The Internet is not generally a nice place; while it’s the communication method that managed to kick-start the Egyptian Revolution, plan the Occupy movement, and wildly improve the accessibility of porn, it’s not without its issues. The primary issue, of course, is the audacity and self-confidence which perceived anonymity provides; the Michael Tresca thesis “The Impact of Anonymity on Disinhibitive Behavior Through Computer-Mediated Communication” gives good reasoning as to why, while the more eloquent “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (GIFT)” from Penny Arcade artist Mike Krahulik says much the same thing in a simpler format.
That is, give a person anonymity and an audience, and he will turn into a “total fuckwad”. It’s to this concept that many are attributing the verbal assault that besieged BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler’s Twitter account not long after she had opened it. The accusations ranged from the the ridiculous (“you are the cancer that is killing BioWare”) to the homophobic (“stop trying to force your homolust fantasies into every game you touch”), but in general the tone was simply that Hepler needed to get “her vagina” out of the industry.
BioWare GM Aaryn Flynn’s intervention, in which he tweeted “Whatever, fucking moron” towards one particular complainant drew further criticism – with recipient Nate Kaschak sarcastically praising his “top notch PR” before making a one-tweet apology to Hepler, followed by a further two tweets of criticism. Flynn tweeted in defence of Hepler a couple more times before Hepler left Twitter altogether.
It’s one of the saddest things to have happened in the gaming community of late; driving a writer off Twitter because you’re not a fan of her work is not okay. It’s another example of the baseless self-entitlement in which many gamers like to indulge, a slightly more extreme manifestation of the weight-based assaults which Valve’s Gabe Newell inevitably receives whenever Half-Life 2: Episode Three comes up.
BioWare make the games they want to, and gamers can then choose either to buy it or not; if they find that they’re not happy with the quality of the title, the appropriate reaction is to leave the game alone, not personally attack one member of the responsible writing team. This should really be common sense, not special instructions, but as Krahulik has pointed out, social etiquette does not extend to the darkest parts of the ‘net.