Fan-harassed writer Jennifer Hepler leaves BioWare

Questions whether abusive fans scare away talent.

Jennifer Hepler, the BioWare writer harassed by fans for her work on Dragon Age 2 - and for comments made years earlier about wishing to skip combat sections in games - this week left the famed RPG studio to work on a book and pursue some freelance work.

She had received death threats, had her family and children threatened and found herself the figurehead of a raging debate about how fans treat game makers in an age of unprecedented access brought on chiefly by Twitter.

She spoke to Polygon about the ramifications it could have for gaming as part of a large and impressive article.

"It's something that comes up in almost every conversation with female developers," she said of her experience.

"Overall, people seem to try to shrug it off publicly and fume privately, and younger women contemplating the field are reconsidering whether they have the stomach to handle what it currently asks of them.

"The impact of having all your brightest creators losing steam and going, 'Screw this,' it's not good."

Greg Zeschuk

"That's the biggest risk in my opinion: that we will lose out on the talents of people who would make fantastic games that we would all be the better for playing, because they legitimately don't want to make themselves into targets.

"A lot of the best artists and storytellers (and quite a few great programmers too)," she said, "tend to be sensitive people - we shouldn't lose out on their talents because we are requiring them to be tough, battle-scarred veterans just to walk in the door."

Polygon also heard from retired BioWare boss Greg Zeschuk, who's thought to have turned his back on the industry following the Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic fallout, although he's never said as much.

"It's part of going out there and putting yourself out there," he said of abuse related to making games. "I just really wish it would get sorted out. I do think there are good, passionate people who get dragged into it and it makes their lives miserable. Making games is stressful enough, just making them, without having to worry about this.

"The impact of having all your brightest creators losing steam and going, 'Screw this,' it's not good. It's not going to lead to good stuff."

One such high profile case of a developer saying "screw this" was Phil Fish, who cancelled Fez 2 recently and swam away from games, saying, "I choose not to put up with this abuse anymore."

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