Following a controversy over transphobic chat moderation that led to competing review bomb campaigns on Steam, Tabletop Simulator developer Berserk Games has announced that it is closing the game's global chat channel for good. The studio has also donated $10,000 to the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group that works “to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people.”
The trouble began when a Tabletop Simulator user named Xoe was repeatedly kicked from global chat, and eventually temporarily banned, for sharing the fact that she's gay. Similar proclamations of straight sexuality did not trigger kicks, and efforts to clarify the matter failed. When the situation became public knowledge, both negative a positive user reviews—many containing actual homophobic and transphobic sentiments—spiked on Steam. Berserk Games eventually disabled global chat while it worked to improve its moderation policies, but has now decided to eliminate it entirely.
“We apologize for hurting the Tabletop Simulator community especially those from the LGBTQ+ community,” Berserk Games said in a message posted to Twitter. “With global chat, we only ever intended to create an open platform to discuss the hobby we all love, however, we have obviously fallen short of that standard and so we have decided to officially take global chat down for good.
“Over the past week, we have spent a lot of time evaluating our company-wide practices. We understand that our silence may have been perceived as inaction, however, we realize the gravity of this situation and believe that it needed to be discussed and addressed with careful and intentional consideration.”
pic.twitter.com/xONGP3Ld68January 14, 2022
Along with the donation to the National Center for Transgender Equality, Berserk Games also committed to a series of showcases of TTS content created by members of the LGBTQ+ community. It's also continuing to overhaul its moderation policies “to ensure that everyone has an inclusive place to enjoy our great hobby of tabletop gaming.”
“We promise that these actions are just the first step in our renewed commitment to creating a culture that values inclusivity in board gaming and the world,” Berserk wrote. “We appreciate all of the feedback and suggestions from the wonderful TTS community and hope, with hard work, to regain the trust and respect of the Tabletop Simulator family.”
Some on Twitter and Reddit have praised the response, while others view it as either insincere or pandering; a few have called on Berserk to let owners refund the game (presumably without restriction) to demonstrate their remorse. Xoe, whose experiences sparked the uproar, said on Twitter that Berserk's statement is “undoubtedly good” if it's true, but that she needs to “see receipts to believe them.”
“I've divested myself of TTS entirely, and I don't know when I'll feel emotionally safe to use it, even for playtesting others' prototypes. I'm sorry, that feels selfish, but this culmination of events leaves me unable to engage with a mind for design, or a spirit for fun,” she wrote. “I can't decide for you if you can use TTS again. I just ask that you consider, 'Do I want closure so I know the community is being properly respected and honored, or is it so I don't have to laboriously adopt new infrastructure without such harmful patterns?'”
LGBTQ+ Tabletop Simulator creators who'd like to be featured in Berserk's upcoming showcases can submit their work here.