Here at Ars, we’ve repeatedly noted that Tabletop Simulator is one of the best ways to play virtual versions of physical games across long distances. But developer Berserk Games is now facing controversy over its chat-moderation policies and alleged treatment of LGBTQ discussion. In response, the developer has now taken down the game’s global chat feature and announced a “renewed commitment to creating a culture that values inclusivity in board gaming and the world.”
Keep it on topic?
The recent controversy began when a player going by the handle Xoe posted an extensive Google Doc documenting what she called “the suppression of gay/trans identities” in Tabletop Simulator‘s global chat. The chat logs cited in that doc include numerous instances of temporary bans issued right after Xoe discussed her personal sexual or gender identity in the chat.
In those cases, moderators cited posted rules that “there is an expectation that discussion will be family friendly and centered around Tabletop Simulator, tabletop games, and chatting with other players.” Moderators specifically told Xoe that “discussing sexuality has no place in global chat” and that “Tabletop Simulator is about playing tabletop games, not a place to discuss sexuality, fetishes, politics [emphasis added]. Keep that to your private lobbies or public chats where these things are the topic at hand.”
When pressed on why discussion of personal sexuality or gender identity fit into those categories, a moderator told Xoe that the global chat is meant primarily for players looking for a group to play with and is not intended for “bickering about differing views… Suggesting we ban people for their identity is misconstruing and hyperbolizing this policy. All we ask is that you chat about boardgames, rather than touchy subjects not relevant to what Tabletop Simulator is about.”
Writing in the Google Doc, though, Xoe said that discussing personal sexual and gender identity is necessary for some when looking for a group of supportive players to join in a game. Banning that kind of talk makes some players feel left out, Xoe wrote:
The suppression of identity tells those people it’s not safe to be themselves in those spaces… This sets a precedent that you are not welcome here, that you can be here as long as you leave your marginalized identity at the door. When other people are allowed to speak about their hetero cis experiences but gay and trans ones are silenced, you are using your platform to say only hetero and cis people are embraced here.
How about we just don’t chat at all?
Berserk Games hasn’t been ignoring the issues Xoe brought up. Early last week, the company announced it had “decided to take down global chat as we reassess our moderation process, as clearly we have some shortcomings.” The company apologized for the bans highlighted above and stressed that it “has not and does…