Beamdog President pleads with players to leave positive reviews for Baldur's Gate expansion amid "social justice" controversy
Trent Oster, President of game studio Beamdog, has taken to the company forums to ask players of Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear a "favour", to leave positive reviews to try and cancel out the negative feedback left on Steam, GOG and Metacritic. He hopes fans of the expansion for the enhanced edition of the original Baldur's Gate will help to "balance out the loud minority which is currently painting a dark picture for new players", who he claims are giving the expansion bad scores as the result of "having a transgendered cleric and a joke line by Minsc [which] has greatly offended the sensibilities of some people."
Is that the real reason for the game's poor user reviews though? They say there's two sides to every story, and taking a closer look at this negative feedback paints a different picture.
While there certainly are cases of users of the aforementioned digital distribution platforms posting reviews purely out of malice, especially on Metacritic it seems, the majority of critical feedback appears to be concerned with a number of bugs in the game, broken multiplayer, issues with the UI and visuals, poor writing, and the game's linearity, among other things.
When it comes to the issues specificially mentioned by Oster, players seem to have a lot more valid criticisms than he proposes. Many explicitly explain that their issue is not with having a transgender character, but with the ham-fisted approach with which they are introduced to the game, and the stereotypical way in which they and other characters are depicted.
Others point out that the purpose of playing a game in a medieval fantasy setting is to escape the realities of the modern world, not be beaten over the head by gender politics and 4th wall breaking jokes.
Accusations of unnecessarily shoe-horning in political ideologies aren't really helped when the game's writer, Amber Scott, can herself can be quoted as saying:
"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 an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future."
In addition, some recurring characters from Baldur's Gate have had their personalities altered to appear less "sexist", or, as Scott puts it in an interview with Kotaku, have been given "a way better personality upgrade", going on to add, "...if people don’t like that, then too bad". It's not hard to see why this would draw considerable ire from fans of the original game.
The whole situation raises questions about Beamdog. Even if there is an active campaign to try and tarnish Siege of Dragonspear's review scores, is it really appropriate for a developer or publisher to plead with fans to actively go out and leave positive reviews for their games? Do they have the right to so freely alter established characters from a much loved game to fit with their own social ideologies? And are the company just trying to capitalize on the controversy by asking gamers to overlook the game's legitimate criticisms and give positive feedback under the guise of trying to balance things out?
What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you have sympathy with Beamdog? Or do you think the criticisms aimed against Siege of Dragonspear and the company's reaction to it are fair? Let us know your views in the comments below.