The developer of the game Trigger has made the irrational decision not to bring their game to Steam. In a recent blog post/ Kickstarter update, they pointed to the recent Baldur’s Gate controversy as the reason. Trigger is a visual novel about someone learning they have PTSD, it received over $4k for its development on Kickstarter. Why does Trigger not coming to Steam make me angry? It makes me angry because this developer has been scared away by a vicious lie by Beamdog. However, (and I mean in no way to defend Beamdog by saying this) it is apples and oranges, Trigger is nothing like Baldur’s Gate and therefore to think it would have anything to fear is silly.
Baldur’s Gate Siege of Dragonspear is a $20 expansion for the Baldur’s Gate. It’s meant to bridge the gap between the first a second game. It was a highly anticipated item in the series, but when it was delivered all was not well. The game was a glitchy mess, numerous reviews both positive and negative mentioning an unplayable multiplayer or a complete inability to start the game. On top of the bugs, there was another much more sinister problem. Beamdog hired a new writer, a self-proclaimed SJW who decided this game based in the middle ages was not modern enough ideas and was sexist. She decided to do a number of questionable things.
- Rewrite established characters to an SJW standard (including desexualizing Safan, which I’m taking as another example of feminism hating strong women).
- Have a Goblin call you racist.
- Include an obligatory “she’s a strong independent Womyn who doesn’t need a white man to save her” scene. It’s about as cringe-worthy as it sounds.
- Bait Gamergate by having and established character (Minsc) take a jab at it.
- Include a token Trans character who only gets a few lines of dialogue that amount to “my name is weird because I’m trans” which somehow wasn’t deemed offensive during screening.
Needless to say, Beamdog soon felt the heat and even though the vast majority of players spoke of game breaking bugs many also called them out on the strong SJW themes present, forced writing, and tokenism. Many of these fans were accused of being a part of Gamergate.
Already you can see the huge difference between this and Trigger. Since Trigger is its own game, it is not leeching off or changing an established world. The fact that the BG DLC changes established characters and aims itself toward a demographic not targetted in the previous games is obviously going to cause trouble. Also, the main issue here is the bugs, which has been obscured fairly well by Beamdogs reaction to criticism. Rather than fixing the bugs and improving the writing Beamdog instead decided to do something that is directly responsible for Trigger not coming to Steam. They decided to exploit their transgender character. Despite the fact that when ‘Transphobia‘ was chosen as Beamdog’s scapegoat for criticism there were only about 5 reviews directly referencing a trans character, it stuck. I’m assuming Trigger would never do something like this, it would be like Sunset saying it was unpopular because the main character was black. Certain media websites were happy to push the narrative and blame Schrödinger’s GamerGate for Beamdog’s problems. As media attention grew real transphobic people and trolls were encouraged to comment on the game. Beamdog had created a self-fulfilling prophecy at the price of its LGBT character. It was obvious to nearly everyone that Beamdog had absolutely no care for the LGBT community and that the whole thing had either been a publicity stunt or simply to earn some brownie points as diverse. We all know that Steam has an extensive library of LGBT groups and compared to the rest of the internet Steam is actually a very tolerable place to socialize.
Nobody has a problem with Baldur’s Gate having a trans character. The problem is when one of the character’s only lines is “Hi. I’m trans.”
— JonathanDanielBrown (@JonathanDBrown) April 6, 2016
While fanciful tales were spun about transphobic GamerGaters organising the negative reviews (with no evidence to support such a claim other than reputation) most sane people saw the real problem fairly quickly. Very few people had a problem with the existence of the Trans character, just as they hadn’t in Dark Souls or Catherine, the problem was how forced they were. When I read the dialogue for the character my first thought was that someone who greatly disliked LGBT people wrote it. The character is very open about their transition to the point of being flippant and highly disrespectful. The near mockery of the Trans character was not lost on the community, especially after the writer released a statement saying she didn’t care how forced the character was.
Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the message that has gone out to the world is ‘Baldur’s Gate got bad reviews because it has a trans character‘ and thus the professional offendees of social media have spread this message. It isn’t hard to see why Trigger might be uncomfortable releasing on Steam after the people there have been made out to be bigots. However, it is an unwise decision that will only hurt the sales of Trigger in the long run. After reading the developers’ post, I have a slight suspicion that their actions have nothing to do with fear. It’s entirely possible that this is a poorly judged statement since the developer said they want “dramatic changes to the service (Steam)”. Steam already censors out bad words and lets the community rate reviews in a manner that any vitriolic or nonsense ones are pushed to the bottom, what more can they do?
Another thing that crosses my mind is that the developer might be lying. Not lying about Trigger not coming to Steam, but the reasons behind it. This crossed my mind when I look at the campaign page and looked at the rewards and saw the game was specified as DRM free. The developer said she would release on Itch.io and go through the Greenlight process, however, no Greenlight was on the page or on Steam. The game was released on Itch.io way back in December so there has been plenty of time to put it on the Greenlight, but they didn’t. You have to remember it isn’t free to put games on Steam, so it is entirely possible the developer just wanted not to spend the additional cash that she might not have made back on sales. Personally, I’d rather think that than think about the ripple effect of Beamdog’s actions. I just hope no other developers are discouraged by Beamdog’s serious misbehavior.
I imagine the comment section is going to be happy fun times so let’s get the ball rolling! Do you think the backlash against Beamdog’s Tokenism will lead to more fleshed out characters or a decline in diverse character’s? Can you remember another time where a minority character has been used as a scapegoat for negative reviews? Do you think others will follow in Trigger’s footsteps? Comment down below.