Tracer, Baldur’s Gate and Creator Freedom in Video Games

Tracer, a character from upcoming game Overwatch. The pose on the left was criticised by some to be bland and others to be overly sexualised. The one on the right is the new pose.
Tracer, a character from upcoming game Overwatch. The pose on the left was criticised by some to be bland and others to be overly sexualised. The one on the right is the new pose.

In the past weeks, we have encountered two prominent news pieces in the gaming industry: the condemnation of a pose in the Blizzard game, Overwatch and attacks on the developers of the new Baldur’s Gate over the inclusion of a transgender character and a reference to Gamergate. While both topics have settled down, with the new pose being better than the old one and condemnation of Baldur’s Gate being all but forgotten, it is still worth examining a common trend among both cases – that of creator freedom and attempts to restrict it.

While these cases have been construed as the typical left-wing PC police VS the reasonable gamer, the Baldur’s Gate issue has actually revealed how the latter may be conflating issues to become as bad as their enemy. Many players have accused the Baldur’s Gate developers of throwing their lot in with the Social Justice left by including a transgender character in their video game and including a reference to Gamergate in a line of dialogue in the game. Many of the same people who have been so vehemently opposed to censorship have jumped on the other bandwagon to try pressure the developers into removing the character and reference.

The Overwatch issue eventually sorted itself out, as Blizzard was able to appease the original criticism (that had been blown out of proportion by feminists and counter-feminists alike) while making an even better pose. What this event highlighted was partly the fact that readers and commentators may over react but mostly that we should trust developers, especially with a track record as solid as Blizzard’s, to utilise their freedom to rectify mistakes and create appealing solutions.

The most concerning issue is that of Baldur’s Gate. Those criticising the inclusion of a Trans character and a jibe at Gamergate have acted as if the content is an attack on their personal freedom. The former being a minor side-character and the jibe being so minor it shouldn’t even warrant a mention. People have a right to not like certain characters or content. It is the nature of gaming, especially games as expansive as Baldur’s Gate, that certain content will irritate us. Typically, we get over it, ignore it or boycott the game. We don’t try to force the developers to change it unless it is genuinely game-breaking content.

What haters of Mizhena, the Trans character, seem to be doing is imposing their dislikes of a particular piece of content on the developers and other players. This is the mark of an immature individual that believes their preferences should be universally applied.

Ed Greenwood, creator of Forgotten Realms novels and many Dungeons and Dragons games commented:

“If it’s not for you, that’s fine. I hate wearing certain shades of yellow. But I don’t scream and yell at someone I see wearing those shades of yellow, and call them names, and threaten things. My right to dislike yellow applies to me; it doesn’t extend to others.”

He is exactly right. Some may dislike the inclusion of Mizhena within the game. This may be due to religious convictions, a feeling that the character is misplaced, badly written or that the person is genuinely transphobic. Many have cited that their concern with Mizhena is that she is a bland character, but this would be a petty reason for such vitriolic attacks – as the vast majority of characters in all games, much less Baldur’s Gate, are bland and possessing of almost no character at all. What I believe is that many of these critics’ true problem has been that they have falsely conflated transgenderism with the social justice left.

For this reason, it is important to reiterate that our problem has never been with transgenderism – and if yours have been, then you are not on our side. Our sole issue has been censorship and attacks on freedom. We oppose the likes of Sarkeesian and the PC police because they represent a real attack on creator freedom and free expression in video games and society.

We oppose censorship and attacks on developers because we want developers to feel safe enough to create what they want. The market decides after the creation if there is any merit to it. What the attacks on the Baldur’s Gate’s developers represents is that the anti-Social Justice movement may be just as controlling as their opposition.

Transgenderism should not be confused with the social justice left. Many people do feel safer and better identifying as different genders. And even if they did not, it is not our place to stop them or coerce them. In this manner, we shouldn’t have kneejerk reactions against Trans characters in video games just because it so happens that the Social justice left promotes many of their issues.

Our enemy is censorship and attacks on our and developer freedom. Art and the freedom to create it however we want is sacred. In this way, the PC police and those criticising Mizhena are one and the same – immature individuals who believe that if the world doesn’t develop to reflect their preferences, they must throw a tantrum.