March 19, 2017
Online Trolls Harass Female Animator Over 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' Flaws

Mass Effect: Andromeda had a lot of hype leading up to its launch. Just like any other game that was highly-anticipated, however, flaws about its final iteration were spotted by gamers. In the case of BioWare's most recent AAA title, it was the facial animation of several characters in the game, many of which seemed odd and downright substandard. In the midst of all this controversy lies Allie Rose-Marie Leost, a female animator at EA, who has received the majority of the backlash over Mass Effect: Andromeda's flawed facial models.

Following a particularly aggressive post by gaming blogger Ethan Ralph at his website The Ralph Retort, many online trolls and disgruntled Mass Effect: Andromeda fans pounced on Leost, with many alleging that she was the primary reason behind the flawed facial models in the AAA game. Others, including Ralph himself, were more unforgiving, suggesting that Leost might have even called in sexual favors to earn her position at the developer's animation studios, according to a Kotaku report.

Over the last couple of days, Leost suffered from hundreds of abusive messages that could only be described as harassment. Some commenters on Twitter alone accused her of using her gender to get a job, while others were just downright lewd and predatory. Ralph, for his part, fueled the fire further, publishing follow-up posts that elaborated on Leost's alleged role in the development of Mass Effect: Andromeda and why the games' awkward facial renderings were primarily her fault.

The torrent of abuse from online trolls ultimately forced Leost to shut down some of her social media pages. Those that she kept, such as her Instagram page, were made private after the bullying she received online. As of writing, Leost has not issued an official statement on the matter, but BioWare, the firm behind Mass Effect: Andromeda, has issued a stern rebuttal to the controversy through a Twitter post, which many are now dubbing as GamerGate 2.0.
"Recently, a former EA employee was misidentified as a lead member of the Mass Effect: Andromeda development team. These reports are false.

"We respect the opinions of our players and community and welcome feedback on our games. But attacking individuals, regardless of their involvement in the project, is never acceptable."

The official statement from BioWare was signed by Aaryn Flynn, the GM of the gaming firm. Instead of stopping the onslaught, however, the trolls who have pounced on the female developer have not let up in their assault. Responding directly to the firm's statement, Ralph said that Leost's social media pages, which listed her as a lead facial animator for Mass Effect: Andromeda, as well as BioWare's official statement, were in-congruent. Therefore, Ralph alleged that either the developer or the animator was lying.
The trolling of Leost has continued so far, though numerous netizens have begun stating that the issue of Mass Effect: Andromeda's awkward facial renderings and Leost's role in the fiasco were overblown. For one, Leost, provided that her posted information was accurate, served as only one of many lead facial animators for the AAA game. Thus, while the finished product was less than stellar, the fault could hardly be focused on one particular member of the game's staff.

In a lot of ways, the abusive online treatment that Leost has received from online trolls and critics such as Ralph were caused by the fact that the animator was quite vocal about her involvement in the game, as well as her apparent inexperience as a professional animator. Despite this, however, the fact that Leost is pretty much shouldering the blame for the game's most prominent flaw is something that many netizens have perceived to be a bit too misogynistic and crass.

BioWare is no stranger to online witch hunts. Back in 2012, the developer was caught in the middle of the controversy surrounding Jennifer Hepler, who served as a writer for Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Interestingly, Hepler was attacked over comments on the same franchise, as she alleged that Mass Effect 3's developers opted to focus on story rather than gameplay.

[Featured Image by BioWare]