Developer Tynan Sylvester recently called out PC Gamer for their review of the full version of Rimworld, where they accused him of being “heteronormative” with the character development, and that the inclusion of the transgender character stories left a “bad taste in the mouth”.
On January 8th, 2019 Sylvester reproached PC Gamer for their misinformed take on the game, given that the stories about the trans characters in the Kickstarted game came from community backers, some of whom were actually trans.
This part of the review implies that I, as the developer, was supposed to be writing trans backstories in a more correct way.
But what words can possibly be more correct than the actual words of a trans person? /2
— Tynan Sylvester (@TynanSylvester) January 8, 2019
I am asking @PCGamer to issue a correction to clarify that these words they’re calling “reductive” and “bad taste” were written by players describing their own trans self-perspectives, not by a game writer.@ELahti@SamMGreer
— Tynan Sylvester (@TynanSylvester) January 8, 2019
If you’re unable to read the blocked quote from the image, the section from the PC Gamer review reads…
“There are some peculiar aspects to this approach to character generation, though. Each character gets three traits, things like obsessive, lazy or misogynist. One of the modifiers is “gay” but “straight” isn’t—that’s just the default, which is painfully heteronormative and outdated for a game about the far flung future. Other aspects of queerness are included but in equally reductive ways, like a character’s backstory discussing that they’re transgender, proof of which being their “dressing up in their mother’s clothes as a child”. All of which leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. It feels odd to have some traits sat alongside each other. “Misogyny” next to “ugly”, “hard working” next to “psychopath”. These things are not alike but are placed in the character generator with equal importance.”
After a little backlash, some textual fisticuffs, and one Kotaku In Action thread later, PC Gamer updated the review of Rimworld’s trans character stories to include a line that said that some of the stories were created by Kickstarter backers.
This incredibly tone deaf hot take was so righteously bad in the eyes of the gaming community that it ended up rising up to the top of discussion threads, and bubbling over like vomit from the mouth of a tequila-virgin at a frat party, after taking one too many shots, one too many times.
In fact, various YouTubers began to rip PC Gamer a new one over the ideologically driven jab they took at Sylvester for something that the Kickstarter backers created. Top Hats and Champagne Bar did an overview of the situation for those of you who prefer video news instead of written news.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
Another Kotaku In Action thread was published, this time with far more sinister implications from the subjects included.
Apparently the game journalists didn’t like that Sylvester corrected PC Gamer for their misinformation regarding Rimworld and the inclusion of the trans character stories.
Dia Lacina from Waypoint went on a tirade against Sylvester a day after the original event transpired. On January 9th, 2019 she wrote…
“Using kickstarter backer’s identities as a shield is fucking low. Pulling the “I don’t feel right censoring their experiences” is disgustingly cheap, and lazy, and it means you are a fucking terrible project leader.Guess what. You’re the one responsible for calling the shots. And if you can’t handle taking an editorial pass or you don’t know HOW to take an editorial pass, then you find someone who can and will, or you refund that kickstarter’s cash. This is what being in charge means.
“I’m sorry @TynanSylvester if you feel slighted by a totally solid review by a totally solid reviewer. But this is /your/ mistake. You were the one who personally damaged your project by not thinking how it would be received, by not taking lead on your project’s content. Grow up. And jesus fucking christ — you are supposed to be PAYING PEOPLE to write these stories, YOU PAY THEM. You don’t extract money from marginalized people to write their stories FOR YOU. Learn how the fucking game works or get a new career.
“Here’s the thing — Writers have social responsibilities, and editors have responsibilities to their writers and to the general public. This is why people got upset over a piece for WP **by a trans woman** and why Austin as EIC took responsibility and apologized. That’s the job.
“Sometimes what is true for one person at a point in their life can be harmful for a community — we saw this with Andrea Long Chu’s piece for the NYT. When writers are unable to make that call, an editor has to. And when it’s the wrong call, it’s on them. And it can be hard to make that kind of call. The easiest way is to hire people who understand these issues and have them work with contributors to either kill the pieces or guide them towards where they need to be. Not doing that is risky. Which is why editors who choose to take risks have to learn to accept feedback, and make restorative changes. Tynan hasn’t. He accepted labor from backers without those considerations. Rimworld was dragged previously over these issues. He made the wrong calls, and continues to.
“This isn’t on the backers, this isn’t on the reviewer — This is on the project leader who failed to act responsibly in his duties, and is now acting like a petulant child rather than accepting these failures (quietly or openly acknowledging them and apologizing) and learning. Being an editor is hard. Being a good editor is monumentally hard. It involves technical, social, and managerial expertise, and more. The hours are much longer than anyone else’s, and it’s usually incredibly thankless too. Wins are your writers’, but the failures your own.”
Mike Diver from Gaming Bible, a former writer at Vice, also offered his half-a-cent on the matter via Twitter, taking aim at the gaming community as some sort of pernicious poltergeist hovering over the honest deeds of the pious gaming journalists.
“What’s that? Mad-low follower accounts piling on a journalist for raising a fault with a game, in their opinion, in a review, which is an opinion? Piling on after a precious dev went and called it out, as otherwise they would never have known? Great. Grand. 2019. Fucking hell.
“Because in no way do devs need to actually stand up to criticism in a productive way. Hands up, we could have communicated things better, be human, be civil. Naw. Whistle the pack and turn your back. Pathetic.”
Conveniently enough none of the journalists acknowledged the actual trans folk who used social media to reproach them for speaking on their behalf.
Various Twitter users took the PC Gamer reviewer to task for being, wait for it…. “transphobic”.
Stop being outraged for LGB people. I don’t want no idiots like you guys being outraged for me over something as stupid as saying being hetero isn’t normal. You do LGB and Trans people a disservice by your shitty ass reviews like rimworld. Stop. Just stop.
— Crescent Star (@Crescy_Star) January 9, 2019
It’s not clickbait, it’s merely transphobic.
The trans people in Rimworld simply don’t fit her fetishized view of what trans people should be, so she completely invalidated them.
— Moomba Joomba (@MJoomba) January 9, 2019
I’m a trans woman, the first time I played rimworld I didn’t know ppl had written their own stories into the game until I stumbled into one of the trans characters and it became immediately obvious that it was written by a trans person of their own experience.
— Anna Suehiro (@A_Soft_Rewind) January 8, 2019
This isn’t the first time that game journalists have taken aim at Rimworld. Previously, game journalists took aim at the developer, attacking his game because they felt he wasn’t implementing the gender politics the way they wanted him, too.
A lot of this stems from the fact that Rimworld is completely independently funded through Kickstarter, and it’s one of the best reviewed games on Steam, as reported by DualShockers.
Game journalists trying to muscle the developer into hiring them or their friends as consultants seems to be their go-to method for recourse as a way to make an extra buck and inject their sociopolitical agendas into the game.
Only this time, Tynan Sylvester had no time and no room for the game journalists’ agenda-driven antics because he decided to give the character-story space to the people who actually paying the bills: gamers.
You can pick up a digital copy of Rimworld right now from over on the Steam store.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)