Steam review bomb stops game from cutting homophobic content

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It’s been a whirlwind month for old-school shooter Ion Fury. First, the Voidpoint-developed and 3D Realms-published game made headlines after players discovered that the creators made offensive comments against trans people, “social justice warriors,” and feminism in general. Folks also shared images of an in-game Ion Fury item labeled “OGAY” (apparently a spoof of “Olay”) and a secret area where the words “fag bag” appeared. In response, Ion Fury’s publisher apologized, and promised to donate to charity and edit out the controversial material inside the game.

But on Monday, the developer and publisher of Ion Fury walked the promises back.

“We’ve caused a recent controversy suggesting Ion Fury game content was to be censored,” Voidpoint and 3D Realms said in a joint statement posted to Ion Fury’s Steam page. “We will absolutely NOT be censoring Ion Fury or any of our other games, now or in the future, including but not limited to by removing gags such as gaming’s most controversial facial wash.

Why take back something that would have undoubtedly been the right thing to do? Since the apology and change announcement, Ion Fury has received an onslaught of negative reviews from angry players who felt that the game was getting censored. One of the top-rated reviews as of this writing says that “By all accounts, Ion Fury itself is an excellent game and an excellent product, a labour of love from a time passed by, and from my own playtime with it i would agree with that assesment [sic]. I would recommend it to anyone strictly on that basis.

“However, I speak for myself foremost, but it also seems that i speak with a *lot* of other customers when i say that it feels like the release of this game, which was so much anticipated, has more or less been ruined by what has happened here with the real downspiral being triggered by 3D Realms decision to kowtow to a hate mob, clearly against the expectations of their own customers […] This incident has become, in my opinion, an exemplar of what *not* to do.”

A graph showcasing the influx of negative Ion Fury reviews

A look at the recent influx of negative Ion Fury reviews

That single review, which was shared by someone with only 0.1 hours of game time on record, was upvoted 3,792 times. In the past few days, Ion Fury has received hundreds of negative reviews like this, often from customers who seem to have bought the game with the specific purpose just to complain about it — after all, many of these posts don’t have much play time on them. Ion Fury went from having “mostly positive” reviews to “mixed,” though Steam notes that the mixed reviews are all recent.

Monday’s Ion Fury Steam post acknowledges this backlash by addressing the censorship worries.

“We do not support censorship of creative works of any kind and regret our initial decision to alter a sprite in the game instead of trusting our instincts,” the post reads. “3D Realms and Voidpoint stand together on this matter.”

Previously, 3D Realms said that it would donate $10,000 to the Trevor Project non-profit, which helps LGBTQ youth, and that it would start employing “mandatory sensitivity training” for employees going forward, all in the name of preventing something like this from happening again. Polygon reached out to both Voidpoint and 3D Realms but did not hear back in time for publication as to whether these other promises will be kept.

Update: 3D Realms tells Polygon that Voidpoint will honor part of the original statement by making the donation and pursuing sensitivity training. A representative said:

However, the soap bottle will not be removed.

The use of the word “f*gbag” in an area that was inaccessible without hacking the game, and was added by one developer without approval from anyone else, was removed a few days ago. We once again apologize for this text as it does not reflect the values of 3D Realms or Voidpoint.

Jokes at the expense of marginalized communities will not be present in future games published by 3D Realms. However, a portion of our community made it loud and clear they felt removing ‘Ogay’ was censorship and should be protected by free speech. Voidpoint wanted to listen and we respected this decision.

The initial comments included remarks that conflated being trans with having mental health problems, as well as calling some feminists and so-called social justice warriors “crazy.” The tenor of these comments was enough to make some people feel that the initial apology was not made in good faith, and this fear was reinforced when a developer on the game encouraged people to pirate it instead. “We worked really hard on it and it’s a cool game,” the dev said. “F*** politics.”

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