 2006 Hepler had an interview with the now defunct site Killer Betties. In this interview, Hepler referenced a now common function in games in which you can easily skip dialog, advancing past story aspects, to get back into the more action oriented parts of the game.
“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.”1
This idea seems pretty innocent, and to a degree I agree. Even as a person who enjoys action in a game, sometimes you just want to see the story, for example if I were to replay Final Fantasy XII today, it’d be for the story, not the combat, so I can see the function of something like this. But as many of you may know, BioWare, like many big gaming companies, has a large, and often rabid fan base. Earlier this month the interview was posted on Reddit as “This women(sic)2is the cancer that is killing BioWare” It was later removed for violating Reddit’s TOS.
However damage was done. Hepler, who had recently made a twitter on the 2nd of February, was assaulted with verbal insults and vulgar language. She was referred to as a “whore”, “Jew”, and “Cunt.” Other insults referenced Hitler, rape, and other foul activities. And the reason for it, is as I mentioned above. We, as gamers, feel entitled to an opinion, and there were many who felt that Hepler’s idea was wrong. This should come to no surprise to people who frequent The Old Republic forums and see the threads regarding anger at people not ‘pressing space bar in Flashpoints’.3
What happened here, is the taking of gamer entitlement to the extreme. These gamers took their frustration at what they saw as an affront to their style of gaming as a direct threat and responded as such. They felt that as the gamers, because they were paying, because they wanted the game to be theirs, that they had to step up to change that idea. Fundamentally, that idea isn’t bad, but the execution here, is not flawed, it’s beyond flawed, its a horrible step in the wrong direction for Developer-Gamer communications. A developer, regardless of their ideas, should never have to be attacked, verbally, or otherwise. A game community, and communication lines between a game developer and its player base should never descend into the sort of shouting match you’d expect of Jerry Springer. It serves to insult the developers, the gamers, and the industry as a whole. And I, as a gamer, as a BioWare Gamer, apologize to Hepler for the actions of a misguided few amongst our ranks.
2 The reference (sic) refers to the latin adverb sic, abbreviated from sic erat scriptum, “thus was it written” It is used when quoting something with factual inadequacies, in this case, the poster on Reddit was calling into question Hepler’s actual position as a woman.