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Gaming Brew: Tabletop Simulator Fails at Being Apolitical

In the past, we’ve talked about the problems of being “apolitical,” particularly in the pop culture and geek community. The fact remains that there is no ignoring some subjects, and attempting to do so only supports the opposition of civil and human rights.

Sadly, the latest company to fall victim to this “politics-blindness” fallacy is Berserk Games, known for the extremely popular Tabletop Simulator.

For those unaware, Tabletop Simulator (TTS) is a “virtual” tabletop that allows users to play various tabletop games of different complexities. From simple cards, checkers, or chess, to Gloomhaven, Star Wars: Rebellion, or Marvel Champions, TTS has become a staple for many gamers, especially during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, some anti-LGBTQIA+ moderation, followed by ignorant, disparaging remarks by moderators, has led to criticism of the company (and, therefore, the program).

The issue began when at least one member of the LGBTQIA+ community was repeatedly kicked from the Global Chat for merely stating their sexual orientation when people discussed that topic.

Screenshots and transcriptions showed a user questioning a moderator about the auto-ban script. The moderator highlighted a rule stating that all conversations must be “family friendly and centered around Tabletop Simulator, tabletop games and chatting with other players.”

When they asked the moderator if “being gay is not family friendly,” the user was kicked and temporarily banned.

E-mails to the company went unanswered for an entire week until the user eventually posted the same questions on the official Tabletop Simulator Discord.

A different moderator doubled down, stating that talking about being gay was a violation of the rule, and eventually declared, “Discussing sexuality has no place in global chat.” When asked again if being gay isn’t considered family friendly, the moderator stated that the games’ chat was “not a place to discuss sexuality, fetishes, [or] politics.”

The user asked if they were suggesting being trans is a fetish or political but received no response.

Worse, an experiment by the LGBTQIA+ user in the same chat showed them asking questions about being straight/heterosexual and cis-gender, and they weren’t moderated or kicked.

When the user returned to the official Discord, the same moderator as the last time tried to claim that “‘straight’ is too ambiguous a term for automatic filtering and is practically never used in negative connotation.” Then the moderator proceeded to issue the user a temporary ban for “clearly trolling/being deliberately disruptive/discussing sexuality.”

This attempt at “apolitical” behavior is reprehensible and only encourages an environment that supports anti-LGBTQIA+ mindsets. As we’ve stated before, there should be nothing political about identity, whether sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, etc.

These are political topics solely because a bigoted subset of the population wants to use the government to oppress or eradicate anyone they don’t like. By deciding to be “apolitical” and ban recognition of, and discussion among the disenfranchised, the moderators (and parent company) are being the opposite – they are flagrantly being political with their actions.

Berserk Games did issue an official statement and “apology” in response to the incident.

“Hello Tabletop Simulator community, we once again want to stress our commitment to inclusivity in everything we do and would like to apologize for the handling of a user being ban from global chat. Initially, we were misinformed about the sequence of events as well as the full context of the situation that led to this user’s ban. The subsequent messaging around why this ban took place does not reflect the beliefs or sentiments of Tabletop Simulator. Tabletop Simulator has not and does not condone equating sexual orientation/ gender identity with fetishes, politics, or anti-family friendly sentiment.

At this time we have decided to take down global chat as we reassess our moderation process as clearly, we have some shortcomings. The purpose of the moderation team was to keep global communication on the topic of board games and to reduce toxicity and hate. Tabletop Simulator recognizes that the current moderation process of our global chat has failed to uphold its original intention and we apologize for this as well as anyone who was hurt or made to feel unwelcome the past few days as this was never our intention.

Tabletop Simulator community, we hear you and the entire Tabletop Simulator team is prioritizing our commitment to making the TTS community inclusive and safe for everyone. Community feedback and communication is a key aspect in learning and improving. We hope over time to once again regain your trust and respect.”

While some users believed the apology was a positive move, and an indication that Berserk Games did not support the bigotry among their staff or volunteers, others felt the post was full of hollow words and no action. 

Several posters revealed that the moderator involved in the incident, who made the ignorant, offensive comments, was still employed and other mods were defending them. Others noted that Berserk Games’ response was merely to take down the Global Chat where the offense occurred rather than performing any sanctioning or offering transparency about policy changes.

As of an hour ago, that individual was still a mod in the discord, as well as a mod here, yes. If that doesn’t change, this statement rings hollow, yes.

We need to be clear – sexual orientation and gender identity or expression are only political because bigots have made them such, and being gay or trans is no less family-friendly than being straight or cis.

To say otherwise is to show your own inherent bias against the LGBTQIA+ community and their identity. It’s not being “apolitical” – it’s being 100% political in your support of heteronormativity and excluding anyone different.

The fact that Berserk Games doesn’t realize this, and is not taking any action against their biased moderators, is disheartening. Until the company takes actual action, their apology rings hollow, and much of the gaming community (including myself) can no longer support the use of Tabletop Simulator.

Please feel free to look into other, more inclusive, virtual tabletop programs and comment below on your favorite alternatives.

About Brook H. (269 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.
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