One week after a Tabletop Simulator user posted a detailed history of allegedly homophobic and transphobic moderation within the digital game’s social spaces, developer Berserk Games released a formal apology outlining its plans to rectify the situation. Global chat has been removed “for good”, according to a statement, and $10,000 will be donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
The statement, posted to the Tabletop Simulator Twitter account on January 14th, begins with an apology both to its broader community as well as the LGBTQ+ members within it. Berserk Games says the global chat feature was meant to bring tabletop players together in a safe and inclusive manner but has “obviously fallen short of that standard”, prompting the permanent removal.
The developer temporarily iced Tabletop Simulator’s global chat on Jan 9th, ostensibly as a means of addressing the moderation issues brought to light by one user’s documentation of her own experience. A still publicly-available document shows several instances of moderators inside the game and the official TTS Discord server claiming any discussion of one’s gender or sexual identity falls under the prohibited categories of “sex, sexuality and politics”, as outlined in the official chat rules.
“All we ask is that you chat about boardgames [sic], rather than touchy subjects not relevant to what tabletop simulator is about,” a moderator named CHRY said in the Discord server. “Some topics just don't belong in the context, much like you probably wouldn't be received well bringing up your sexual preferences in a knitting club or in the middle of math class.”
Berserk Games’ latest statement goes on to say the company did not immediately act because the issue “needed to be discussed with careful and intentional consideration”. Berserk responded the day after the user went public with her story to explain that the moderation team misunderstood her actions as an attempt to deliberately trigger a ban. The company posted the following day with a more detailed explanation and announcement that global chat would be temporarily removed.
This action precipitated review bombing - coordinated reviews by a large group with the goal of manipulating the overall score - on Tabletop Simulator’s Steam page. While plenty swore off the video game over the actions of the moderation team, just as many came to the defense of Berserk for its perceived actions against “sjws” and “political correctness in games”. A significant number of these reviews contained slurs and bigoted language alongside a positive rating for the game.
Berserk Games plans to donate $10,000 to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a US-based non-profit organisation that focuses primarily on advocating legal policy regarding employment discrimination, access to healthcare and hate crime awareness. It also plans to feature games and mods created by LGBTQ+ members of the community in a series of showcases on the official website.
The company further states that it is reforming its moderation policies, though the statement did not provide any details on what that process might look like or what timeline the team has put forward. What’s also unclear is whether the moderators responsible for some of the more callous applications of the chat rules are still involved with the community. One Discord moderator was apparently removed after saying they wished some of the donated money would instead go to a “moderator relief fund”. Dicebreaker has reached out to Berserk Games for more information.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Steam reviews for Tabletop Simulator have shifted as many of the people who interpreted Berserk Games’ inaction as tacit support of transphobia and homophobia under the guise of a politics-free zone instead insult the company for “bending the knee” to its marginalised members. Elsewhere, the responses to this announcement paint a picture of disillusioned players beginning to look elsewhere to play virtual tabletop games.