A senior game writer at the video game development company BioWare has quit her job over death threats against her family, including her children. According to Metro U.K., Jennifer Hepler was blamed for unpopular changes to the game Dragon Age that were implemented for its sequel, Dragon Age II.
Hepler and other developers were targeted by angry fans of Dragon Age on Twitter and BioWare’s forums. She also received death threats via email and threatening phone calls.
“I was shown a sample of the forum posts by EA [Electronic Arts, the company that owns BioWare] security,” Hepler told Metro. “And it included graphic threats to kill my children on their way out of school to show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have me as a mother.”
Sadly, these types of stories are all too typical in the heavily male-dominated world of video games and other tech-related pursuits. Back in 2007, tech blogger Kathy Sierra was hounded offline and forced to cancel public appearances because of a series of death threats were made against her by angry male tech users.
Recently, the Guardian reported that women gamers who are threatened or targeted for abuse are often told by game companies that it’s their own fault for choosing a female name or avatar. One user reported that the CEO of a popular gaming company simply banned her from playing the game in which she’d been threatened because he was “tired of hearing about” her problems with other players.
Dragon Age fans were also angry at Jennifer Hepler for including female and LGBT characters in the game’s roster of player avatars. She said, however, that not all of the user contact she experienced was hostile.
“The outpouring of support I received — large amounts from female and gay fans — was incredibly heartening,” she said to Metro. “Without the negativity, I’m not sure that I would ever have heard from all of these people confirming that there is a need for characters that tackle touchy social issues, for characters who are untraditional or even unlikeable.”
In July, a male game designer was threatened with murder after small changes were made in the weapons array available to players of Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
As volatile as the video game playing community may be, it is hardly the only place on the Internet where women are regularly threatened by male users. In the U.K., multiple advocates for something as innocuous as the inclusion of English author Jane Austen on British currency were threatened with rape and violence via the microblogging platform Twitter.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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