Dolphin Barn’s gladiator management sim Domina lost any appeal it might have had when, since last mayits developer started inserting screeds against “soft” men and LGBTQ people (opens in a new tab) in the game patch notes and forum threads. The game’s official account has been banned on Twitter and Bandcamp, with the individual having previously equated supporting trans youth with pedophilia (opens in a new tab) on the old platform.
Now the developer says he’s been temporarily banned from posting his own game to the Steam forums, though he can still post Domina patch notes, the of which the last (opens in a new tab) accuses Valve and Steam Support of being “cowards”. Meanwhile, Domina’s recent “Mostly Negative” reviews are full of references to developer views, the game’s forums are a battleground, and the recent Dolphin Barn ban shows that Steam’s laissez-faire moderation turns his attention to the game.
Dolphin Barn posted a screenshot via his personal Twitter account (opens in a new tab) showing a message explaining the ban: “This is the second time one of your posts has violated our chat rules and guidelines, specifically insulting or inflaming another user. We’re also noticing a trend with abusive messages being sent during of banning players from your hub.”
Following a request from the user to adhere to the Community Guidelines, the post discusses the developer’s actions against negative reviews on Steam and a potential possibility for Valve/Steam to escalate: “We also want to make it clear that you don’t You must not override Steam moderator decisions or enable rule violations in your hub. Future non-compliance with our rules and guidelines could jeopardize our business relationship.At the time of this writing, Valve has not confirmed details of its communication with Dolphin Barn.
A quick read of the game’s recent reviews touches on one of the developer’s sticking points with Steam moderation: that it’s being impacted by “fraudulent reviewers” and that its efforts to report those reviews are hampered by moderators at Steam. Most of these reviews cite the developer’s highly publicized anti-trans screeds, although some seem to criticize the game for classes and features available in Domina’s beta branch being made paid DLC in the live version – a potential wrinkle to the question of the moderation of reviews.
Comments on several negative reviews, meanwhile, include fans of the game spewing vile invective about trans people. Again, whatever merits Domina may or may not have had as a gladiator management sim, it doesn’t seem to be. anybody concern at this point.
Valve’s stance on storefront moderation has been that it will not police content unless it is illegal or “trolling”. (opens in a new tab) This stance has been somewhat unique in the tech sphere, as companies like Twitter and Facebook have adopted tougher moderation policies in the face of online harassment and misinformation.
Previously Valve removed school shooting FPS Active Shooter (opens in a new tab) due to trolling and customer abuse. Domina perhaps presents a different challenge for delisting based on this precedent, as the game itself is less problematic – though the developer’s use of the patch notes as a vehicle for invective presents perhaps more of a gray area.
This is a fascinating fringe case of a strange individual pressing on the edges of a largely permissive system and so far receiving only pushback from the base. We’ve reached out to Valve for comment and will update if we receive a response, and time will tell if the company takes further action or if Domina’s developer will continue to reap diminishing returns from an old indie game. years and cycles of outrage surrounding his psychosexual. patch notes ruminating grimly on the genitals and sex lives of gay and trans people.
The game’s latest update communicates a certain defeatist tone: “At this point Domina is unlikely to receive any future updates on Steam”, although Dolphin Barn activity and changes over the past year do not leave me inclined to believe we’ve heard the last of him.
Unlike the moderation quagmire surrounding Domina, Nexus mods’ removal of a homophobic Spider-Man mod with the simple message “We don’t want to and won’t discuss this with you (opens in a new tab)offers a refreshing contrast, institutional moderation refusing to give the benefit of the doubt to an actor in bad faith.