Beamdog President pleads with players to leave positive reviews for Baldur's Gate expansion amid "social justice" controversy

Beamdog's President Trent Oster asks players on the company's forum to leave positive reviews for Badlur's Gate: Dragonspear on GOG, Steam and Metacritic.

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.

Featured Contributor

Published Apr. 4th 2016
  • Danatz
    Just want to state for the record that my negative review had a lot with SJW shit spewing.
  • Ty Arthur
    Featured Contributor
    Just want to state for the record that my negative review had nothing to do with the transgender character - there were plenty of legitimate reasons to be disappointed with Siege Of Dragonspear and the Enhanced Edition in general. On the other side, I'm not sure why people are up in arms about a trans character. This is not even remotely a first for Forgotten Realms. Elminster - the most iconic character in the entire campaign setting - has switched genders several times, and the first Baldur's Gate included the "girdle of gender bending" as an item. Take into account bizarre sexual pairings like half-orcs, half-elves, etc. and I'm not sure why people are hung up on this.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Well, from what I've read, the trans community is pretty up in arms about it too. Their main concern is that the devs are adding a Trans character as an accessory, a means to forward their own agenda, and get "PC points". It's really unfair to them since (as the dev literally admitted) they're adding it for the sake of adding it.

    Tack on the GamerGate parody, the god awful writing for the character that borders on simply saying "I'm trans, don't hate" with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and painting a target on Trans persons' backs... Yeah... It's not good. You're just asking for literally everyone to hate your product, and you in the process (not literally you; the devs).
  • Mathenaut
    It's funny. They're desperate to scapegoat Gamergate with this, though the KiA threads didn't crop up until almost two days after. Not to say that a number of us didn't share our .02, but the call didn't go out to the community at large until the devs pretty much mentioned by name.

    The writing is pretty bad overall. Even the people they are pandering to can't really appreciate it. It's tragic, too.

    Forgotten Realms and BG are full of themes and plots that address issues of justice and prejudice. They are frequent obstacles. They even have a totalitarian man-hating matriarchy - everything the SJ crowd could ask for.

    Beamdog used none of this, however. Like hipsters who really just want the 'cred' of being 'fans', they jumped into this with no sense of the setting or lore and just shoehorned modern-era Social Justice in the laziest, most blatantly virtue-signaling way.

    Even worse, they're shielding themselves from criticism by, literally, begging for certain media celebrities to take up the case for them.

    I guess that's what they get for picking a fight (Minsc of all people? Bastards). They got one.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    There was "trans" situations in the game before, but (as stated in my other comment) it wasn't so... how do I put this... slapped on? But the thing is... there's a difference in tasteful application of inclusion, and doing so for the sake of it (which was clearly done here).

    It's a real mess, and the victims suffer at the hands of their saviors. Capital B.S. Not surprising to me at all that this game alone has delivered a good number of trans gamers to GamerGate's doorstep. The irony is rich.

    Don't worry though. I'm sure we'll get news soon enough that these Trans people who are against this kind of bull aren't "real trans supporters", just like what happened with Emma Watson just a few days ago.
  • Mathenaut
    The trans issue is a deflection. It doesn't help that the writing was sloppy and that the character isn't entirely consistent with lore.

    FR is a world where changing your gender is as simple as a 4/5th level spell, or a low-level magic item. Genderswapping is literally a fad in the aristocracy of certain regions.

    There is alot of potential in exploring gender identity in a world where gender is pretty much arbitrary. Even some prominent heroes have spent time under a curse or wearing a girdle. It's not exactly a rare or radical theme in the context of Forgotten Realms.

    Again, the devs are clueless on this. With no idea how to approach it in the context of the world, yeah, it's going to look stupid.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Oh, there's certainly no denying that it's a deflection. It's just one of the many issues with the expansion at all. It's clear the devs had no idea what they're doing, and they simply wanted the brand. Seems to be a common trend, lately.

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