Tabletop Simulator developers under fire for controversy around global chat

The controversy was sparked by a user who was banned from global chat for saying she was gay and trans.

Screengrab via Tabletop Simulator

Berserk Games, the developer behind the long-standing Steam game Tabletop Simulator, has been under fire recently after a trans user who goes by XoeAllred on Twitter brought her experiences to the moderation team after she was banned from the game for saying she was gay and trans.

Tabletop Simulator was released in 2015 and served as both a tool for game makers and for people who wanted to play copies of board games online. The game was immensely popular after the pandemic forced people to stay home, which prompted folks to look for games to bring them together with their friends and family. Tabletop Simulator gave players the chance to play the games they know and love and bond with their friends while quarantined.

The screengrabs and experiences of XoeAllred made the rounds on Twitter, and in just a few days, her tweets were starting to gain traction, which then led to users review bombing the game on Steam. In the screengrabs, XoeAllred says “oh I’m not banned anymore for being gay” and then is almost instantly kicked out of the chat. This seems to contradict a statement made by Tabletop Simulator on Twitter on Jan. 8, which said “we do not censor, suppress or ban users for expressing their identity, race or orientation. We actively take measures to ban users for harassing members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The developers then posted another statement a day later, saying that they hadn’t handled the situation correctly and were “misinformed about the sequence of events as well as the full context of the situation that led to this user’s ban.” They reiterated that the actions the game took in handling this user didn’t reflect the “beliefs and sentiments” of the game. They then said they were removing global chat from the game to reassess the moderation process.

Before it was removed, global chat was shown upon login, allowing people to talk while in the lobby. After XoeAllred was banned for the first time, she attempted to speak with the moderators to find out why and challenge the rules that said “when using Global Chat, there is an expectation that discussion will be family friendly and centered around Tabletop Simulator, tabletop games, and chatting with other players.”

In her conversation with a moderator in the Tabletop Simulator Discord, a moderator by the name of CHRY said “discussing sexuality has no place in global chat,” which is the point that many are hinging their arguments on when negatively reviewing the game. Some think that a global chat should be open to discussion about sexuality or gender, while others would prefer not to see that kind of discussion enter a video game about tabletop board games.

The issue for a lot of people is that the moderators were not banning people who called themselves straight or talked about being cisgender. Many pointed this out in their criticism of the game, saying that if talking about being trans or gay was a reason to kick a person from global chat, then people talking about being straight or cisgender should also be kicked for the same reason.

The same Discord user said “Tabletop Simulator is about playing tabletop games, not a place to discuss sexuality, fetishes, politics.” This caused discussion around whether talking about being trans or gay was “family friendly,” considering that the moderation team didn’t ban or kick anyone for speaking about being straight or being proud to be their assigned gender. They did start kicking people for it after the issue was brought up.

Although the devs made a statement about the situation and also removed global chat from the game, the conversation around the topic is still happening on the game’s Steam page and the developers are deleting all topics related to the drama.

Tabletop Simulator’s failure to hold their staff accountable and take actionable steps towards reconciliation has garnered them a reputation and community based on homophobia and transphobia, as evidenced by their Steam reviews and discussions,” XoeAllred told Dot Esports. “They have still not reached out to me to make amends, and given their current trajectory I find it highly unlikely their platform will ever be a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Topics are still popping up about the situation and some are staying up for a decent amount of time before they’re removed. Although the company is removing all posts about the drama, it’s made a clear statement to the LGBTQ+ community and many have accepted that Tabletop Simulator is no longer a safe place for them.

XoeAllred points to screentop.gg as another platform similar to Tabletop Simulator where creators of board games can test out their ideas. At time of writing, Tabletop Simulator is still receiving a slew of mixed reviews on Steam, with some supporting their stance and some condemning the game.