This week saw the release of Battletech, a new strategy game set in the classic Battletech sci-fi franchise. Aside from some technical gripes about the game's performance, the game has been met with praise from both critics and fans who are excited to dig deep into a hardcore tactics game based on the famed sci-fi mech series.
That is except for a small group upset by the game's extensive character customization system that, among many character creation tools, also lets players choose their preferred pronoun including gender-neutral ones.
While these specific detractors are largely upset by what they view as social justice gone awry, they're taking a stance against deep and meaningful character creation tools valued in the hardcore role-playing community.
In our own Battletech review-in-progress, we touch briefly on the character customization suite in Battletech. Our reviews editor Mike Williams wrote at the time, "Harebrained Schemes put a fair amount of work into providing a role-playing layer to BattleTech. You can set your name, callsign, appearance, story background, and personal pronoun early on in the game and your choices affect your character's starting stats and provide unique options in dialog trees."
While Battletech isn't a role-playing game that added customization is important to how the player identifies with the Battletech universe. When I asked to Mike to help clarify what he meant in his review-in-progress he told me that Battletech "Offers a set of interesting character origins and backstories that determine how other characters in the world interact with your presence. This helps create context, which makes you feel like you're a part of the feudal landscape of the series."
I can see the Steam forums are taking Battletech's decision to allow "they/them" preferred pronouns in the character creator well and not at all posting gigantic frothing rants. pic.twitter.com/onOe2XBljA— MayaScientist (@MadScientist212) April 26, 2018
Which brings me to this strange tirade by one disgruntled Battletech player who in a Steam review decided to miss the point entirely. In what can only be really described as a screed, one player asked Battletech developers Harebrained Schemes why they "Caved to a bunch of John Money worshipping tumblrinas and their INSANE notions of gender over biological sex."
The full comment was captured and published by another user on Twitter, but the full review largely boils down to implying that Harebrained Schemes was forced into this position, and that gender-neutral pronouns were foisted upon the game by politically correct bullies. Finishing his rant by saying that "nobody would have cared" if neutral pronouns were included in the game. The commenter simultaneously proved that the inverse of that is untrue, and that at least one person cares deeply that neutral pronouns were added to the game.
While there are a handful of negative reviews on Battletech's Steam page that specifically cite the pronouns as reasons for their negative reviews, the game still maintains a largely positive score, and serious complaints are limited to the game's performance issues.
Which is why rather than highlight these aggrieved few, I'd much rather highlight how strange this episode is as a case of missing the forest for the trees.
In an essay about Battletech's character customization Kotaku's Heather Alexandra breaks down some of the options the game gives players to help create their characters. Battletech goes beyond the physical aspects of character creation and asks players to plot their own cultural and professional histories.
Alexandra writes, "the character creator's emphasis on narrative choices means that I was also weaving a story together, and intensely engaging with the setting's lore before I'd ever taken a single step in my mech. I agonized over my professional background much longer than I did my hair color."
Battletech's inclusion of gender-neutral pronouns isn't a cop-out, but part of the game's dedication to rich character creation. That a couple users are arguing for a dumbing down of that character creation while claiming to be the hardcore audience that Battletech was always meant to cater to is baffling and absurd, and unappreciative of one of Harebrained's best mechanics.
For more on Battletech, check out our Battletech: Seven Things You Should Know feature to understand more about the game before jumping into the cockpit of your mech.