Pillars of Eternity Transphobia | oprainfall

The following views are those of the author and may not reflect those of oprainfall or its contributors.

Some people may have noticed that oprainfall has mostly stayed silent on the subject of a certain movement lately. In our 2014 recap article, the reason for this that was given was that the issue itself results in way too much heat and anger whenever it is brought up, so it’s very difficult to talk about respectfully. I personally, however, have a different reason why such material shouldn’t really be covered here. The reason for this is that gaming is often seen as a form of escape from real life. As such, I would assume people would come here to read more about news on games themselves; not for stuff on “misogynists” or “social justice warriors.” As a result, I personally feel that we should try to be an escape from this type of stress.

Some of you may ask why I am deciding to write an opinion piece on a social issue then. Well, the reason for this article is closely related to that; particularly, how people have responded in regards to a certain line in Pillars of Eternity.

Pillars of Eternity Transphobia | oprainfall
“Here lies Firedorn, a hero in bed. He once was alive, but now he’s dead. The last woman he bedded, turned out a man, and crying in shame, off a cliff he ran.”

This specific line has sparked a lot of outrage from various transgender individuals who feel the line is transphobic. If anyone did not realize previously, I am a trans woman myself (that is kind of why I have a female name yet my profile picture is that of a male), so it is only natural I would have a strong opinion on this. So, in regards to the question of whether or not the line is transphobic, I would have to say that, yes, it is transphobic.

I am fully aware that containing a portrayal of something potentially offensive is not the same as endorsing it. I am also aware of the fact that artistic mediums can also benefit from being offensive. In fact, a good number of games I played are not politically correct by any means, and could be argued as offensive. Persona 3 actually had a joke very similar to this one, and I didn’t mind it, nor would I want it to be censored; and don’t even get me started on stuff with a lot of fanservice-y material like Hypderdimension Neptunia. I myself agree with the idea that being offended is not a valid argument in and of itself.

Beautiful Lady?
I’m pretty sure anyone who remembers this sequence wouldn’t be too offended by Pillars of Eternity.

So the question that remains is why I feel there is a specific issue with this one line. There is not that much to really go into in terms of why this was considered offensive in the first place. All I can say is that people often interpret things very differently than others. As a result, it is very easy for a cisgender person to not think much of it. In context, it is just a player who overreacts to realizing that the person he bedded had a penis, and runs off a cliff.

However, with a trans woman, all this does is remind them that they will never be considered real women by the outside population. That they can never really express themselves as women because that one part of them will always define them. The reason for this is because they see themselves as the woman in that line. The woman who causes a man to kill himself in shame from bedding her; and be put on an epitaph AS A JOKE! The joke there is that trans women are freaks and deserve to have their entire identity mocked for the purpose of an out-of-the-way line in a fantasy role playing game. The fact that people defend this by saying “it’s just a joke” just shows that they are missing the point. The fact that it is a joke is precisely why people are upset.

Pokemon Quiet Misogyny Article Title
An example of how it seems anything will offend someone these days.

One could also try and defend it by saying that the specific interpretation of the joke is a result of trans women projecting their own insecurities onto it; and surprisingly, they would not be too far off. If one wanted to, one could find some offensive subtext in pretty much anything. In fact, that is likely why so many people are adamantly opposed to this line being removed from the game. Considering just how many outcrys there have been over increasingly petty things that have resulted in attempts to boycott games like Hatred or HuniePop, it is no surprise that people are quick to assume this may just be the same crap as usual.

However, there are several key aspects of this situation that separate it from saying that the princess being kidnapped is sexist. First of all, not much is being called for. This line was only in the game because it was chosen by someone who backed its Kickstarter campaign. The line was not put in there as part of the creator’s vision, nor does it contribute to the game as a whole. In fact, the game’s director Josh Sawyer stated on Twitter that “It’s hard to catch everything.” It is clear that there is little issue that he has with removing it from the game.”

 Josh Sawyer Tweet

Despite this, there is a large outcry to keep this joke in the game in order to avoid being bullied into removing it. However, is it really bullying if they state they have no problem doing so and clearly did not think much of it to begin with? If it were a legitimate part of the creator’s vision and was a significant part of the game overall, I would agree with them. Granted, I’d still be hesitant to play the game myself, but that’s just me personally. However, in this case, it is entirely possible that it may not have been included at all if more of the team noticed it.

If I had to say anything, I’d say the only people that are bullying the developers are the people who say they will never buy another game from Obsidian again if they remove it. The irony, of course, is that these people are resorting to the same tactics they criticize the SJWs for. One could technically argue that the line being in the game already makes it more reasonable to protest against it being removed. The problem with that argument is that the same argument could just as easily be applied to glitches that exist in the initial launch of a game and are patched out later. Both of these instances include something that was slipped by the development team and had an UNINTENDED effect on the game overall.

Fallout New Vegas |  Glitch
This certainly isn’t the first time Obsidian couldn’t catch everything.

This is where the whole “escapism” aspect comes into play. Yes it is true that this joke really isn’t that big of a deal and is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That, however, only goes double for the people that want it kept in so bad. Removing it has the benefit of helping trans women feel welcome and allowing them to get THEIR escape from the real world. Yes, you can argue that it could benefit them to grow thicker skin, but that is not what games are for. This is a game that is being sold to them, only to have them be insulted by it in the middle of playing it. Saying to just “grow thicker skin” when a game upsets you makes about as much sense as telling a reviewer who gives a game a negative review to “just be more patient with the game.”

Keeping the joke only benefits people in that they can either laugh at the joke, or they can laugh at people being upset that they kept it; and chances are most people are aiming towards the latter. I understand that after several months of this, it can be rather frustrating to continually see these things pop up, and after a while you will just want everyone to just stop. I am just trying to say that this specific instance is a different case entirely. Removing this line does not mean that Obsidian is giving in to pressure by SJWs in order to force an agenda; it just means that Obsidian is looking out for their fans regardless of their gender identity. Not every complaint regarding social issues in gaming should be viewed as how it falls into the current political conflict. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

As for the line itself, I feel it is up to Obsidian themselves whether it stays or goes. And as it turns out, while I was writing this piece, Obsidian went ahead and patched the line out of the game. Regardless, I still wanted to share my thoughts on the original line because I feel this stuff could be applied to other situations as well. Also, I would just like to point out that the newer line is a lot funnier.

Pillars of Eternity | fixed joke
“Here lies Firedorn, a bard, a poet. He was also a card, but most didn’t know it. A poem he wrote in jest was misread. They asked for blood, so now he’s just dead”