Over the weekend, a giant heap of abuse was levelled at a former EA employee. Allie Rose-Marie Leost worked for EA’s motion capture labs in Vancouver. She is now being blamed for the bizarre facial animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda even though she did not work on Andromeda at all. Leost has been attacked viciously on social media, most notably on her twitter account.
A GamerGate affiliated blog is to be blamed for most of this, predictably. The blog in question, TheRalphRetort, asserted that Leost was the lead designer on Andromeda and was responsible for the wacky facial animations because she had “no experience,” was a Cosplayer, and insinuated that she exchanged sexual favors for her position. Pretty much the textbook hit campaign you’d expect of a GamerGate outlet. No, I won’t be linking to any of that. If you want to go read it, google it yourself. I don’t feel like giving them the hits. And you can imagine what the internet has done with those false reports ever since they hit over the weekend.
— BioWare (@bioware) March 18, 2017
Bioware has already released a statement on their official twitter account condemning the abuse heaped at Leost and saying that she was not involved in the development of Mass Effect: Andromeda – she was an EA employee not an employee of Bioware. Leost had apparently included in her bio on Twitter and Twitch that she was Lead Facial Animation Designer for the game, Bioware’s account directly contradicts that. Regardless of the veracity of those claims, I sincerely doubt that one person alone was responsible for the facial animations issue. Similarly, even if Leost was indeed the Lead Facial Animator, that does not excuse the treatment she’s recieved. And that treatment falls squarely within the GamerGate playbook.
This is also not the first time Bioware has had to deal with this kind of backlash. Back in 2012 writer Jennifer Hepler was harassed because of her work on Dragon Age II mostly over comments she made in 2006 about prioritizing a good story over the gameplay. Which, given that she is a games writer, makes perfect sense. What writer’s priority while playing a game would be the gameplay? I often focus more on story than many other gamers I know because that’s what excites me. Sure, I love to smash things to bits, hurl giant swords around, and shoot holes into enemies as much as the next person, but my primary focus will always be on story.
Reactions like this are obnoxiously commonplace and often comes down on the heads of developers. Many of them women, though this harassment does also fall on the men involved in games as well. Polygon has an interview with Hepler and others from 2013 that is still incredibly relevant to the gaming atmosphere here in 2017.
If you thought this whole GamerGate thing was behind us, just need to take a look at the abuse thrown at Hepler and Leost. The continued harrassment of women in the industry may have died down a bit, but it’s still there.
And sure, Andromeda‘s facial animations are wacky, but they’re not the fault of one singular person. There are far too many people involved in the animations process for that.
Edited to add Leost’s Twitch page information.