Beamdog developers state that they are passionate about the classic computer RPG Baldur’s Gate. The series is legendary within PC (and console) gaming communities for being one of the pure representations of D&D lore in the form of an immersive role-playing game with great atmosphere, unforgettable music, excellent writing and believable world-building.
For the first time in 15 years the original Baldur’s Gate received an official expansion pack in the form of Siege of Dragonspear. The problem is that while the company may be passionate about the property, some of their decisions with depicting the content, characters and story, left a lot of gamers feeling as if their beloved Baldur’s Gate was being hijacked to push a very blatant sociopolitical narrative, as admitted to by one of the writers at Beamdog.
Well, Beamdog has heard the cries and complaints and will address some of the problems.
Beamdog’s CEO, Trent Oster, made a post on the official Beamdog forums, where he acknowledges some of the complaints and states…
“We’ve received feedback around Mizhena, a supporting character who reveals she is transgender. In retrospect, it would have been better served if we had introduced a transgender character with more development. This is a lesson we will be carrying forward in our development as creators and we will be improving this character in a future update.”
It’s nice that Oster has acknowledged this complaint. A lot of people felt as if the character should have had a story or quest that ties the player character directly to the NPC to better highlight the issues of transgenderism as opposed to just throwing a character out there to make some throwaway statements. A common complaint amongst fans of Baldur’s Gate and those within the transgender community, was that it felt like tokenism and shoehorning in a Social Justice Warrior talking point for “virtue signaling” and “diversity points”.
It will be interesting to see how Beamdog fleshes out the character and whether or not they’ll take the opportunity to offer some compelling depth to the subject matter as opposed to just glossing over it.
Oster goes on to state…
“We’ve received valuable feedback around some bugs we failed to catch for ship. We’re hard at work right now patching up the issues that slipped through and we’re striving to ship fixes and improvements quickly. We will provide a complete list of the issues we plan to address in our next update.”
Some of the things they will address will include the multiplayer bugs, mods being broken, some of the glitches involving various gameplay mechanics, as well as the line from Minsc where he mocks #GamerGate with an “Ethics in…” line.
Some people were uncomfortable that the game was directly diving into an ongoing controversy involving real corruption, illegal activity from various media publications, and misconduct from various journalists.
The fact that these same sites caught in illicit acts would then turn around and use a false narrative about #GamerGate being about a harassment campaign has only ignited the flames further, turning it into topic most neutrals, developers and gamers try to avoid due to how inflammatory things can become surrounding the topic.
Now some might see this as kowtowing to censorship — in which case I think that if the developers feel as if the line is an accurate representation of Minsc then they should keep the line in. If it was just used to create controversy then it really doesn’t serve a purpose. Across the web, many Baldur’s Gate fans expressed that the “Ethics” line didn’t seem in-character for Minsc. Oster states that they agree that it was out-of-character for the lovable brute, stating…
“Minsc has a line which generated controversy. Looking back on the line, we agree with the feedback from our community, it has nothing to do with his character and we will be removing the line.“
Some of the users were quite vocal about not wanting the line removed, as they would prefer adding more content and not removing it, with Kilivitz writing…
“I also personally disagree with removing Minsc’s line. I can see why they’re doing it and I don’t judge them for it, but it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I think that’s ultimately just appeasing a minor crowd who most certainly hasn’t earned that kind of consideration. To be honest, it almost feels like rewarding them for bullying the company in the first place.”
They could have left in it if they wanted, but the combination of the line with the poor characterization of Mizhena, and what some fans describe as third-wave feminism/Cultural Marxist talking points culminated in an experience that fans and general gamers alike felt as if it took them out of the immersion of playing Baldur’s Gate.
Some of those other talking points were pointed out by iasson who stated…
“I appreciate your decision to expand Mizhena and i personally think it is one of the major requirements of SoD.
– Captain Corwin, tweak the dialog slightly so it doesn’t imply mansplaining her.
– Refugees dialog, add another dialog option that isn’t biased towards them
Restore Safana to her teasing nature”
Gamers were not really pleased with what they perceive as “Social Justice Warrior” themes being riddled throughout the Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear expansion. Some of these themes are further explained in a YouTube video by Liana Kerzner.
Oster at least appears to be taking in some of these criticisms as opposed to just perpetuating the rising flames of discontent with their own audience by saying that all the fuss was just kicked up by #GamerGate and Kotaku in Action. He doesn’t address all the forum bans, Steam bans and the general antagonistic tone that Beamdog took with its own fans, the Baldur’s Gate fans and the gaming community at large. I assume they hope it’s all water under the bridge?
Other websites like Crave Online took the opportunity to try to turn this scenario into another “#GamerGate is transphobic/racist/misogynists” discussion, which didn’t really help the situation at all, and instead it only exacerbated things and muddied the discussion with more of the very vitriolic political talking points many fans wanted to get away from.
At the very least, instead of continuing to attack fans like some of the individuals at Doublefine or Riot Games, Beamdog decided to cut their losses and at least listen to some of the feedback. We’ll see how they handle things after they release the update for Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear.
Thanks for the news tip Monroe.
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