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Beamdog CEO defends employee targeted by harassment

"Beamdog does not condone this behavior... it will not have the desired effect as we stand behind all our developers 100%"

Nintendo has drawn plenty of criticism lately for ignoring a months-long harassment campaign against one of its employees and then firing the woman, citing an unrelated breach of company policy. More recently, a woman who works for Beamdog has been subjected to similar online abuse, but that company is taking a decidedly different approach to addressing the problem.

In a post on the company's forums today, Beamdog CEO Trent Oster responded to complaints about Siege of Dragonspear, its recently released expansion pack for Baldur's Gate. The game has drawn harsh user reviews on multiple sites for an assortment of problems, from UI bugs to broken multiplayer. However, some of the harshest reviews have been more concerned with the inclusion of a transgender supporting character and a line of dialog from a different character alluding to GamerGate, saying "Really, it's all about ethics in heroic adventuring."

Oster acknowledged issues with both points. He agreed with those who complained that the transgender character could have been better developed, and said the team will be "improving" her in an upcoming patch. As for the jab at GamerGate, Oster conceded it was gratuitous, saying, "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."

While those actions acknowledge some validity to the complaints, Oster drew the line at threats and harassment, particularly those aimed at specific members of the team. (Many of those upset with the presence of a trans character in the game have directed their vitriol at Beamdog writer Amber Scott.)

"I just want to make it crystal clear that Beamdog does not condone this behavior, and moreover that it will not have the desired effect as we stand behind all our developers 100%," Oster said. "We created the game as a group, and moving forward we'll work on the game's issues as a group, which I believe is exactly as it should be."

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Latest comments (14)

Alan Blighe Research Associate 4 years ago
Fair play to them for standing by their staff so publicly. I'm not sure how many companies, in any industry, would do that.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
Not to mention the parts where Trent is specifically asking people to leave good reviews (archived), and a lot of the negative reviews on the steam page are being removed.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 7th April 2016 1:26pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Whilst I can't speak about removal of negative reviews, requesting positive reviews is generally seen as allowable, depending upon phrasing. This:
If you are playing the game and having a good time, please consider posting a positive review to balance out the loud minority which is currently painting a dark picture for new players.
I see no problem with, and many devs/pubs say similar things. Basic customer feedback is people who have a bad experience complain more than people who have a good experience, sadly. It's good practise to request positive feedback, regardless of industry/product.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 7th April 2016 2:06pm

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Show all comments (14)
James Berg Games User Researcher 4 years ago
Mikko, everything is social commentary. Toeing the line and avoiding all controversial topics is political commentary all on it's own. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but it does have an impact.

I'm glad to see the changes Beamdog is making. The Minsc line in particular, that's just goading people without contributing to the game, imo. Also, Minsc is one of my favourite characters ever, so my preference is to keep his references in-world :)
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Bob Johnson Studying graphics design, Northern Arizona University4 years ago
I also heard this CEO is for world peace, pursuit of happiness, and freedom while he is against the mistreatment of animals. In addition he is for clean drinking water and clean air to breathe. But detests pollution and is against bullying.

That's just for starters.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bob Johnson on 7th April 2016 8:12pm

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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
Mikko, everything is social commentary. Toeing the line and avoiding all controversial topics is political commentary all on it's own. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but it does have an impact.
It matters when the political themes the game is trying to push are completely unrealistic or inappropriate for a medieval fantasy world.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
@Andrew Watson - That really rather depends on whose fantasy it is.

The Forgotten Realms setting, of which Baldur's Gate is a part, is not historical medieval Europe and very explicitly never has been - it's High Magic, post-feudal and at least version of the source material explicitly states that the only place you'll find gender discrimination is among the Dark Elves of Menzoberranzan.

So they wanted to put a trans character in. Big whoop. Trans people have been around as long as the rest of the human race has - why shouldn't they be included? Why does every developer who wants to tell a story other than "Man likes boobs. Man sees boobs. Man happy" have to sit down, shut up and cater to those who just want to exclude others from the hobby (and the industry) on pain of screeching dogpiles and personal threats?

If you're not a straight white guy, you don't get to live in the straight white guy world. You see things, feel things and experience things every single day that aren't a part of that world and while they may seem like politics to you, to others they are just plain normal daily experience. So you're going to get gay characters and women characters and characters of colour and trans characters, because for some people they exist.

Ed Greenwood, the author of the setting, had this to say about the whole thing:

"I am saddened by what I hear of the current kerfluffle raging about Siege of Dragonspear and the trans character Amber Scott designed and included in it.

"Folks, the Realms have ALWAYS had characters (mortals and deities) who crossdressed, changed gender (and not just to sneak past guards in an adventure, by way of shapeshifting magic or illusions), were actively bisexual, and openly gay. How underscored this was by TSR and later Wizards varied over time, and was always softpedaled, because D&D wasn't a sex game, and we generally don't rub the reader's nose in sex unless there's a good in-story reason for it.

"But even deities have changed gender, sometimes for good, and the servants of deities (Elminster, in ELMINSTER: THE MAKING OF A MAGE) have sometimes been forced by the deity to "spend time as the other" to learn what life is like.
So it has always been there, and is an integral part of the Realms. With that said, I've never met a gamer yet who doesn't tinker with every adventure to "make it their own" at their own gaming table, so if trans, LGBT, or sexual matters at all don't suit your tastes and needs in your gaming sessions, leave it out or change it.

"But D&D has half-orcs, and half-dragons, and half-elves, and has magic items that specifically change gender, right there in the rules. Surely, if you can handle the basic notion of cross-SPECIES sex, having a full variety of gender roles should be something that doesn't blow your mind. If it's not for you, that's fine. I hate wearing certain shades of yellow. But I don't scream and yell at someone I see wearing those shades of yellow, and call them names, and threaten things. My right to dislike yellow applies to me; it doesn't extend to others. Because somehow, through an incredible oversight on the part of the universe that still hasn't been rectified, no one made me a god. "

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 8th April 2016 2:22am

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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
@Bonnie:
You answer your own question.
So they wanted to put a trans character in. Big whoop. Trans people have been around as long as the rest of the human race has - why shouldn't they be included?
Because:
sex-changing magic from dieties
and
magic items that specifically change gender
implies that the world they live in has a completely different stance on the concept of changing your gender. Heck, magic completely eliminates any "transitioning" period, letting characters change into whatever they want (presumably) immediately. I'd also assume that the magic will do a much better job of making people completely look like what they want to as well (compared to modern HRT, which uh... isn't perfect), eliminating one of the sources of discrimination that real-world trans people face. This gender-changing magic alone would make their concepts of gender vastly different from our own, so it's impossible to say that the two are the same.

People dislike the trans character in this game because they immediately shout it at you as soon as you meet them. It feels extremely forced and unnatural.

P.S. nice job resorting to the "you're just a cis white male so that invalidates everything you say" argument already. :)
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Jason Walter Software Development Manager 4 years ago
"I read that Dragon's Age had a trans character and no one cared. Why? Because it wasn't politicized."

Are you kidding? GG had a conniption about DAI. They always have a conniption. And their attitude is "Do what we want, or we will cause so much shit for you".

And you're helping it.

Yes you, CEO of a gaming company. You are helping it. You are making it acceptable for them to do this by your attitude of "They had it coming". Well done. We will have a much better industry now that a group of mysogynists can throw their weight around and demand tits and ass in all games, and god forbid you have anyone that isn't White Straight Man as your antagonist.

Is this what you want? Pandering to a group like that?

And, tbh, having one trans character in a massive game is not pandering when the default is to have no trans characters. If it was fully fleshed it would be "Your ramming it down my throat". Its the same logic that tries to control any efforts at having anything beyond the default Straight White Male.

Exhibit a: Rogue One
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
@Andrew Watson - "P.S. nice job resorting to the "you're just a cis white male so that invalidates everything you say" argument already"

Nice job reading the actual words I wrote rather than substituting from a dialogue you're constructing inside your own head. Using very simple terms, what I said was "Other people have a different "Normal" to you."

Objectification is a literal neurological phenomenon. Most people, when scanned, use the brain's whole recognition and analysis process when dealing with white men. Depending on the society they live in, they may also use that for people of their own race and/or gender, but that is by no means universal. Historically, British colonialism and these days, American and European media exports did a good job of representing us as "important" to everyone's brains.

For others, the brain just takes a short cut. It looks up their "properties" in the same way it does when recognizing a cup, or a hammer or any other tool, and what it dredges up is usually the most common mythology of that group of people in your environment. So a police officer becomes more likely to see a big dangerous man instead of a black child with a toy. A woman saying "Actually, I have to go now" gets interpreted as encouraging sexual contact. And guys reading posts by women just assume what they wrote rather than actually reading it.

UNLESS... (Yes, there's an unless). They found that if groups are sufficiently represented in someone's life - by working and socializing with them, by seeing them represented on TV, in films, in newspapers, and yes in games, their brain starts dealing with these people in the same way as it does with you.

So people who associate and interact with a diverse range of people are just going to see a lot of different elements in their worlds than you do.

Another mechanic worth noting is that if there's a group of 50% men and 50% women and the women talk 25% of the time, they're seen as monopolizing the conversation. Ditto for the same split of white and black men. It just looks like more because you're not used to it. Same goes for games with elements of diversity. You're not used to seeing other people represented so it looks like it's everywhere and you're being shut out.

You're not; you're just being asked to give back some of the space you shoved other people out of in the first place.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 8th April 2016 4:32pm

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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 4 years ago
@Bonnie

I don't really see how any of this is relevant to my argument. Yes, humans are good at pattern recognition and we love to stereotype and categorize things because it's an easy way to make assumptions about people we've never met. I don't disagree with this. But it has nothing to do with my earlier post(s).

Also you're going on about "cis white male privilege" stuff again which is totally irrelevant.
Most people, when scanned, use the brain's whole recognition and analysis process when dealing with white men.
[citation needed]

@Jason
Are you kidding? GG had a conniption about DAI.
IIRC their general opinion seemed to stem from other hamfisted political messages instead of "they had a trans character"
We will have a much better industry now that a group of mysogynists can throw their weight around and demand tits and ass in all games, and god forbid you have anyone that isn't White Straight Man as your antagonist.

Is this what you want? Pandering to a group like that?
I've said it before and I'll say it again; GG is just a hashtag that anyone can join in on. There is no leader, there is no council or organizers or any of that. The closest thing they have to an "official meeting area" is on 8chan and /r/KotakuInAction, both of which are completely public to browse. And I'm sure you'll find that their opinions are far more different than your perceived notion that all of GG is twitter trolls.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 8th April 2016 5:55pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
@Mikko Heikkila - What valid reasons? Because let's face it, it was never about "ethics in games journalism" and I don't really view "Stopping women and minorities getting slightly fairer representation in games and the games industry" is as valid as you think it is.
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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
Closing this thread. No need to rehash the same old GG arguments repeatedly.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
Sorry James, must have hit return as you closed the thread.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 8th April 2016 6:29pm

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