The ‘Social Justice’ Controversy Surrounding Baldur’s Gate’s New Expansion

The ‘Social Justice’ Controversy Surrounding Baldur’s Gate’s New Expansion

The expansion to the beloved 17-year-old video game Baldur’s Gate has been getting shelled with angry user reviews all week. The complaints? Many are coming from people who say they are angry that the game is buggy and also filled with “social justice” issues and “LGBT tokenism.”

Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear has been out for a few days now, and its reviews on sites like Steam and GOG have taken a beating. As of writing, its Steam review average is “mixed,” with 67 per cent positive reviews. If you go through the top reviews, you won’t see a thumbs-up unless you scroll past more than 50. GOG is looking similar at the moment. The game’s forums on both Steam and its own site are full of messy arguing. Beamdog’s taken to moderating the worst of it, which has some people crying afoul of what they consider to be “censorship.”

Detractors’ complaints center around two primary talking points: 1) bugs and 2) the alleged “shoehorning” of social justice issues into the game. Here are just a few Steam reviews:

Let’s get the non-complicated part out of the way first: yes, there are bugs. I played Siege of Dragonspear for a couple hours yesterday, and while my single-player experience was mostly smooth, I had trouble getting a quest item to trigger. I also couldn’t get a multiplayer game up and running at all. There have also been reports of imported saves from Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition not working properly, and apparently the Steam version of Dragonspear breaks Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition mod compatibility, even though the non-Steam version does not. So yeah, the game needs a few patches.

Much of the discussion, however, has also centered around the game’s progressive “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) elements. Primarily, these are a transgender character named Mizhena, an “Actually it’s about ethics in heroic adventuring” joke by fan favourite follower Minsc, and some storylines given to women characters from the original Baldur’s Gate with the intent of making them less one-dimensional. Here’s a drop from that bucket (warning: trans-insensitive language ahead):

The gist? Some people feel like Mizhena’s dialogue, the aforementioned ethics dig, and writer Amber Scott’s unabashed stance on all of it constitute the bold outline of a blatant political agenda. They feel like it’s bad writing that doesn’t fit in the Baldur’s Gate universe. Many of them claim it’s been “shoehorned” in or some variation on that. They also strongly opposed Scott’s general attitude and outspokenness. She once wrote in a now-infamous forum post:

“I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s ‘forced’ or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.”

First, let’s break down the Mizhena scene, which is the focal point of an overwhelming amount of controversy. Mizhena is an NPC who cannot join your party. It’s possible to miss her entirely while playing the game. She’s a devout of Tempus, the chaotic deity of war and warriors. While some claim she immediately bombards you with information about the fact that she’s transgender, you actually have to go through a couple dialogue selections to get to it.

First, you have to ask her about her “unusual” name, at which point she’ll explain that she created it herself, noting that her birth name “proved unsuitable.” You can then ask what was wrong with her old name, and she’ll tell you that she was raised a boy, but “In time, we all came to understand that I was truly a woman.” She adds that her name is assembled from syllables of different languages. “It is the truest reflection of who I am,” she says.

It’s a brief segment, but one that’s earned ire heaped atop debate heaped atop a mountain of nasty slurs. There is, however, some interesting discussion nestled among all the yelling. Case in point: this YouTube exchange between someone named Madness and someone named Nathan (not me!), in which Nathan tries to explain to Madness why including somebody of a certain identity or background is not necessarily a political gesture — even (and perhaps especially) in a world full of elves and dragons:

Other people have tried to claim that there’s simply no room for transgender characters in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, that this sort of “modern” issue is unprecedented and untrue to the spirit of this particular fantasy game world. However, longtime fans have pointed out that, for example, the current D&D rule book says: “The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.”

Even as far back as 1st Edition, Corellon Larethian existed with those characteristics. Moreover, Baldur’s Gate didn’t shy away from real world issues in the past. Baldur’s Gate II tackled racism and discrimination on multiple occasions.

Some have been adamant that the mere existence of a trans character in Siege of Dragonspear is not the issue. It’s that she’s poorly written. One person who identified as trans took to Beamdog’s forums to explain her stance:

“Let me just say that as a transsexual I would never, EVER introduce myself to someone by telling them that I am a transsexual. Being trans is not fun. People are mean and cruel to you. You are mean and cruel to yourself. I do not do the things I do because I want to be a transsexual, I do them because I want to be a woman. I want to blend in as a girl as a best I can, the last thing I would EVER do is draw attention to myself for being trans (except for this thread of course, har har).”

“The way your character converses with Mizhena is almost totally different than it is for everyone else in the game. You can be rude, mean, funny, or just throw a witty retort or remark to almost everyone in the game over the smallest thing, but even an evil blackguard who murders everyone in sight can only say ‘What a lovely name, tell me more’, ‘How interesting’ or ‘Good day to you’. I understand that it would be disrespectful to be rude or insult a transgender character for being trans, but to me all that does is highlight that being trans is different.”

Writing for Gamasutra, critic Katherine Cross praised the way Beamdog handled Mizhena: “Considering the limitations Scott was working with, she did a fine job with Mizhena. The discussion about her gender history emerges two queries deep into what begins with a discussion about her name, and explaining it in full requires some elaboration of her transition. Considering how weighty a name choice has been for me and just about every other trans person I know, that seemed entirely reasonable.”

These conflicting viewpoints echo another semi-common discussion thread: Perhaps Beamdog would have been better off creating a more fully realised trans character, rather than one who had to sum up her whole story in a few sentences. Maybe a follower — somebody you’d get to know over time, with more room for subtlety — could’ve made for a more nuanced portrayal.

People have taken issue with other socially slanted plot beats in Siege of Dragonspear, albeit a bit more quietly. The controversy over “changes” to followers Safana and Jaheira comes from a portion of an interview I did with Beamdog, in which writer Amber Scott explained that she felt like those characters were one-note in the original Baldur’s Gate to a degree she felt was sexist. Safana didn’t get much story beyond “she’s sexy; that’s how she gets what she wants,” and Jaheira was a stereotypical nagging wife. “In Siege of Dragonspear, Safana gets her own little storyline, she got a way better personality upgrade,” Scott added. “I got to write a little tender, romance-y side quest for Khalid and Jaheira where you could learn a little bit about how their marriage works and how they really feel about each other.”

A handful of negative reviews have quoted that interview, and one scathing criticism claims that Safana’s been reduced to a typical “sarcastic dissenter” archetype, a character less unique than the way she was originally envisioned. Elsewhere, though, reaction to the expansion quests actually seems fairly positive.

But that’s only part of people’s problem. In my interview with Beamdog, Scott added, “If people don’t like that, then too bad.” I’ve found a few reviews that are just people quoting that line and then posting an image of their Steam refund request. Scott has been unequivocal about her goal of writing diverse characters, and that upsets some people. “I’m the writer and creator,” she once wrote on Beamdog’s forums. I get to make decisions about who I write about and why,” she wrote in a recent forum post. “I don’t like writing about straight/white/cis people all the time. It’s not reflective of the real world, it sets up s/w/c as the ‘normal’ baseline from which ‘other’ characters must be added, and it’s boring.”

She has, as a result of her outspokenness, become the target of a torrent of anger and profanity. Her Twitter mentions right now are, predictably, overrun by nastiness. A few developers from companies like original Baldur’s Gate creator BioWare have come out in support of Beamdog:

In reaction to all of the backlash, Beamdog co-founder Trent Oster took to Siege of Dragonspear‘s official forums and made a controversial request of players. “If you are playing the game and having a good time,” he wrote, “please consider posting a positive review to balance out the loud minority which is currently painting a dark picture for new players.”

While he didn’t “beg” for positive reviews like some people have been accusing, his plea might not have been the smartest move. In today’s user review-driven Steam climate, even sorta asking for positive reviews looks sketchy.

Oster also issued a statement (via Techraptor):

“I find the controversy ridiculous. Yes, we have a transgendered character. I know a number of transgendered people and they are genuine, wonderful humans. Yes, we also have a character who cracks a joke about ethics. The original Baldur’s Gate had a whole sequence about the Bob Newhart show. If this generates controversy it makes a sad statement about the world we live in.”

Of course, 67 per cent positive is still more than half positive. Many people seem to really like Siege of Dragonspear. I’ve seen threads declaring that it surpasses the original Baldur’s Gate, comments of begrudging positivity from people who claim to dislike “politics,” and scores of reviews from people who are digging the expansion despite the bugs.

We’ve been to this party enough times to know what’s really going on. This is only partially about Baldur’s Gate. Video games and the people who make them are evolving and changing. And it’s become part of our regularly scheduled programming to see people reacting swiftly and often angrily to that change. Last week it was Overwatch‘s butt pose controversy. Not long before that, it was Fire Emblem Fates‘ localisation. In another week or two, it will probably be something else.

Baldur’s Gate itself exemplifies a lot of the tension running through the video game scene. It’s a beloved classic; it and its sequel are often held up as an ideal to which modern games should strive. But now it’s being born again. Its world and characters have been picked up by a new group of creators. There’s new life rattling around in its old flesh. Mostly, it looks and feels the same, but it’s still being made by different people in a different time. Seige of Dragonspear is old meets new, tradition meets progress. It’s this seemingly never-ending conflict, embodied.


  • What annoys me about this issue is that the dialogue does actually seem poor, but because it’s tangled up with some people not liking a trans character as a concept it’s become impossible to criticise separately without coming off as discrimination.

    The writers missed a real opportunity here.

    • I think this is a valid consideration. Most of the backlash against this expansion does seem to be around the “shoehorning” or “tokenism” of a character who is transgendered, but without playing the expansion myself (I never really liked Baldur’s Gate) I have no way of knowing if the dialogue are genuinely bad or people are lashing out because of transphobia. On the other side of the coin, when the people criticising it are attacked for doing so is it because they’re actually being unreasonable because of aforesaid transphobia, or has the subject of transgendered characters been made immune to criticism because it tackles a controversial subject that has a clear socially acceptable response?

      That said, I find those steam reviews and the general dialogue that’s occurring pretty gross.

      • It’s not even shoehorned, though. The main focus of their criticism (Mizhena) doesn’t even announce her being transgender in the way the critics say she does. They argue she basically says “derp derp hi I’m Mizhena, I’m trans” when she’s (a) a character you don’t even have to talk to if you don’t want to and (b) it’s three-four dialogue choices in, and you have to specifically ask about why she changed her name.

        I could handle, if not agree with, the responses if they were either (a) incorrect in their argument of the shoehorning method, but made reasoned responses or (b) had a valid argument but said it in a gross way. Instead they’re both factually incorrect and also argue it’s all about the big bad SJWs.

        • In that case, it’s very difficult to take the criticisms seriously, since they’re strawmanning the shit out of the facts to make their “concerns” more valid. As I said in another post I doubt the critics are actually transphobic themselves, they’re likely anti-SJW and oppose anything to do with gender politics as a matter of “principle”.

        • To some extent I imagine people are war-weary of some social justice issues. It’s certainly true that there are pro-justice fanatics out there that militantly force the issue in people’s faces at every opportunity, even on topics that are only tangentially related, just as there are racists and sexists out there that do the same thing with their own nonsense.

          I care about equality, it’s one of the core things I believe in, and I take a pragmatic view that the only way to combat inequality is to reject it in all forms (meaning I think affirmative action, diversity quotas and such create inequality, not reduce it). I don’t expect everyone to subscribe to that same view of course, but that’s life. But even though I agree with equality, I admit it wearies me too seeing it coming up constantly over the last few years.

          You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The approach some people take regarding social justice is not only to expose the issue, but to metaphorically try to force the horse to drink it too. That’s a good way to piss off the horse, even if they thought their intentions were good, and even though the horse normally likes water.

          • To some extent I imagine people are war-weary of some social justice issues. It’s certainly true that there are pro-justice fanatics out there that militantly force the issue in people’s faces at every opportunity, even on topics that are only tangentially related, just as there are racists and sexists out there that do the same thing with their own nonsense.

            I think that’s been the common feeling towards this for a long time now. The anti-PC crowd definitely contains a lot of people who feel they should be able to dictate what is and isn’t offensive, and there’s plenty of people simply don’t like being called out for their racism/sexism/etc, but I think it’s mostly people who are sick of being talked down to and bullied.
            Things have to get pretty extreme before I have a serious issue with people being different, but I loathe the hostility that comes out when a small portion of self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ people speak on these issues, and on the internet those people are as unavoidable as the racist/homophobic/sexist/etc jerks on the other side (it doesn’t help that those people also tend to be the ones who have the simplistic views of a first week uni student). All it takes is one of those aggressively progressive people to make almost anyone sick of hearing about social issues.

            I think that’s why people are so quick to agree that Baldur’s Gate was poorly written/did a bad job of portraying these groups. A lot of people want to be able to dismiss this conflict as a mountain being made out of a molehill simply to avoid getting dragged into another discussion where someone will yell at them and call them a transphobic monster for using a term straight white people decided is inappropriate. If the writing is crap it’s not a social issue so we can dodge the bullet entirely. That’s a pretty appealing outcome.

          • Jumping to conclusions and judging things instantaneously instead of stopping to ask questions or checking if maybe something was misinterpreted are the hallmarks of someone who is completely closed off from the world around them and refuses to learn. There are progressive people who fit that bill just as much as there are prejudiced people who fit that bill, and I loathe interacting with either of them equally.

            There’s a documentary of sorts on Youtube called Institutions of Higher Indoctrination that you might be interested in. I don’t agree with some views Fiamengo expresses, but it’s hard to ignore the ridiculousness and vitriol shown by many of the students simply because they’re confronted with a dissenting view to their own. It’s a frankly scary look at how harmful a dogmatic approach to ethics can be, and how difficult it is to learn when you refuse to try to understand all sides involved.

          • I ended up watching that video. Wow those places are scary. I think the worst I saw at my uni was people chanting “STOP VSU!”, though for the most part it was just chalk scribblings on the footpath from the station.

          • Scary shit right there…. Idiots with no life experience being brought up as victims.

          • For many people something as simple as the presence of a minority voice, or one that hasn’t been vocal in the field before e.g. women in games, is sufficient to start all systems blaring with vitriol. Not saying your metaphor doesn’t work, just that for reactionary groups that complain about social justice, being forced to drink the water is synonymous with being asked to acknowledge the presence of a minority voice.

            I’ve always found the argument that ‘all inequality is bad’ to be lacking. It precludes the theory that temporary inequality creates equity which in turn bolsters equality; reinforces the idea that maintaining the current inequitable state toward minority groups is preferable; dismisses acknowledgement that the current system is already geared against the equal treatment of minorities.

          • It’s my view that temporary inequality breeds resentment, distrust and an expectation that inequality is acceptable. It conditions people into the notion that inequality is okay as long as it’s for ‘good reasons’, but the problem there is everyone has different definitions of what good reasons are. I think the better approach is to eradicate inequality altogether, in one go. Pay should be based on job, not gender. Promotions should be based on merit. Gendered terms with a derogatory meaning shouldn’t be used, and that goes just as much for ‘mansplaining’ as it does for ‘slut’. An equal platform for everyone involved that doesn’t rely on a ‘sins of the father’ approach to calculating weighted versions of ‘equal’ based on feuds of the past.

            Take board room quotas, for example. A woman is given a position on the board. The question hangs over her head, did she earn her position through merit or was she given the position because of her gender? Her competitors may resent the fact she was given the job over more qualified candidates, and her accomplishment is undermined because its basis of merit can’t be trusted. On the other hand, if gender quotas are expected, it creates an expectation that female candidates for a position will be all but assured and leads to resentment if the position is given to a male candidate instead.

            This isn’t a hypothetical either, I’ve watched this happen in two companies I’ve worked for, and heard about it in another company a friend works for. What began as well-intentioned attempts to correct perceived errors of the past ended up as a gesture seen as token by most that, in my opinion, set back the effort to encourage more women to enter male-dominated jobs.

        • Reading the dialogue exchange, it does feel pretty shoehorned. You’re meeting this character for the first time, and they’re telling you something that would be highly personal – not something they’d just divulge to a person they’ve just met.

          If she was a party member and this came after several exchanges, it would seem more reasonable, but this does really feel like it’s blatant tokenism and just trying to tick a diversity box for the sake of it.

          Yes, please, include a diverse cast in your game. Just don’t do a half-arsed job of it just for the sake of having a trans/gay/bi/whatever character to show how diverse you are.

          You know the thing about trans/gay/bi people? They’re people. The fact they are trans/gay/bi is not the PRIMARY point of their existence. If you’ve written a character such as it appears that is the case – you’ve written them badly.

    • I’ve played it. Didn’t really give two fucks and continued on, but it was so insanely badly written in that it did break the immersion somewhat.

  • I’m just hoping they patched the original game so it doesn’t crash for me when I try to play it….

  • This is not a ‘controversy.’ calling it that gives it more credibility than its worth.

    call it what it is; a bunch of homophobic/ transphobic people throwing a tantrum coz there’s an attempt at diversity in their game.

    • You evidently missed the criticism from the transgender woman in the article. The issue isn’t (and is never) as one-dimensional as you seem to think. Oversimplifying things the way you have here is an insult to everyone involved on both sides of the issue, please don’t do that to people.

      • One dissenting opinion from the target group doesn’t change the fact that a significant portion of the hate for this is discriminatory.

        The writing may be bad and some trans people may not feel that the dialogue rings “true”, but a hell of a lot of people are mad about the existence of a trans character.

        • I don’t consider it one dissenting opinion. None of the Steam reviews featured above have a problem with a transsexual character existing except possibly the last one, they each criticise the writing of the character and the apparent ease with which she shares details of her sexuality with the player. It’s plainly evident that the issue reaches beyond simply ‘oh no there’s a tranny in my game’ and trying to simplify it to that trivial rhetoric is stupid.

          • I’m not trying to simplify it. I think you are. You are pointing at a thing and saying “Look! That makes it all ok!”
            A lot of the talk about the bad writing isn’t actually true. The gaming community as a whole excuses atrocious writing as a matter of course. Why is it of such importance this time? Especially when it’s no worse than a thousand other examples? Perhaps there’s a veiled issue, here.

          • I think you’re reading what you want into comments here if you actually believe that’s the position I’ve argued. I’ll clarify for you: criticism is perfectly reasonable, both of the writing of the character and of Scott’s attitude towards forcing issues into narratives. That criticism makes up a large part of the overall response to the expansion. Some of the responses are inappropriate. What I said in my first reply in this thread and have maintained since is that it is not correct to oversimplify the issue as ‘the complaints are all from transphobia’. The examples I’ve posted and the arguments I’ve made since then are pointing out how that oversimplification is false.

          • Do you not think there is an element of the community using the excuse of bad writing in order to push another agenda?
            If not, how do you explain the level of outrage and how common the cases of… let’s say “embellished” claims of bad writing?

          • I think the factors and motives involved are many, such that it’s not appropriate to simply put it all down to transphobia. Some people may well have the motive you described, though judging so relies on assumptions that may or may not be correct.

          • Do you not think there is an element of the community using the excuse of bad writing in order to push another agenda?I’d absolutely agree, and there are also people on the other side now using “You just hate transgender people!” as a defense of ANY criticisms on the game now. Which in my mind is just as bad.

            Or they’re using it to push their own agendas, opinions, beliefs, etc. As this is absolutely the sort of attention you simply cannot buy for whatever cause you happen to be championing.

            Though I’m not criticising using this as a step to push for better treatment of people (transgender or otherwise), as there’s probably not many tactics I’d disagree with if you’re simply pushing for common decency towards others, I’m just merely giving some observations.

            On your other comment…A lot of the talk about the bad writing isn’t actually true. The gaming community as a whole excuses atrocious writing as a matter of course. Why is it of such importance this time? Especially when it’s no worse than a thousand other examples? Perhaps there’s a veiled issue, here.Personally, I can’t stand poor writing in games. It’s one of the main things that can absolutely put me off a game, especially an RPG. Just because I don’t talk about every instance of it means absolute nothing however, if anything it only means nothing has blown up like this to shine some light on it.

            I’ve seen bits and pieces of the writing for the game thanks to this whole ordeal, and I’ll just say what I have seen doesn’t suddenly have me wanting to play it… And it’s got zero to do with the existence of a transgender character.

            They can do whatever they want but if the writing doesn’t interest me then it just doesn’t interest me and as such the game likely will not either. I also know that not liking someone else’s writing means absolutely nothing to them in the end, and I’m okay with that.

      • Oversimplifications and generalisations being thrown around wildly are also largely how we end up with issues like this blowing up to begin with, when it likely could’ve been resolved in a far more cool-headed manner had they not been.

        I fully admit I dislike diversity when it is purely for the sake of checking boxes off some sort of figurative checklist in order to pander and appease loud mouthed zealots. So sure if they actually were trying to shoehorn the shit in for the sake of it then I’d say they’re absolutely part of a larger problem, but if everything being told to us is true then they simply don’t appear to be doing that.

        It really seems that any reasonable person would take far more issue with the technical problems affecting gameplay than they would anything else.

        • I think Scott’s comment, “I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s ‘forced’ or fake” is worrying in that it’s just bad writing to inject issues into a narrative without caring that it comes across as forced or fake. I’d feel the same way regardless of the issue being injected. I haven’t played the expansion and have no opinion on the character in question, but that comment from Scott bothers me.

          • That exact comment bothered me too… I chose to give it the benefit of the doubt largely due to the other comments from their team though. I’d like to think she just have meant it in the sense that it’s simply how she always naturally writes, but the way she worded it with ‘consciously’ it definitely gives me pause.

            If I’m being honest though that actually bothers me much for the same reasons you mention. Not because she might be trying to push some ideals, but if how she writes is by forcing things into a narrative for the sake of it… Then it’s just a piss poor way to write. It’s unnatural and it absolutely shows when writers do this.

  • Here’s what annoys me, if you have a problem with the way the games handles LGBT, you’re then suddenly anti-LGBT.

    • the words trans/homophobic are thrown around without much thought; it definitely stifles any criticism of how things like this are written.

    • did you read the comments there? they’re not saying the way trans people were represented in the game was problematic; they’re complaining that a trans person exists in game at all.

      critiquing the portrayal of LGBT characters is not anti-LGBT.
      complaining that they exist is.

      • I don’t know, the smattering of reviews up there do say they don’t like the hamfisted writing, the fact that the character simply introduces themselves as trans, etc. and claim not to object to the fact a trans character exists. Whether they’re being honest or framing their criticisms to make them appear more acceptable is another matter entirely. I doubt they’re being completely honest but on the other hand I doubt they’re actually trans or homophobic – they’re just having a kneejerk response to “PC culture gone mad” and “those damn SJWs”.

        Edit: it has since been pointed out to me that the complaints about the writing are mostly lies.

      • i’m not commenting for that purpose, i’m commenting solely on @omega_man ‘s comment. i don’t know why people on the internet insist on making up words that aren’t there in comments.

      • Did you read the comments? Several are directed at the poor dialogue and writing for the character, not merely the fact the character is transsexual.

        • Some are. a lot of those are also bad comments that say untrue things.

          Most are just mad people being mad that people exist in a way they don’t like. Your problems with the game may be totally valid, but that would make you the exception.

          • None of the Steam reviews or the Youtube comments posted above express an issue with the mere existence of a transsexual character, they largely object to the manner in which the character presents that information. I don’t deny there are people out there that do have a problem with the existence of a transsexual character, but to say ‘most’ seems to be an unfair characterisation from the reviews I’ve read.

          • The issue is that their arguments are just untrue. Whether the writer said she had an agenda or not, the character is not presented in the way that these commenters state she is. While it’s probably a stretch to say the commenters are explicitly transphobic, they are strawmanning the dialogue to sound worse than it is, thus it supports their argument.

            From my comment above:

            They argue she basically says “derp derp hi I’m Mizhena, I’m trans” when she’s (a) a character you don’t even have to talk to if you don’t want to and (b) it’s three-four dialogue choices in, and you have to specifically ask about why she changed her name.

          • I don’t think it’s a matter of truth, but a matter of perspective. In a video game where even minor characters tend to have dozens of lines, I can see how some people consider three or four dialogue options in to be very early in the conversation.

            I just think it’s not really a matter of truth but a matter of feel and it may well feel to some people like this information is being volunteered too quickly and too readily. I definitely appreciate that you got a different feeling from it.

          • I kind of addressed this in the other comment to you. I didn’t realise we were talking on two different threads.

            There’s something else going on here. Some of those negative reviews are disingenuous in their complaints. Some of them are applying a strict standard in storytelling where (given how terrible game writing is a lot of the time) in other places they do not.

            This is no different than the years of vitriol directed at Barack Obama, Julia Gillard, or Anita Sarkeesian. There are definitely problems. There are definitely valid criticisms and it’s not a bad thing to discuss them. But not every criticism is an honest attempt at dialogue. There are racists, and sexists, and homophobes, and transphobes, and any number of people with discriminatory views who will hide behind a largely legitimate claim in order to push their hatred of other peoples’ existence.

          • I’ve never argued that every response to this is appropriate. Absolutely there are inappropriate responses and I certainly don’t support them. What I’ve argued is that it’s wrong to oversimplify the issue, to categorise every response as ‘because of transphobia’. That’s not only untrue, but it’s harmful as far as actually understanding the root cause of people’s complaints.

          • I haven’t seen anyone actually do that. If you have, I’d be interested to see it.

            People keep complaining that there is an army of SJWs raging that all criticism is , but they can rarely point to examples. When they can, it’s usually such a small number that it can be safely written off to the fact that every large group has its share of idiots who like to make loud noises.

          • @pokedad Perhaps we have a difference of interpretation, but not only have you seen examples of what I’m talking about, you’ve upvoted them: both of 35’s posts here as of the time of this reply attempt to trivialise the issue as ‘transphobes throwing tantrums’ or mischaracterising reviews that criticise the writing by claiming they object to the mere existence of a transsexual character. My participation in this comments section began specifically to object to that view as harmful.

  • While I agree the writing itself was a little ham-fisted, that doesn’t excuse some of the shit coming out from these people. Criticise the writing itself for sure. But to start blaming some “SJW agenda” for it all is ridiculous. You might as well start blaming “the gays” or “the Jews”.

    Especially when, even if the writing is a little shoddy, it’s not thrust in your face. Hell, some of the people quoted are saying “the characters literally say ‘hi nice to meet you, I’m a trans hurr durr'” when it’s clearly about three or four dialogue options deep and you have to specifically ask about it.

    Gaming in 2016 is still primarily written by white dudes, for white dudes. The perception that 95% of gaming is now controlled by the SJW feminazi agenda is a massive, massive overreaction, fed by the media in a vicious cycle.

    People complain about SJWs ruining gaming > gaming media write about it because it’s a story > story gets clicks > story becomes more widespread > it looks like it’s a widespread “issue” because it’s in a lot of articles > people complain about SJWs ruining gaming…

    It’s 2016. Some people are gay/trans/black/Asian/purple with pink polka dots. They are allowed to be represented in games. There is no SJW agenda. There is an “agenda” to have people (including white males and females) represented more realistically. So?

    • Some of the comments are definitely over the line, but that’s not an excuse to go to the other extreme and just declare all the opposition as transphobia. Oversimplification of issues like this is just refusal to attempt to understand both sides, it creates battle lines where both sides entrench and zero progress is made. Not saying you’re doing that but at least one other commenter here seems to be.

      • That I can agree with. Drawing battle lines and making everything “with us or against us” helps nobody. Especially if legitimate criticism (like the bugs mentioned) gets lost in the crossfire.

      • Re-read the steam reviews and general internet commentary: to consider the vitriol to be anything but anti-perceived-SJW-pandering at best or transphobia at worst is either naive or disingenuous. People are downvoting the game en masse due to their apparent disatisfaction with the writing of a minor character with a handful of lines. I’m willing to be proved wrong, but I’ve not seen that occur before. “Great experience in general, I enjoyed my 30 hours with it…but that one poorly written minority npc of the hundred or so npcs I came across…don’t buy this game. 1 star.” Made up for dramatic effect, but it gets my point across. We are to believe that is a legitimate review and hate/bigotry/whatever you’d like to call it, isn’t the underlying motive?

    • People complain about SJWs ruining gaming > gaming media write about it because it’s a story > story gets clicks > story becomes more widespread > it looks like it’s a widespread “issue” because it’s in a lot of articles > people complain about SJWs ruining gaming…

      It isn’t just gaming where this is cropping up though, people complaining about SJWs are complaining in every subject, and inversely, SJWs seem to be cropping up in every subject. They battle and whinge and whine in political forums, they complain in education forums, they complain in science forums in fact the only place people don’t seem to be complaining in any large numbers seems to be IRL!

      I think it says more about the general state of conversation online than it does to any one topic. Some person gets offended at something (and there’s always going to be someone who’s offended), gets bundled in to a label of some sort (be it SJW or anti-SJW or whatever) and everyone else gets on the bandwagon and starts piling in to for and against groups.

      There’s just no subtlety or room for neutrality or moderation in debates or discussions any more, if you’re not for something then you MUST be against it and invective and vitriol will come your way with the expectation of vitriol to be thrown back.

    • As difficult as it is to disagree with anything hotcake related…

      It’s 2016… The “It’s |insert current year|!” shtick needs to die off. It has well and truly lost all meaning and impact it once may have held.

  • Kotaku’s folly time and again is still giving oxygen to these idiot reactionary types who have nothing better to do than seek out vulnerable games/topics like they’re hunting water fowl.

    It’s like a crime reporter saying a robbery took place but then taking time to feature ‘all sides’ from a broader sociological debate. And then editorialising with their own opinion in the same article.

    Social issues ‘in muh games’ is one thing. Social issues in ‘games-dom’ or gaming culture or whatever you want to call the group these days is another.

    Going back to the robbery analogy, many people who commit crimes often do so to attract the media’s spotlight.

    Saying what I think about a social issue in a video game is me sharing my opinion. If I use that as an excuse to a) insult someone b) whine I can’t apparently do this because my free speech is being threatened or c) incite hateful or outright commit actual violent actions against another person; that is something else entirely. It then becomes about _you_ and not the game/topic at hand.

  • The funny thing is I LIKE games like this to have sexually complicated characters. It’s fantasy and interesting, layered, complex characters make for a better experience.

    The problem is that your average 2016 SJW (that’s the first time I’ve ever used that term- I feel a bit dirty now) is such an unbearable tosser that it’s really hard to balance between sensible, best-practice storytelling (ie the sexuality is nothing more than a device which adds depth to the gameworld) without overstepping into agenda pushing, quota meeting, 2016 appeasing bullshit is really hard to find.

    Quotes like the one above were ALWAYS going to come back to bite the writer. Nobody wants to enter into a world knowing that it’s been intentionally tinkered with to meet an “inclusiveness” quota.

    • I agree, I enjoy compromised characters. They’re flawed and multi-dimensional. Like real people.

      But I think some of the criticism levelled at the writer (especially after she pretty much stated flat out she’s going to include more diverse characters) is a bit silly. She’s a writer. She’ll write what she wants to write. There will be other writers who will write other stuff, which may or may not suite some peoples tastes. And that’s fine. It’s great in fact – it generates more conversations about the kinds of stories we all like in games.

  • Criticise the writing itself for sure. But to start blaming some “SJW agenda” for it all is ridiculous.

    Did you miss the part where the writer actually said she has a SJW agenda and intends to push it.

    “I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s ‘forced’ or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.”

    For the most part i agree with your post but the writer in this case most definitely has an agenda and is pushing it.

    EDIT: Such fail at replies — was made in response to @hotcakes

    • Then don’t we get in to the whole “it’s the creator, they can do what they want with their work” argument? Since that’s the argument a lot of people use in favour of the butt poses, sexy costumes etc.

      I do see your point, but it’s still an “agenda” that is, in theory, a positive one. It’s like arguing that civil rights is an agenda. Sure it is, but that doesn’t make it bad, even if some people do go about it in the wrong way (not arguing that you, the creator, or others in this thread are going about it the wrong way).

      • There is no right or wrong with this, but people are allowed to like and disklike – you might like some games and not other types (eg fps vs rts) or in this case SJW issues in your entertainment. You also have to remember that at the end of the day its a business and there is a majority and minority. You run a huge risk of alienating existing customers in an established franchise if the majority of customers don’t want SJW issues portrayed in their down time (i have no idea if a majority of customers do or don’t want sjw issues in their game simply using it as an example).

        I hazard a guess that most people have issues with changes to established franchises. If they built a game from scratch that had sjw built in then i’d imagine there wouldn’t be anywhere near the backlash – i’d also guess that sales would be poor as their target demographic is tiny (comparatively).

        • That’s true, but what that trend of alienation speaks to in my opinion is a false sense of ownership felt by many in gamer culture.

          Fair enough people may disagree with these issues, and may not really want them there. But they don’t own the franchise, they didn’t create this story, so their opinion remains just that – opinion.

          When criticisms are leveled from that perspective, it’s fine. But what I don’t get is when people act like they’re owed something by game writers and devs.

          • But what I don’t get is when people act like they’re owed something by game writers and devs.

            Meh some people are just passionate about certain things and feel that this change threatens something they enjoy immensely – like it’s being stripped away so they lash out.

      • Absolutely, the creator can do anything they like with their work. People shouldn’t expect them to change the work, but they should be free to criticise it, or choose not to consume it. I haven’t played it personally so I don’t know what my feelings on it would be, though I think some of Amber Scott’s comments are worrisome – a writer who wants to inject an issue into a narrative and doesn’t care if it comes across forced or fake is a bad writer, regardless of the issue. I hope that’s not what she meant by her comments, but it makes me a lot less likely to buy her work if it’s accurate.

        • Also its an existing narrative which she is injecting her interpretation of some existing characters.

          Like Jaheira, I’ve played BG at least 20 times and most of those times are with Jaheira and Khalid in my party. She’s always been a strong female character, strong in her harper convictions about civilization and nature, and in love with her husband Khalid. Sure she’s domineering over Khalid but she was domineering over everyone, its called a personality trait. “Stereotypical nagging wife” is just insulting and you’d have to have a very narrow view (i.e. thats what she wanted to see) to get that (IMHO).

          • This. God. A million times this.

            Seriously, when I read the comments about Jaheira being a “stereotypical nagging wife”, I kept thinking… “did these people play the same Baldur’s Gate series as I did?”

            As far as I’m concerned, anyone who cast Jaheira as a “nagging wife” completely missed the point of her character. Sure, she evolved and developed further in BG2, but she had very strong opinions and if anything flipped the gender power balance in her own marriage by effectively being the “leading” person in the relationship – not in a nagging way, but by having the stronger passion and convictions in her cause and beliefs than Khalid. She was the dominant person in their relationship, while Khalid was submissive, and made fun of gender conventions in her barkstrings: “What now? Need your pantaloons pressed?” She made it clear she wasn’t going to stand for the “usual” expectations of being an adventurer’s housewife.

            As far as I’m concerned, anyone who wanted/wants to “fix” Jaheira because they believe she’s a product of sexist writing has completely and utterly misunderstood her character.

            If the writers really wanted to fix the most egregious example of a terrible sexist stereotype in BG, they should have rewritten/changed Skie.

    • If the writer has a social justice agenda, then she can push it and people can like it or not. Isn’t that what the arguments are always about? Artistic integrity versus commercialism?

      She can write a story with anything she likes. The company can decide if they want it or not. If the decide to keep it and it sells badly, then they learned a lesson. This is always the argument. Someone does something, someone complains, the company decides how they want to handle it. The problem is that the anti-diversity crowd (or whatever you want to call them) aren’t happy to just complain that they don’t like something. Things get personal and sometimes even dangerous for those on the other side.

      • You speak as though the pro-diversity crowd doesn’t have their own fanatics that make things personal and ultimately damage the cause. Fools and instigators exist on all sides of any hotbed issue, ideally we would try not to judge an entire side of an argument on the actions of those fools.

        I agree she can write any story she likes. Criticism isn’t an unreasonable response. Personal attacks are definitely unreasonable, but their existence doesn’t invalidate the the reasonable stuff.

        • I didn’t claim or imply that. Every large group has its share of people who are unhelpful to the cause. But I haven’t heard of anyone in the pro diversity crowd try to intimidate or threaten anyone on the other side. The opposite definitely has happened.

          Of course it doesn’t invalidarte the legitimate criticism, but surely you can’t look at all of those negative reviews and think to yourself “Yes. This is all legitimate criticism. None of this is in any way motivated by pettiness or hatred”? If shit writing in video games got you review bombed on Steam, the rating system would have about 20 well reviewed games on the entire network. I’m not saying there’s no issue with the writing. I’m saying that a not insignificant number of people are publicly claiming bad writing and privately claiming that trans people are gross.

          • We’re kinda forking conversations a bit here and it’s leading to a bit of duplication. I’ll end this particular thread and we can continue in another one if you like, but for anyone else reading I want to be clear that I don’t consider all the criticism to be legitimate, I only object to characterising all the criticism as illegitimate, such as seen in 35’s posts here and which you’ve upvoted.

      • If the writer has a social justice agenda, then she can push it and people can like it or not. Isn’t that what the arguments are always about? Artistic integrity versus commercialism?

        Most definitely. I never said there was anything inherently wrong with it but people are allowed to like or dislike having SJW issues in their entertainment medium. Like i said above if they built a game from scratch with SJW in it there would be virtually no problems but they’ve taken a popular franchise and added it to it – changing the status quo.

        Now you could apply this to anything for example the gameplay changes in dragon age: origins to dragon age II. This upset a lot of people as well and the posts were very similar if you just replace SJW with gameplay (with equally extreme hate posts).

        • But they own it. They can change it. You can dislike it. You can not buy it. This is exactly the argument when the tables are reversed. A company makes something that some people think is sexist. They complain. They don’t buy it. That happened enough times that companies started listening to the complaints in order to not lose business. Despite the explosive and frankly childish reactions, companies keep doing it. I would assume it’s because they’ve done the maths and decided that they make more people happy with diversity, despite the volume of the angry people when they put it in.

          If you should never change an established franchise to include more people, then Lando Calrissian is also a bullshit addition to an established universe. People complained that Star Wars was wall to wall white people. Lucas took that on board and the sequels had a more diverse mix of ethnicities. I don’t think anyone who complains about that now is at all reasonable.

          • But they own it. They can change it. You can dislike it. You can not buy it.

            Yes, yes, yes, Maybe… What if you’ve bought it based on previous titles. You feel duped. You get angry. You want to vent your anger. You post online (and if your an idiot you post vile shit)

            That is, imo, what happened here for the majority of these posts. It’s very likely that the next title they won’t purchase it at all – doesn’t mean that they can’t voice their dissatisfaction about the direction the authors are taking it (in a tasteful manner).

          • Of course they can. They can also get a refund. They can actually do some product research before they buy something. They can do all of these things and if they want to be civil about the problems they have, then more power to them. It’s fine not to like it. It’s fine for them to say why. It’s also fine for other people to point to the people who have stupid reasons and say “look at this idiot with his stupid reason.”

            Nobody is stopping anybody from saying what they want to say. But when you make your opinion public and it looks very much to be discriminatory, they are going to be publicly lambasted for it. It’s fair turn around. Again, this is not to say that there aren’t totally valid criticisms to be made.

          • Sure, but anything you’re writing as an add-on to the existing content needs to mesh with what’s already written.

            While Beamdog has the pedigree of some great talent, the idea that they had to change Jaheira because she was a sexist “stereotypical nagging wife” is a terrible failure in understanding her character.

            That doesn’t fill me confidence about their product, even though I’d love to see someone recreate the magic of the games that BioWare used to make.

          • They are under no obligation to do anything with the story one way or the other. If anyone has a right to complain, it’s the owners of the IP, but they’ve been very forthright in saying how much they support Beamdog’s work.

            You can dislike it, but in the end all of the people who matter from an ownership perspective agree that it’s a good product and they stand by it.

          • Sure, but that doesn’t diminish the right of all those who have played the previous games to feel as though Beamdog’s new content/changes don’t fit with the feel of the original BG series.

            In this case, everyone is actually entitled to their subjective opinion.

          • Like I said before. You’re allowed to not like it. You’re not allowed to feel entitled to demand change. If you don’t like it, vote with your wallet. That’s what got us here.

          • “You’re allowed to not like it. You’re not allowed to feel entitled to demand change. ”
            Hmmm, I smell hints of the ME3 outrage here…

            I don’t like the use of the word “entitled” just because people have complaints about how games are created/written.

            Take Fallout 3. A lot of people thought the ending sucked, and told Bethesda it sucked, and that it made absolutely no sense for certain characters to act the way they did at just let the player die. Bethesda listened to that criticism and made a DLC that solved the “problem”.

            Move to ME3. Lots of people told BioWare the ending sucked, but they stuck to their guns and “clarified” the ending, which some people were happy with. Personally I didn’t think it changed anything but retconned the destruction of Mass Relays to not destroy everything within a sector. I’d already extrapolated the “extended endings” from the original, it just spelled out everything in detail. It was the delivery, the literal deus ex machina and a raft of other reasons why I think it’s still a terrible ending and basically bombed what could and should have been the best game series of its generation.

            Now this we have this. People are complaining about certain aspects of the writing. Yes, some of it is blown up due to … certain factions on the Internet … but Beamdog have taken the criticism on board. They’re changing some things but keeping others.

            The thing is, this kind of public criticism allows people to know about these things before they buy the game. It could certainly do without the hate speech that has occurred, but the publicity lets people know about things they might and might not like.

            People are allowed to complain. That isn’t entitled. If they’ve already bought the game, played it past the two hour return window on Steam, and then find a bunch of content they don’t like or which changes the personality of characters they know, they have every right to to go Beamdog’s forums and go “why did you write things like this?” That is not entitled.

            Games are a funny medium in that they actually allow for the modification or change of content AFTER release in response to customer feedback. Imagine if after the first bunch of people had seen Star Wars Episode 1, people (other than George Lucas) had been given the power and opportunity to make it a good movie instead of a bad one? Would they have done that? Should they have done that? With games that’s possible to some degree.

            Yeah, there’s random trolls and hateful people on the Internet making a fuss here, but there are some really meaningful and interesting questions raised by this kind of uproar.

          • Mass Effect 3? Tangent time! I make no apology for this. Please read it because I want to evangelise the ME3 ending to everyone in the world.

            ***Significant Mass Effect 3 spoilers***

            I still think that Mass Effect 3 had one of the best endings ever in a game. If you get the true paragon ending, the extra 3 seconds at the end make all the difference. The story spent three installments telling you that no matter what you do, this is coming and you can’t stop it. It spelt out to you at every turn that the destruction is inevitable and nothing you do can stop it. The player kept stubbornly saying “No, there’s a way”, and just kept bullishly pushing to change it.

            At the end, you are presented with false choices and told very plainly that you were wrong the whole time. You’re not special. No one being can subvert the entire movement of history. Don’t be so goddamn arrogant. You might be able to tweak it a little, but the story still ends in destruction and you can’t do shit about it. It’s a gut-punch ending that a lot of people don’t like but I think it turns the trope of the lone saviour completely on its head. It’s brilliant and subtle.

            I still also think that the indoctrination theory is the correct one. That’s why the space baby looks like the kid from the beginning. That kid may never have existed. The final scenes are Shepard unconscious at the base of the portal. She has been fairly strong against the indoctrination, but it has been subtly pushing her in certain directions for a long time and now the Reapers are making a final push to remove her from the equation because for the first time, there’s a real threat to their dominion. So the surreal lead up to the confrontation with the space baby happens. None of it makes sense. It’s like a dream. It’s both her father figure and nemesis trying to grind her down emotionally and just give up. Then space kid punches you right in the gut and says “You can’t stop this. Stop trying. it’s just not possible. But I’ll tell you what: I’ll help you decide which way this goes. None of them stop the destruction, but you can shape how the galaxy after the destruction lives on and you can die in peace”. It then gives you deliberately wrong-coloured options.

            The entire 3 games, the red option was always the destructive one. If you’ve tried to be a paragon the whole time, you’ve been subtly pushed toward choosing blue and green choices as both are usually “good but with a caveat”. So now you get three options. Choose the one that’s labelled destructive and bad, fight against the subtle mind games that have been pushing at you the whole time, and be possibly the only being to ever fight off the indoctrination on your own. The nightmare ends, Shepard is laying in the wreckage outside the portal and takes a shuddering breath. Maybe she is that special. Maybe her choices do matter. Maybe someone really can stop the Reapers this time. Then credits roll.

            The player is as indoctrinated as the character. It plays on that. It forces you to push back against 3 games worth of mental conditioning and make the hard choice. It’s absolutely amazing.

            ***End spoilers***

            Back on topic. I was upset about the backlash to ME3’s ending. I’m upset about the backlash to this. I was upset about the backlash to Fallout 3’s ending (or very existence). It’s fine not to like it. It’s fine to say “this isn’t good”, but the internet has a way of turning every small issue into an echo chamber of people telling each other how right they are to send death threats to a game maker for changing the animation on a gun reload by one tenth of a second. It’s not the complaint. It’s the vitriol. People complained about ME3 and the devs decided to change it. The people in charge of it made a decision that they thought was right for whatever reason. I’ve never seen the extended cut. I never will. The original ending was almost No Country for Old Men levels of ambiguity, melancholy, and hope that everything is going to be ok. But people wanted something else, the devs said ok and everyone was happy. The same thing happens with a stupid butt pose in a shooter and the internet shits the bed for compromising artistic vision. The company refuses to compromise artistic vision in this game and the internet also shits the bed. It’s ludicrous.

          • Unfortunately, BioWare came out and declared Indoctrination Theory false. I still agree it’s far better than what we were actually given, but according to BioWare, it’s not what happened.

            As for not watching the extended endings, all they do is:
            (a) Discount Indoctrination Theory
            (b) Explicitly spell out everything you could infer from the endings as they were

            This is the problem with ME. It could have been amazing, but they killed it from the Harbinger attack onwards.

            That (grievous error, in my opinion,) started a movement that gave gamers the belief that they could (and possibly should) have the right to petition (or demand) that games be changed when it was perceived that they had been written badly.

  • I haven’t played the expansion, but does it deal with the existence of gender changing spells and artifacts in D&D? I’ll admit that trans issues seem an odd fit for a setting in which shapechannging magic is fairly common.

    Personally I always thought the bigger problem with D&D was it’s portrayal of different ethniciites. “Monstrous” races are intelligent people who are almost always presented as evil and incapablle of civilisation. That’s messed up.

    Also, does no one who’s complaining remember the quest with Edwin from BG2? Edwin ends up becoming a woman because of magic.

  • I haven’t played the expansion but it sounds like Mizhena would’ve copped less criticism if there was a bit more substance to the character. I know not every NPC can be fleshed out and nuanced but having a trans character that is more than one dimensional would certainly stifle some of the cries of tokenism.

  • I like the way the Division did it. I’m not that far into the Division but when you meet a character and she’s just telling a story and mentions her wife, it’s very organic and done well. If a character runs up to you in a game and the first thing they say is “I’m gay!” then the complaints would make sense. Not because of the homosexuality but because that’s just poor writing. It’s not out of place in all games but in a serious medieval style game, it just wouldn’t fit. It would fit in something like Divinity Original Sin as that has many characters like that.

    I haven’t played the expansion yet though and I get the feeling that a lot of people are over-reacting. It sounds like they are seeing a transsexual character and attacking, but I could be wrong. It could just be very poor writing. I’ll save my final judgement until I’ve actually played it.

    • Even in The division we had people making it as if she had simply said “by the way I’m a lesbian” the first time you speak to her like “oh why did she feel the need to tell me that, dang SJWs”. But that’s not the case at all.

      When they have to invent reasons to be offended by something, maybe they should consider not taking offense instead? It’s better for the blood pressure.

      • Reminds me of the pitch in the last episode of Community.

        “By the way, I’m a lesbian. It’s why I haven’t hit on Jeff.”

        But there it is funny, because it is Jeff’s pitch, and reflects his insecurity.

  • And yet noone said a thing when you encountered a trans character in the Dragon Age 3. Internet is strange.

    • actually they did, though that more due to the fact that a straight woman was doing the voice of a female to male transgender character. though it does seem strange that when a transgendered character is placed in a game or movie 9 times out of then its male to female trans and normally pre-op instead of post-op. Come to think about it DA3 is the only game i can think off that has had a female to male trans character

  • People wanted traditional D&D CRPG.. what you play in the privacy of your own home table top and group of friends is up to you.. but to have to thrust and forced upon you in what was supposed to be the extension of a previously established CRPG.. that’s what people are angry about.

    There’s nothing wrong with it on its own.. it just doesn’t appear, based on the feedback of the players, to be appreciated in this particular title and anyone developing the game for that audience should have been mostly aware of this from the outset.

    • This sounds very much like an argument that it’s ok to exist as long as yo do it quietly where nobody can see your ickiness. I’m not accusing you of it, but it does come off that way.

      This was ans still is a lot of the religious leaders’ attitudes toward gay people. It’s gross there and it’s also gross when you apply it to trans people. People are allowed to exist in the world and people making fiction are allowed to have those people exist in the worlds they write. IF you don’t like it, don’t play it. Or just don’t talk to that character about her gender. It’s totally optional in game.

      • Heh, it very much does come across that way.

        Light, I think it’s a complex issue. In one part when a developer changes anything about a series, people complain. That’s normal. But from what I hear there were a fair few changes in this but people are targeting the homosexuality and transsexualism more than anything else. I can understand if it’s something that seems ridiculously out of place but having homosexual or transsexual characters doesn’t seem out of place in the setting.

        It just seems to come across as people who don’t like homosexuals so they are complaining. I guess it was unexpected. In most games with homosexuality you can usually avoid the characters involved and if you can’t then you can avoid the game because the progressivism is public knowledge. I think a lot people bought this game because it wasn’t public knowledge about the characters sexualities and it was a game that they grew up playing, so I think it’s a case of people who are uncomfortable with LGBTI characters but still want to play the game and are torn between their love of the series and their own bigotry. The only solution they come up with is to complain that that they’ve been ripped off and that they are the victims.

        Honestly, it’s a small part of the game. If I see a character I don’t like in a game then I just ignore that character until it goes away or I just tolerate how annoying that character’s voice is while enjoying the rest of the game (like the Faye Lau in The Division)

        • As far as I know, the entire conversation tree is completely optional.

          I suppose if you weren’t aware and it just came up, you could be upset by it, but that’d mean having to admit that being “triggered” by something is possible and I’d bet my house that there’s quite a bit of crossover between those who subscribe to the ” should just fucking calm down and stop pretending to be triggered by everything” and those who dislike this.

  • Baldur’s Gate needs to be offensive, it needs to be racist, it needs to be sexist, it needs to be a shitty and hostile place to be in because that’s the Baldur’s Gate I remember.

    Most the lower caste are riff-raff, most of the merchants are wolfish, most of the kings are unsympathetic, and most of the priests are intolerant.

    If you were an SJW in Baldur’s Gate, you’d be dead!

  • Also, kudos to the Kotaku community for being calm and articulate about this stuff. I came into the comments expecting the worst, but have been pleasantly surprised.

    Good stuff!

    • thats because the AU community much like AU Kotaku’s Staff is 100 fold better than the sewer that is Kotaku US

      • Nasty. Attacking American Kotaku users just because they live in the sewer.

  • Actually, it’s the SJW stuff which drove me away from Bioware.

    Black Isle was amazing. And Bioware got lucky occasionally. But I wouldn’t buy their games anymore. To political. Too ‘hot-topic’. Not my bag.

    I’m not surprised that people have reacted this way. BG was a brilliant title, if perhaps a little low level for the game mechanics. People just wanted more of the same.

  • Scott has been unequivocal about her goal of writing diverse characters, and that upsets some people. “I’m the writer and creator,” she once wrote on Beamdog’s forums. I get to make decisions about who I write about and why,” she wrote in a recent forum post. “I don’t like writing about straight/white/cis people all the time. It’s not reflective of the real world, it sets up s/w/c as the ‘normal’ baseline from which ‘other’ characters must be added, and it’s boring.”

    See, this part really bugs me. If a white and or male developer made this “I do what I want to do, deal with it.” comment, the internet would tear him to shreds. It can’t be one standard of expression for one person, and something else entirely for somebody else, regardless of whatever history you believe justifies that.

    I definitely agree with @zombiejesus , I’m pragmatic about this sort of thing. Equality and diversity are amazing things when we treat their implementation with care and forethought, but trying to fill quotas or shoehorn depictions in to push an agenda is just offensive to minorities as racist and sexist bullshit spouted by small minded people.

    • I agree that equality is often done wrong. It usually ends up being the other side being sexist or racist and claiming that they are the victims (like what a certain youtuber likes to do with games). That’s not equality at all.

      I really need to play this to find out for myself how in your face it is. If it’s just a case of a few gay characters being in the story then complaining about it sounds stupid. But if it’s done just for advertising the developers version of equality then that could be equally stupid.

      In the end I think it comes down to the developers intention. If the developer says “this is a game that includes transsexuals and gay people” then who cares. But if the developer says “This is a game about transsexualism and the story doesn’t matter” then maybe they chose the wrong device.

      From the developers comments I don’t think the latter was the intention. I think the developer is saying that games often have the same straight white cisgendered characters so the developer wants to go for non-straight white cisgenders to be more interesting than the usual.

  • I’ve never played a Baldur’s Gate game. That was a franchise friends of mine got into. I’d actually like to find out their opinions on this situation. But from what I’ve read I do have a few things I’d like to say:
    1: If when adding onto a pre-existing game you are altering already pre-defined characters (no matter if they could be deemed sexist), that is a recipe for disaster. Fans adore characters they’ve known for years and by altering them you are inviting vitriolic & rabid fan backlash.
    2: We have the most beloved character in the game make a jab at the Gamergate controversy, when said game falls squarely in that groups main demographic. Yet the creators are shocked when they get stung for poking the hornet’s nest? (wish I could find the study showing the breakdown of their preferred genre, but it’s eluding me)
    3: The game has bugs, errors & disables the ability of modding. These are big issues that need to be fixed, yet from all I’ve read surrounding this controversy for the past few days is “Transphobic & sexist backlash”. That is just going to piss off those that are pointing out actual flaws and not being addressed.

    EDIT: Just read the statement by Trent Oster addressing Mizhena, the removal of Minsc’s added “joke”, and that they’re working on fixing bugs and multiplayer. Good post.

  • @Zombie Jesus

    New thread. No duplication.

    As far as I can tell, nobody is arguing that all criticism is transphobia. This really feels like a fake argument. There is valid criticism. There is invalid criticism. Judging by the absolute explosion on this particular game at this particular time on this particular subject, the statistical likelihood of some of these criticisms to be masked transphobia is approaching 1. That doesn’t invalidate the criticism, but you really can’t use the number of criticisms as a barometer on the general quality of the game because some of them are almost certainly bigotry hiding behind a mask of legitimate critique. The exaggerated and occasionally completely incorrect criticisms of the story show that there’s obviously another agenda behind some people’s reviews.

    • I don’t see how you can interpret this as anything but arguing the criticism is all transphobia, from 35’s first post:

      call it what it is; a bunch of homophobic/ transphobic people throwing a tantrum coz there’s an attempt at diversity in their game.

      (Edit: Also, to tag me you need to use @zombiejesus, it’s the bit shown next to my display name.)

      • Ah. i screwed up the tag.

        He never said that all criticisms are transphobic. He said that the “controversy” is a bunch of jerks throwing a tantrum. Because it is. Every game is allowed to be critiqued. The sheer level of vitriol heaped upon this particular game that just happens to have this particular content is almost certainly due in large part to people with another agenda. It’s not rock solid proof, but reasonable doubt has to be reasonable. If there’s only you, me, and my delicious cookie in a room and my cookie disappears, I know you took it. I can’t prove it, but you still stole my damn cookie because for real, look at the circumstances here you totally ate it.

        • Whether he intended it to be a sweeping comment or not, it’s certainly easy to read it as a blanket statement.

          And your cookie was delicious.

          • YOU SEE?! I was right all along.

            Yeah, ok. It can come across that way. In context I don’t think it does, but I can see how it could be taken that way.

  • tl;dr am I as a white male being oppressed or taken out of my safe space by the SJW’s again, y/n?

    • Nope. But if you use video games to escape from real world issues then it’s possible this expansion might not be to your taste.

        • Real world issues like race and gender equality, modern politics, world injustices like the Syrian refugee crisis or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, that kind of thing. I’m sure you can appreciate there are people who want to escape from the discussion of things like that from time to time and just relax and forget about the world. I certainly wouldn’t want Trump references popping up in the games I’m playing, for example.

          • Out of curiosity (as I haven’t played it yet), is it done in a political way? It’s hard to tell from the article and the reviews exactly how it’s done. There’s the screenshot where the character is talking about being transsexual but I don’t really see an issue with this as it’s hardly pushing the whole LGBTI equality thing. I’m curious what actually happens in the game that’s caused so much of a stir.

          • I haven’t played it either so I can’t answer your question. I do think though that to people who are fatigued by the constant presence of political issues in real life, the appearance of a design choice having been made for those political reasons may seem like an incursion into their choice of escape.

            As an example, I do support ethics in journalism (and ethics in everything), but I don’t support GamerGate, I don’t like GamerGate, I don’t identify with GamerGate. I am sick of seeing articles about it, I’m sick of hearing about it, I’m sick of the fools on both sides, and my patience for the topic of GamerGate is very low. If I were to play a game where a line of dialogue paraphrased the ‘it’s actually about ethics in journalism’ line, I’d feel pretty uncomfortable about it because I’m just so sick of hearing about it, and even when it’s just a minor thing like that, it’s still enough to bring back bad memories of the way the whole GG bullshit played out.

            I can’t comment on the specifics of this case, but I can understand how people who want to get away from the cesspool of insults and vitriol that seem to dog topics like this might find it uncomfortable, even if it doesn’t sink to that level itself. Does that make sense?

          • I get what you mean. One of those cases of a game mentioning something that you’re just sick of hearing.

            I understand where you’re coming from on that and I’m sure I’ve encountered plenty of those moments myself. That’s why I’m very curious about how it’s delivered. If it’s just the case of a transsexual character like in the screenshot then it’s a bit stupid to get upset about. Transsexuals exist. If there’s one in a game it’s just because they exist, but if it’s constantly thrown in your face like they’re trying to push some political agenda then the people being upset makes absolute sense to me. You play a game because you want to play a game, not to be told what you should believe and what you should accept.

          • Agreed. If people have a problem with transsexual characters existing, that’s for them to deal with and I don’t really care. If they have a problem with the issue being front and centre, rather than the character, then I can sympathise with that.

  • What’s all the fuss actually about? In this day and age people will complain about there being a lgbt character in a game or on the other hand people will shout just as loud for there not being a lgbt character in a game. Might one day it be possible for us all to accept whatever game a developer chooses to write and create (whether it’s got a gay/straight, female/male lead characters or boob sliders and pictures of butts) without someone on either side of the ‘social justice’ fence getting on their high horse about it?

    • The voices for and against inclusion of LGBT characters are not just as loud. We don’t get this kind of bullshit anywhere near as much when an LGBT character isn’t included in a game.

  • *sigh* I knew this thread was coming. I was hoping we could ignore it, guess not.

    I feel like could go on and on about all the problems throughout this whole thing. At the moment we’re still going through a problem with the extreme/regressive left demanding equality and diversity (which is not a problem at all) but are being totally aggressive about the whole thing and are completely ignoring the concept of nuance and context. As a result, a lot of characters are feeling forced, or are only included to meet some sort of quota to get them to shut up. People who are pushing this ideology also seem to be doing it out of their own interests. Meaning they’re more interested in appearing to be more open and mature than the community. This can give off the impression of a stuckup attitude who are using trans or black people to hold them up on their pedestal. Any criticism is met with accusations of ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘transphobe’, etc. Since nobody likes to be accused of that they think it’s a way to immediately shut opposition down and can be their only rebuttal.

    Which is what the biggest problem I find with diversity in media as of late. People hiding being trans, women, black, etc. to avoid all criticism and to express their negative attitudes. Using them to show off their ‘holier than thou’ personality. Telling everybody to take it as natural while a decent writer would have made the player interact with these characters for a while before revealing the fact. Giving off the impression that they are good people. American History X had a pretty good scene where a racist was forced to work with black men before he eventually got over himself.

    Gamers have been the punching bag for a long time, being accused of being murderers, sexist, etc. and every time they try to prove they’re not they’re attacked anyway and are either demanded to shutup or get out. Considering publishers are telling us to shutup or get out for being against microtranactions, DRM and other shitty practices, it’s come to a point where they’re getting sick of being pushed around by people who (seemingly) want the people who built the industry to get out and give it all to people who had no interest prior. As a result they’re now giving off a lot of kneejerk reactions, which I can’t really blame them for. Which is totally wrong, but after 20 years of taking shit, how else could you respond?

    The gamergate controversy was a real dark period of gaming. Whichever side of the debate you were on I think we can all agree that everybody would like to move on. Having a beloved character mock them does nothing but break the immersion (all internet memes do this, stop adding them into games) and bring the players back to a dark period we would just like to forget about. Liana expresses it better

    As for Amber Scott, I think she may just be a shitty writer. I read a comment from someone who read a D&D story module from her that was one of the worst. Mainly because she was so focused on creating diversity that she didn’t create personalities, making the work harder for DMs. A transgender character with a lesbian wife is fine, but with no mention of their personalities, how can the DM hope to play them in character? Which also adds to the problem of writers using black people or trans people are their defining characteristic.

    • Well said. A transsexual character should be a character of some description that happens to be transsexual, not a transsexual character that’s attributes are transsexualism. Or as some famous dude said “Why do we talk about a black football player, or black actor, or black astronaut when we should be talking about a football player, or actor, or astronaut who happens to be black”

  • I haven’t played the game so I can’t comment on how well it was done.

    But I will say:
    an “Actually it’s about ethics in heroic adventuring” joke

    Please, don’t poke the bear! It only ever ends with the bear getting angry.


    I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future

    I appreciate their effort and drive to make a positive mark. However, I consider the term ‘SJW’ a derogative slur. I know language evolves over time and you can call yourself whatever you want, but IMO this just paints a target on your back. To me it literally means, “I’m adamantly and furiously actioning for any cause that represents the goals of ‘social justice’ regardless of the outcome.” Yeah I know I’m stretching it, but it’s Warrior – a fighter that fights for whatever reason and has no purpose when fighting stops.
    Social Justice Advocate, sure.
    Or be specific:
    Advocate for equality and better LGBTQ representation, even better.

    We’re neck-deep in this now. Nobody should be surprised that when media broaches these social topics that there will be a big bru-hah about it because we’ve been treading this swamp for the last 3+ years and now we’re super sensitive to it. At least I am. Even if the issues are handled really well and subtly, I notice and then I get annoyed that I noticed!

    eg. The fantastic movie Zootopia. 10 mins in I got it guys, it’s about not making assumptions, more plot please!

  • Hello!
    The developers have taken note of the criticisms of the game and have announced they’ll do a better job of writing the trans character in an upcoming patch or some such.
    They’re also removing the “it’s about ethics” line, which is unnecessary; you gotta stick with your guns. You can’t just pull something because a few people complain, otherwise you’re Blizzard (ignoring the fact that in the conclusion of the “butt pose” drama, they put in a pose which is virtually the same).

    On the other hand, by removing that line it increases the quality of the game’s writing tenfold. Anyone who unironically says “it’s about ethics in” is a chump, and anyone says it ironically has no sense of humor and probably likes the Big Bang Theory.

  • Didn’t read the whole article but I don’t see why people are complaining about social justice etc. It is nothing new to the DND universe which generally cast racism in a bad light.

  • “But I’m not a woman or LGBT and therefore they can’t be heroes with a 3D personailty in any game I play!!!!!!!!”

  • I snarfing hate gamers these days. I REALLY snarfing hate the “gaming community” as a whole. I don’t even identify as a “gamer” any more because they’re such an unreasonable pack of mindless hateful ultra-conservative douchebag.

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