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Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Expansion Earns Ire of Gamers Angry at “SJW Issues” and Trans Inclusion

baldur's gate siege of dragonspear

On March 31st, Beamdog released an expansion to the popular Baldur’s Gate II game, titled Siege of Dragonspear. As of right now, a little less than a week after its release, the aggregated reviews stand at “Mixed” on Steam, 2.5 stars on GOG.com, and 3.7 on Metacritic. As Crave points out, much of the criticism comes down on one conversation in the game, where the player character meets a transgender character, Mizhena, a cleric, who comes out in a few lines of dialogue. These few lines were enough to earn the ire of plenty of gamers, who cried out in an angry furor over the “social justice issues” being shoehorned into their video game. Their complaint is that the inclusion of this character breaks immersion somehow, that her existence and this conversation are enough to ruin the rest of the game for them. At least, that’s what it seems like, judging by the staggering amount of negative reviews that have come out complaining about “social issues” and “SJW agendas.”

One gamer took to YouTube, creating a video (that I am not linking here for its gratuitous use of a slur) that shows their character speaking with Mizhena, then murdering her immediately after she comes out to them. What I find incredibly ironic about this is that they say this character and this conversation breaks immersion, yet what happens in this video is something that all trans people risk when they come out to family, friends, and dates. Lest we forget, trans people are still being murdered with their obvious killers walking free thanks to the trans panic defense. In 2013, it was condemned by the American Bar Association, though California is the only state so far to have officially banned it from use in court. I guess this is a long way of saying, “Wow, someone made a video of them killing a trans character after that character came out to them! How realistic and reflective of the real world.” Sorry, was that too real? I digress.

It should be noted that there are other negative points listed among these reviews, highlighting the game’s poor multiplayer features, graphical glitches, and other actually game-breaking bugs. However, despite the existence of these issues, many reviews circle back upon the same over-picked bone: the existence of a trans character.

The game has also earned the attention and ire of GamerGate due to its inclusion of a single throwaway joke. At one point in the game, one of the characters says, “Actually, it’s about ethics in heroic adventuring.” The game has been bombarded with negative reviews, especially on GOG and Metacritic, the two websites where one is not required to prove they own the game in order to review it. Many of the reviews also make vague handwavy gestures towards “poor writing,” but like I said, there are plenty of reviews that are… much more direct, let’s say.

gog dragonspear review 2 steam dragonspear review 1 gog dragonspear review 1 metacritic dragonspear review 1 gog dragonspear review 3 steam dragonspear review 2

These are only five, but you need only spend a little bit of time on any of those sites to catch the rest of the reviews.

What is especially frustrating about all of this is that they’re calling the inclusion of a trans character a part of a larger “agenda,” as if telling people that we exist is a part of some major conspiracy to… change… video games? In a lot of ways, it’s stunning to see arguments on the internet take off in defense of rape and sexual assault because “it’s historically accurate,” yet inclusion of gender diverse identities (which have existed since the dawn of freakintime) are somehow not. Moreover, the argument that this is a fantasy universe, the Baldur’s Gate universe, implies that just because it hasn’t been mentioned before means it can’t ever be mentioned going forward.

Friend: it’s a video game. This is a fantasy world, as many people have so astutely pointed out, and it’s a world where anything can happen, so why is it so hard to accept that a character is trans? Why is it that the moment a trans character is included, it’s suddenly a “social justice issue” and there’s an “agenda” at play? People will readily accept literally anything else in their video games, but the moment sexuality or gender are discussed, it’s “woah there pal, let’s not be too hasty, now.”

I want to point out, though, that there is a fair legitimate criticism in a cis person writing a trans character’s coming out story. Ideally a trans writer would be the one to write a coming out story like that. That being said, it isn’t clear whether they may have actually consulted with a trans person about how this was written. This speaks to a larger problem, which is trans representation in video game development. Seven of the top ten results on Google for “transgender game developer” are news stories about Rachel Bryk, the 23-year-old trans game developer who committed suicide last April. If this is what one can expect to see as a young person wondering about trans game developers, then what does that say about the industry and those who patronize it? I guess what I’m saying is: given how bad things are, can you really blame trans people from staying away from video game development like it’s a greasy dumpster fire?

What happened here with everyone’s response to Dragonspear is thoroughly disheartening to trans people for a lot of different reasons. It sucks that a video containing a pretty nasty slur is making the rounds on news websites. It sucks that these reviews, each of them a voice thoroughly attempting to refute the existence of a trans character in a fantasy game, are voices attached to very real people who, if they can’t accept a trans character in a game, they highly likely don’t accept them in real life.

I have to wonder: what is it going to take to finally have people accept diverse characters? One hopes that the breaking point of acceptance happens very, very soon.

(featured image via YouTube)

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