Letting fans add their own little stories to a game is really cool, but there’s always a chance it might go… awry.
Obsidian’s ode to PC RPGs of yore, Pillars of Eternity, recently found itself at the heart of one of the Internet’s many eternal shouting matches when people uncovered this piece of fan-submitted text in the game:
It was written by a Kickstarter backer, and it reads: “Here lies Firedorn, a hero in bed. He once was alive, but now he’s dead. The last woman he bedded, turned out a man. And crying in shame, off a cliff he ran.”
The image quickly circulated on Twitter, prompting hurt responses from people who saw the joke as transmisogynistic.
Predictably, others disagreed, but in the end Obsidian decided to alter the text. As part of a recent patch, they changed it to read:
In a statement released shortly after, Obsidian explained that they decided to do this because the original text “didn’t strike the right tone” for their game, so they worked with the fan to write something new:
“It’s come to our attention that a piece of backer-created content has made it into Pillars of Eternity that was not vetted. Once it was brought to our attention, it followed the same vetting process as all of our other content. Prior to release, we worked with many of our backers to iterate on content they asked to be put into the game that didn’t strike the right tone.”
“In the case of this specific content, we checked with the backer who wrote it and asked them about changing it. We respect our backers greatly, and felt it was our duty to include them in the process. They gave us new content which we have used to replace what is in the game. To be clear, we followed the process we would have followed had this content been vetted prior to the release of the product.”
So that’s that, more or less. Pillars of Eternity is still the same game it was always meant to be, minus one gag that Obsidian didn’t love and wouldn’t have let slip through the cracks if they’d properly vetted it. Meanwhile, those who felt pushed away by the text’s inclusion are thankful that their voices were heard.
This stuff’s important, too, given that media — while not normally something that directly causes us to think or act certain ways — does subtly shape the way we view the world. It’s a reflection, a mirror in which we often see ourselves and those around us. Exploring, discussing, and even having fun with these issues is all well and good, but when it’s done cheaply or thoughtlessly, nobody really wins.
People argue and get hurt, and some even seek to hurt others — as they did (and some are still doing) here. That’s a damn shame. Fortunately, in this case fans spoke to Obsidian, Obsidian spoke with their backer and everybody reached a compromise. This isn’t the first time something like this has come up in games, and I doubt it will be the last, but it’s good to see people communicating to try and make things better.