If you’re not familiar with the name Doug TenNapel, you probably will become very familiar with him today. He’s an Eisner Award winning writer and designer who created and was involved with works like Catscratch, Ratfist, The Neverhood, and Nnewts. His most famous work is Earthworm Jim, one of the more heralded games on the Sega Genesis and later systems with sequels.
A couple days ago, Kotaku posted a piece written by Heather Alexandra called “Earthworm Jim’s Mean-Spirited Satire Doesn’t Hold Up“, which is a quick and modern critique of a 23-year-old platformer, nothing different than some of the usual stories and reviews Kotaku does on a regular basis. Like any retro-examination piece you’d see here or on a variety of websites, it’s a single writer’s look at the game after being exposed to years of modern gaming, so of course the look back isn’t through rose-colored glasses, but Alexandra didn’t go out of her way condemn the game to hell for all eternity either.
What did TenNapel think of it? Here’s his now deleted Twitter response to the story.
To the untrained eye, it may just look like TenNapel is taking a dig at a writer for their piece for not being consulted. But if you know Alexandra and her work, you’ll know they identify as a transgender person. So calling her a man was actually a deeper and more personal cut. The outrage online has been less than flattering toward TenNapel, who thanks to a compilation from our comments section, followed up the comment with a litany of remarks that leave little doubt that this was an accident, or what his thoughts of transgender people are.
Alexandra, however, has taken the higher road on Twitter.
Now Alexandra doesn’t need us to speak for her in any regard, nor does Kotaku need help to defend their content. But as fellow writers and journalists… going after someone’s gender as a response to a review or critique is petty and helps no one involved. You’re bringing a topic into the conversation that has no business being there—it’s an act that more often than not is performed out of spite. Whether or not TenNapel apologizes to Alexandra for his responses is out of our hands, no one can make anyone do anything and it’s up to him to avoid the topic or confront it. But there’s no denying that it was uncalled for.