How rare are trans gamers

“Stop shoving your political agenda down my throat!”

In gaming we usually hear that line in response to a couple things: anything related to diversity, anything suggesting a game has a political agenda, or anyone noting the potential social ramifications of anything. Last week those words were spilling all over the place because a transgender character was included in a new “Baldur’s Gate” expansion called “Siege of Dragonspear,” from “Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition” publisher Beamdog.

Anybody who ponders this for five seconds can see the irony. The people who whine about having a political agenda shoved down their throats are themselves trying to shove their own political agenda down other people’s throats. If you didn’t have your own agenda to push, others’ other agendas wouldn’t bother you. Apathetic people don’t get mad about politics.

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In any case, the transgender character in question is a woman named Mizhena. She’s not a major character, just a local shopkeeper. Beamdog enacts a limit on how much those sorts of very minor ancillary characters can speak, so Mizhena only has so long to get to the point. In any case, the reveal that Mizhena is transgender goes like this.

“Baldur’s Gate” allows the player to choose what the main character says from a list of options, and in order to learn that Mizhena is transgender the player has to lead the conversation with her down a certain path. The first step is to note that Mizhena has an unusual name; Mizhena responds that she chose her own name because she found her birth name wasn’t suited to her. If the player asks Mizhena to elaborate, she responds with this line: “When I was born, my parents thought me a boy and raised me as such. In time, we all came to understand I was truly a woman.” She also explains how she came up with “Mizhena” as her name.

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It’s hard to imagine getting pissed off by a dialogue sequence like that. But the folks on the PC video game platform Steam and the “KotakuInAction” subreddit (KIA) found a way. They acted as though they were somehow being victimized by “Social Justice Warriors” — a typical pejorative those people direct at, well, anyone who says anything they don’t like, regardless of topic.

I’d planned on this column being a stern, rational discussion about how dumb this is, but I don’t have it in me today. I’d rather just point and laugh. So let’s take a look at some of the politically charged user reviews on Steam for “Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear.” Starting with an excerpt from this one:

First, the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room is clearly the SJW aspects of the expansion. I am a social libertarian, I don’t care what consenting adults do in their personal lifes. However even I find the obvious SJW push in this game to be jarring, out of place and pushing an agenda. One of the two writers of the game, Amber Scott, even said as much. Calling herself a SJW and saying she makes a concious effort of putting social justice elements into everything she does. Her body of work certainly shows this, both her writing for the Pathfinder RPG and this game is pushing it extensively. I don’t mind realistic deptictions of people with non-standard sexualities, but this comes off as an attempt by Scott to feel good about herself and her extreme progressivism more than anything else. And the writing is so bad that I wonder whether or not she has ever met an actual homosexual or transgender person. The most obvious example is the transgender priest in your camp, you say “You have an interesting name”, the answer is to the effect of “I used to be a man so I made this one up”. It is in your face and jarring, no actual trans woman would act like this. Bottom line is if this kind of thing bothers you then avoid this game.

However it continues from there. The overall writing of the game is generally bad.

Here’s the comment from “Siege of Dragonspear” writer Amber Scott this review refers to (posted on the publisher’s forum in 2015): “I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s ‘forced’ or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.”

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It’s not some revolutionary line of thought that there are a ton more people in the world than just straight white people, and our storytelling entertainment should reflect that, and it’s not a big deal to make that happen because people are people. So it’s funny to see internet cavemen treat that stance like it’s some wild change to the fundamental way stories are told.

Anyway, here’s a piece of another incomprehensible political screed complaining about Mizhena:

What has once become an innocent adventure into escapism, the very act of getting away from the drama and politics in life has unfortunately been invaded by them. Ladies and gentlemen we are indeed in a brave new world where even our most innocent diversions are stomping grounds for leftist activism.

BeamDog is not the first forerunner into political correcting video games, but it has done a sacrilege by taking a dearly beloved game and using it for its own political grandstanding that confuses storytelling and character with political charged statements about social justice issues. Worse it cannot even do that well with the bevy of technical glitches, bugs, and poor programming.

This isn’t a big deal. Every person believes in things, and those things all support one kinda of agenda that informs how they go about their day and react to whatever’s going on around them. A transgender person wanting to be symbolically represented in a video game is an agenda. A cis person being opposed to that is also an agenda. Only one of those people has an asshole agenda, though.

Some of the complaints extended to “Dungeons & Dragons” lore, of which “Baldur’s Gate” is a part. Also there’s some whining, from redditor Aurondarklord that players don’t get to see the gender reassignment actually happen?

As for Mizhena, WE HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THE FACT SHE IS TRANS. That’s simply not the issue. The issue is that she’s anvilicious. I know, I know, characters in RPGs tend to monologue and tell your their life story right after meeting you, but there should at least be SOME effort to make it feel natural. We would also like to see some respect for the lore of the setting you’re using, IE, in D&D there are plenty of ways to magically change your appearance, I’m not saying that transgender people WON’T EXIST, just that their experience of transness will be different in a universe where they can make their body match their mind simply by asking a wizard to cast Polymorph Any Object on them, and their story should reflect that. If anything, we are asking for her role to be EXPANDED to provide a more nuanced look at transness in that universe.

“Who’s to say that she didn’t use magic to change herself? She never goes into that detail,” another redditor asked in response to that comment. To which Aurondarklord replied: “And that’s my point, what a wasted opportunity to explore the mechanics, a classic example of telling instead of showing.”

After all this furor, Beamdog is making changes to Mizhena. As Beamdog CEO Trent Oster told TheWrap: “Limited to only a few dialogue options, Mizhena does feel rushed into discussing her backstory. Our goal is to relax the character limit and further explore the character in a future update.”

“We try to be respectful in all the characters we write and in this case, the character is larger than the role we initially cast,” Oster continued. “We’ll expand the role to better fit the character.”

What those changes will be are yet to be determined. But it certainly doesn’t sound like Beamdog plans to stop shoving their LGBT political agenda down gamers’ throats, or to bow to the political agendas of anti-LGBT bigots.

Good.

7 LGBT 'Star Wars' Characters You Probably Didn't Know Exist (Photos)

  • J.J. Abrams recently said that "of course" gay characters would soon be seen in the "Star Wars" galaxy. And Mark Hamill said that Luke Skywalker could be gay. But there are already several LGBT "Star Wars" characters -- at least in the galaxy of books, comics, and games. 

  • Reess Kairn, who appeared as the villain in the 1999 comic "The Bounty Hunters: Aurra Sing," had undergone "transgenderative surgery" to transition from an alien male to a human woman.

  • Juhani (right), a lesbian cathar alien, was featured in the video game "Knights of the Old Republic" in 2004, and was the first confirmed and openly gay character in Star Wars.

  • Lord Cytharat is a gay Sith introduced in "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in 2013, and was the first character in the long-running online game who could share a kiss with a player character of the same gender.

  • Lemda is a bisexual woman introduced in "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in 2013. Players can swap numbers with her, but she never calls.

  • The spy Theron Shan's backstory was detailed in both comics (in 2011) and a novel (in 2012) before appearing in the video game "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in 2014 as someone that player characters could become romantically involved with, no matter their gender.

  • The bisexual Lana Beniko first appeared in the video game "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in 2014.

  • The bisexual Koth Vortena was introduced in the video game "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in 2015.

J.J. Abrams says we’ll see some LGBT “Star Wars” characters soon. But here are some that die-hard fans have already met.

J.J. Abrams recently said that "of course" gay characters would soon be seen in the "Star Wars" galaxy. And Mark Hamill said that Luke Skywalker could be gay. But there are already several LGBT "Star Wars" characters -- at least in the galaxy of books, comics, and games. 

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