The popular PC game Baldur's Gate has received a slew of negative reviews for it's new expansion 'Siege of Dragonspear', with gamers giving the expansion the lowest possible reviews they can, with the inclusion of a transgender character their main protest.
A cleric in the game, Mizhena, reveals through one of the possible dialogue trees that she is transgender. The option opens up when you ask her about her name, at which she says 'I created the name myself several years ago. My birth name proved unsuitable' When asking her what was wrong with her old name she goes on to add, 'When I was born, my parents thought me a boy and raised me as such. In time, we all came to understand I was truly a woman. I created my new name from syllables of different languages. All have special meaning to me, it is the truest reflection of who I am.'
The interaction lasts only thirty seconds and does not expand from there to talk about transgender issues in any way, but fans of the game are criticising the inclusion of a transgender character as somehow sullying the reputation of the game and causing irreparable damage to both the series and the game studio itself.
One gamer uploaded a video to Youtube that shows them killing Mizhena after she reveals that she is transgender entitled 'Tranny Abuse'. The uploader wrote 'It's refreshing to see that nearly everyone, even a lot of neutral folks, consider this a bastardisation of a classic game world. Beamdog dug themselves a hole that their company will never recover from now. Any potential Baldur's Gate 3 they develop now will fail due to people knowing how little they care for the license.'
Despite a number of negative reviews siting game bugs and unsatisfactory additions as being issues, the majority of negative reviews seem to revolve around the issue of Mizhena being trans, the game's writing and pushing a 'social justice agenda' on the players.
The game's writer, Amber Scott, responded to the criticisms saying 'As I've said before,and won't say much more on this subject other than to get my perspective out there: I'm the writer and creator. I get to make decisions about who I write about and why. I don't like writing about straight/white/cis people all the time. It's not reflective of the real world, it sets us s/w/c/ as the 'normal' baseline from which 'other' characters must be added, and it's boring'.
'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 a SWJ 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.'
The negative reviews have resulted in the founder of Beamdog, Trent Oster, to take to social media to try and encourage the fans of the series to leave positive reviews in response to the overwhelming hate, even going so far as to point out that the negative reviews are stemming from the inclusion of a trans character.
'I usually spend most of my time lurking here, but I'd like to ask a favour. It appears that having a transgendered cleric and a joke line by Minsc has greatly offended the sensibilities of some people.' He wrote on the Baldur's Gate forum. 'This has spurred these people into action, causing them to decide that this is the worst game of all time and give it zero reviews on Steam, GoG and Metacritic. Now, I'd like to ask for that favour. 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.'
The joke line he referred to is a small dig one of the characters makes at the expense of GamerGate. A character called Minsc makes the comment about 'ethics in heroic adventuring', mocking the GamerGate criticisms about ethics in journalism.
The amount of negative reviews and the kind of content is shocking, but not surprising as this is not the first time that the gaming community has been negative towards representation and equality.