A Tabletop Simulator review bomb is underway after a trans user was banned from the game's chat. The user alleges that the devs banned her because she's a gay and trans woman, and many of the negative reviews point to this as the reason behind their score.
Why is this Tabletop Simulator review bomb happening?
Over on Twitter, user Xoe details her experiences with Tabletop Simulator. She shows screenshots that show her being banned by one of the game's mods after she declares that she's gay. She then takes to the Tabletop Simulator Discord to discover the reason behind her ban. The mods tell her that Tabletop Simulator chat is not a place to discuss "sexuality, fetishes, politics". Xoe then asks if that means the mods view trans identity as a fetish or as political, to which she does not receive a response. After this, she re-enters the chat as a different user, talking about being straight and cis, and isn't banned or even cautioned. However, upon mentioning an actual sexual fetish, her account is banned instantly, thus suggesting that trans identity is indeed lumped in with sexuality as an umbrella issue by the Tabletop Simulator mods. You can see Xoe's document with supporting evidence here.
In response to the situation, there's a review bomb underway on the game's Steam page, and frankly, it's a mess. Several negative reviews have been submitted showing solidarity with Xoe, with one reviewer saying "bigotry is not welcome" in the gaming industry and another describing developer Berserk Games as "transphobic and homophobic". However, there's also something of a counter-review bomb underway, with users submitting positive reviews supposedly in support of the mods (although many of the reviews are themselves transphobic and homophobic).
How has Berserk Games responded to Xoe's allegations?
For its part, Berserk Games denies any wrongdoing. In a Twitter response to the situation, Berserk says Xoe was "spamming different key words in an attempt to get flagged", and that this was subsequently misinterpreted as a ban over identity. However, following on from this tweet, Berserk posted a followup in which it declares that it has disabled global chat "as we reassess our moderation process". Berserk says it's listening to the allegations from the LGBTQ+ community and recognizes that its moderation process "has failed". However, Xoe says that this is "too little too late", as the mod who equated her identity with "sexuality, fetishes, [and] politics" on Tabletop Simulator's Discord page is still active and nobody has attempted to speak to her about her experience.
The mod in question, CHRY, provided their own response to the situation as well. In the response, CHRY says they will "not concede" to accusations of being transphobic or of doing anything beyond "poorly thought-out responses". CHRY says they want to apologize to everyone who was hurt by "brash" responses "with no consideration for the context". This led Twitter users to accuse CHRY of a "non-apology" and of not sufficiently trying to engage with the issues Xoe raised in her original complaint. It's this conflict that's driving the review bomb on Tabletop Simulator; positive reviews want to express support for CHRY, while negative reviews are expressing support for Xoe.
What exactly is a review bomb?
The phrase "review bomb" refers to a game being disproportionately targeted by negative (or, occasionally, positive) reviews that don't actually contain a review of that game. For example, a negative review might be submitted to a game's Steam page by a user, but that review merely consists of a critique of the game's microtransaction strategy and not an honest, holistic assessment of the game itself. Monetization methods, poor optimization, and a lack of support for one feature or another are all very common review bomb focus points.
In addition, games are also often review bombed when players disagree with a decision made by the developers or with an issue that arises around the game. Examples include Life is Strange: True Colors being review bombed by Chinese players over the use of the Tibetan flag and Superhot VR being review bombed by players unhappy with the devs' decision to remove scenes of self-harm from the game. Perhaps the most famous recent example of this would be The Last of Us Part II, which was review bombed for its supposed "SJW agenda".
It's unlikely that the review bomb war surrounding Tabletop Simulator is going to blow over anytime soon. We'll have to wait and see what happens next; Berserk Games appears to want to address community concerns, but Xoe (and several other trans Tabletop Simulator players) are already talking about moving to another platform. Naturally, we'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.