May 24, 2016

Authenticity or diversity? Beamdog, Baldur's Gate and the trans character controversy

Alex MazeyRebel Blogger

In 1998, Interplay Entertainment published Baldur's Gate, a video game that was a huge commercial and cultural success. The game took place in the high fantasy world of Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms, a popular Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting.

The game contained all of the familiar tropes of a tabletop role-playing game. Whilst it offered some formal guidelines, players were free to choose their character’s race, occupation and moral outlook – among other forms of characterization.

Most importantly, players were able to progress through the story by making their own decisions, with Baldur's Gate offering a considerable selection of unique narrative options.

As a thoughtful and ambitious video game, Baldur's Gate would later become a blueprint for future role-playing games, influencing generations of writers and developers working in the industry.

In 2012, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition was released by Canadian video game developer and publisher, Beamdog. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is essentially a remake of the 1998 version of Baldur's Gate, with a few added features.

According to their site, “Beamdog loves taking classic video games and updating them for modern gamers.” These developments have allowed players, “to experience the epic adventures on PC and Mac,” whilst enjoying a “host of new features.”

This year, Beamdog released Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, sparking controversy with “the first new game in the Baldur’s Gate series in over a decade.”

The game features both the inclusion of a transgender character, and a direct reference to the #Gamergate controversy – a movement concerned with ethics in video game journalism.

From what I can discern, most players aren’t bothered by the inclusion of a transgender character, but that it was shoehorned in to fit a politically correct worldview.

The character is poorly written, one-dimensional, and the product of what some critics are calling LGBT tokenism.

This transgender character was created by writer and developer Amber Scott. Last year, in a Beamdog forum post, Scott wrote the following

“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 up 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.”

In response to the controversy surrounding Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, a Steam user wrote a post called ‘To Amber Scott from a trans woman.’ This post lambasted Scott for her blatant tokenism, writing:

“Thank you so much from a trans gamer for painting a target on our backs once again so you can virtue signal how progressive you are.”

The post later accused Scott of “[dancing] off to the warm glow of praise from [her own] ideological peers.”

This was met with additional posts on the Beamdog forums, from other players identifying as transgender. One post called the new transgender character “a cheap, lazy, 'safe' character who is included for the sole purpose of having a transgender character in the game.”

Another user wrote: “I hate being used as a political football.”

Unfortunately, Amber Scott made it quite clear that she doesn’t care what people think about her characterisation. For her, diversity is more important than authenticity. What’s more worrying is that Amber Scott obviously believes the inclusion of her "token" characters help make video games far more "reflective of the real world."

This attitude perfectly encapsulates the ideology of the regressive left, where supposedly "forward thinking" individuals demonstrate their ignorance of the minority they’re trying to represent.       

In an email written to address the controversy, Beamdog stated:

“In retrospect, it would have been better served if we had introduced a transgender character with more development.” Additionally, in regards to the character’s comment about the Gamergate controversy, Beamdog said it “has nothing to do with [the] character and we will be removing the line.”

This controversy highlights an ongoing ideological battle concerning the covert politicization of video games.

Unfortunately, Beamdog’s statement has done very little to patch things up with the gaming community, with Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear receiving harsh criticism from its consumer reviews.

For a company who have worked hard to ensure the conservation of video games, this whole ordeal is a real shame.

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commented 2016-05-24 18:11:20 -0400
I don’t do computer games, but if I did, I would no longer purchase this product, in protest to their political correctness.
commented 2016-05-24 17:12:14 -0400
“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.”

The hallmark of a hack writer.