Internet cretins engaged in a harassment campaign against a woman who worked for Electronic Arts this weekend, flooding her social media and various internet profiles with vitriolic, often misogynistic messages. Her sin, it appears, was working on animations for the game Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Allie Rose-Marie Leost, who worked for EA’s motion-capture labs in Vancouver, saw vicious harassment on Twitter and other websites today, most often from people who blamed her for Andromeda’s awkward facial animations. The harassment appears to have been primarily triggered by a vile blog post at Ralph Retort, a right-wing, GamerGate-tied website, that claimed Leost was the lead facial animator on Andromeda. That website also accused her of performing sexual acts to get her job at EA.
Here’s a small sample of the hundreds of messages Leost faced today:
As often happens with these internet witch-hunts, the harassment campaign against Leost was based on false information. BioWare today released a statement clarifying that she was not, in fact, a lead animator on Mass Effect: Andromeda. (There has been some confusion over whether Leost’s social media posts indicated that she was a lead, but given that she worked at EA Labs and not at the Andromeda team’s offices in Montreal, it’s clear that’s not the case.)
BioWare also condemned the abuse with a statement this afternoon:
Leost did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
This isn’t BioWare’s first rodeo by any stretch when it comes to online harassment. Jennifer Hepler, a writer for BioWare on Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, was harassed online viciously in 2012 prior to the release of Mass Effect 3 over comments she made in a 2006 interview about prioritizing a great story over gameplay. That campaign of harassment followed a similar cycle, and eventually led BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka to speak out on Hepler’s behalf, as well as donate to $1,000 to an anti-bullying organization.
The climate of online abuse is such that more and more developers are leery of discussing their games and design philosophies openly and publicly. Earlier this year, the director of Blizzard’s Hearthstone card game, Ben Brode, noted “There is a lot of harassment that comes with being more public.”
Now in 2017, these new attacks seem completely predictable despite how terrible they are. It all feels straight out of some especially insecure and desperate playbook. Starting with the transformation of a game’s sometimes silly character animations into a conspiracy, and then later a scandal in which the data points waver between incomplete and meaningless, the cycle isn’t new by this point.
Update - March 19, 10:20am: We’ve updated and clarified this story to note the Jennifer Hepler incident and the unfortunately longer trail of online harassment that preceded this latest episode.